Von Liebig Center Funds Five New Projects
August 8, 2005 -- The William J. von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) recently awarded more than $200,000 to five projects led by professors at the Jacobs School of Engineering.
This was the seventh round of funding since the von Liebig Center was set up in 2001 to foster entrepreneurism education and to provide funding and advisory services to technology projects at the Jacobs School that have strong commercial potential. Each round of awards was the result of a rigorous screening process, including reviews by an external committee of industry experts. The von Liebig Center has now awarded a total of nearly $2 million to 44 projects led by Jacobs School faculty.
On August 2, the center held an awards ceremony to honor the most recent recipients, who received up to $50,000 each. The ceremony also served as an opportunity for the awardees to discuss commercialization possibilities with the center's staff and business advisors, as well as representatives from UCSD's TechTIPS office, previous faculty award winners, industry executives, entrepreneurs, and investors.
The five most recent awardees were:
Chien plans to establish the technology needed to develop an efficient screening test based on fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) microscopy to detect cancerous cells in clinical biopsy samples.
Chien's group has previously developed a FRET biosensor that enables the visualization of specific tyrosine kinase activity, called Src, in live cells with high temporal and spatial resolution. The activity of Src is closely correlated with early carcinogenesis. Proof-of-principle studies have demonstrated that the Src biosensor can accurately identify cancer cells mixed with normal cells, and recent studies have also revealed that HIV-1 TAT protein and a peptide derived from the influenza virus hemagglutinin protein (HA2) can facilitate priming of biopsy samples for FRET analysis. The grant will enable Chien to increase the efficiency, speed, and accuracy of the promising cancer-detection tool.
MECHANICAL AND AEROSPACE ENGINEERING
Titanium metals and alloys are widely used in orthopaedic and dental implants. Jin's project aims to develop and optimize the nanoscale surface structure of titanium for improved bone growth, and to study the effect of processing parameters, microstructural specifics, and surface conditions on biological interactions. Jin will investigate the possibility of significantly accelerated bone growth on a template of biocompatible material consisting of geometrically controlled and nanostructured surface coating that is strongly adhered to titanium metal. Titanium implants that have been modified with the surface coating may offer an improvement over existing titanium implant devices used in orthopaedic and dental reconstruction surgeries for accelerated healing and therapeutic functions.
Vecchio is developing a new method for creating synthetic bone for biomedical applications. The basis of his technology is the hydrothermal conversion of aragonite, or calcite crystals forming mollusk shells and marine bones, to hydroxyapatite, the mineral component of bones and hard tissues in mammals. The major hurdle to synthesis of synthetic bone from aragonite/calcite is the difficulty of making sufficiently dense forms of hydroxyapatite with strong mechanical properties. On the other hand, the dense aragonite crystals in shells and marine bones have excellent mechanical properties. Vecchio has demonstrated the complete conversion of specimens (25 mm by 25 mm by 4 mm) of various aragonite shells to hydroxyapatite. In addition to the conversion to hydroxyapatite, certain marine structures can be converted to a tricalcium phosphate phase, which is believed to be both biocompatible and bio-resorbable, meaning the implants can over time be replaced by natural bone growth. The continuation of the project will include preliminary in-vivo experiments of the synthetic bone samples to determine biocompatibility, and to fabricate prototype samples of the synthetic bone material in the shape and size needed for actual bone replacements.
ELECTRICAL AND COMPUTER ENGINEERING
Yu's laboratory has developed a novel technique to enhance the near-surface absorption of photons by semiconductors using plasmon resonances in engineered metallic nanoparticles placed on the surface of the semiconductor. A UCSD invention disclosure and provisional patent application covering this concept and its application to solar cells and other semiconductor-based photo detector devices have been submitted.
Yu is applying the technology to thin-film photovoltaic solar cells in the development of a prototype in collaboration with researchers at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. He has developed a process for fabricating individual photovoltaic devices incorporating transparent indium tin oxide contacts. He has integrated that process with the incorporation of colloidal gold nanoparticles in a process to fabricate an improved photovoltaic device. Yu plans to optimize the energy conversion efficiency of his technology.
COMPUTER SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING
Griswold is developing a mobile phone application called ActiveCity. Based on the location, time, day, and the personal profile of a phone user, ActiveCity will keep the user apprised of nearby relevant opportunities. The application would provide reminders and suggestions for shopping opportunities, coupled with online coupons and multimedia advertising. Additionally, the application could advise of friends and family members who are nearby. Griswold's group has developed technologies for PDAs and mobile phones for performing low-cost location-based computing that has the potential to be highly portable and robust.
The group also has developed market models with von Liebig Center students, and Griswold is developing an operational demonstration of an ActiveCity mobile phone application based on the market analysis developed by the students.
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