University of North Carolina Wilmington
University of North Carolina Wilmington

Office of Innovation & Commercialization

OIC Grants

Announcing the 2021 OIC New Invention & MARBIONC Blue Economy Grant Recipients

The Office of Innovation + Commercialization (OIC) is excited to announce the first class of its NEW Translational Research Grants, specifically aimed to stimulate commercially-focused research and creative activity that result in societal impact and practical application. OIC hopes that projects result in invention disclosures, innovations, technology, scholarship, or other outcomes that have practical application off-campus through licensing, external partnership, or another pathway. Two different grants were awarded the spring, the OIC New Invention Grant and the MARBIONC Blue Economy Grant. Below are details on the 2021 recipients. 

 

OIC New Invention Grant

Thomas Williamson – “Development of an NMR Based Model to Guide Design of Cyclic Peptide Therapeutics”
Since the first cyclic peptide was approved as a medicine by the FDA in 1980s, cyclic peptide therapeutics have become an exceptionally exciting area for drug development. The invention proposed here is a process to improve the speed and accuracy of cyclic peptide structure prediction. It centers around the development of a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR)-based computational model that will guide the three-dimensional design of macrocyclic peptides. Through this grant using advanced NMR methods, we will build a licensable computational model that will detect and predict major or minor changes in the three-dimensional layout of this therapeutically important class of natural and synthetic products. 

Alexander McDaniel – “Isometric Neck Strength Assessment Tool; Mobile App Development, Prototype Product, and Market Analysis”
Paratrooper mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) incidence rates at Fort Bragg, specifically within the 82nd Airborne Division, are more than double of non- paratrooper personnel. Prevention and risk reduction research is needed to strengthen the evidence on the protective factors associated with an mTBI. In an attempt to create a successful mTBI prevention program, the research team developed a novel an affordable, portable, and reliable INSA tool. Through this grant, the team seeks to develop an all-in-one prototype and mobile application sync capability, conduct market analysis research to determine potential marketability, apply for a full patent, apply for larger grants to move the product into full-scale production and sales.

Ying Wang – “A novel method for improving RNA stability in pharmaceutical formulations”
Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is an emerging treatment of cancers, hereditary disorders, and infectious diseases. However, the distribution of RNA pharmaceuticals is greatly impeded by the rapid degradation of RNA molecules, requiring ultra-cold storage and transportation, significantly increase logistics costs, wastage, and medical inequality. Our lab recently demonstrated that RNA-rich microdroplets can be produced through liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) induced by the addition of polymers into the RNA solutions, effectively immobilizing RNA slowing degradation markedly, providing an opportunity to eliminate the current RNA stability problems. Through this grant, we plan to demonstrate micro droplet-based RNA formulations for various polymers and model RNAs. We will also evaluate the reduction of RNA degradation, enabling us to file a patent application for this invention.

 

MARBIONC Blue Economy Grant

Ryan Mieras – “A rapid-deployable, low-cost LiDAR system for continuous beach morphology observations during extreme events
LiDAR is an emerging and innovative technology that has only recently been exploited to remotely observe the evolution of our coastlines and sandy beaches. This innovation is a fully self-contained, low-cost LiDAR scanning system that integrates radio and cellular communication allowing for data collection during extreme weather events (e.g., hurricanes). Through this grant, we will be able to develop and field test prototypes of this very low-cost, rapid-deployable LiDAR system for continuous beach morphology observations during extreme events become a reality. 

Wendy Strangman – “Marine Microbial Natural Products Drug Discovery from New Ecological Niches”
There is a critical need for next-generation small molecule therapeutics and chemical probes of biochemical pathways implicated in disease pathogenesis. To address these challenges, this grant will enable the purification, structure determination, and further development of natural compounds produced by our new collection of over 200 cultured strains of bacteria associated with marine parasites as well as a growing collection of over 50 strains of bacteria cultured from arctic ocean sediments. Preliminary data on this collection has shown promise both in the genetic novelty of our source organisms, the bioactivity of our chemical extracts, and the chemical diversity of the natural products in these extracts.

Phil Bresnahan – “Low-Cost Coastal Carbon Flux Analyzer”
The Low-Cost Coastal Carbon Flux Analyzer is an invention used to measure the fluxes of carbon dioxide (CO2) into and out of coastal environments. Measurements of carbon flux are critically important to coastal researchers, especially as society begins to recognize the economic value of greenhouse gases. Current measurement solutions typically cost thousands of dollars and rely on teams of highly trained technicians. The Low-Cost Coastal Carbon Flux Analyzer fills a niche that will become increasingly valuable as we seek to protect our ecosystems, improve aquaculture and aquarium monitoring, notify municipalities about local water quality, and continue expanding this important research domain. This grant will allow initial field testing of the concept, the development of a prototype, invention disclosure, and presentation to potential customers and industry partners.

Catharina Alves de Souza – “Scaling-up culturing of omega-3 PUFA-producing cyanobacteria as a supplement for poultry and aquaculture feed”
The UNCW Algal Resources Collection (ARC) is currently involved in a research collaboration to explore the feasibility of using genetically transformed cyanobacterial microalgae with higher levels of omega-3 to replace fish oil in aquaculture feed. Currently, obtaining the required microalgal biomass (for which thousands of liters of culture are necessary) for the pilot feeding studies constitutes the main bottleneck for this project due to the very specific culturing requirements and variability in the omega-3 production of the genetically transformed cyanobacteria. The ARC plays a critical role in this project due to our expertise in the large-scale culturing of sensitive, challenging-to-grow microalgae. The grant will allow the development of a customized semi-continuous culturing system prototype aiming at the high-frequency harvesting of hundreds of liters of culture to obtain the required biomass in a time-efficient fashion, resulting in proprietary methodologies with a wide variety of applications.

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OIC Translational Research Grants

 

Link to Recording - OIC Translational Grant Information Session

 

Link HERE to OIC New Invention Grant Application - Due February 15 @ 5pm

 

Link HERE to MARBIONC Blue Economy Grant Application - Due February 15 @ 5pm

 

Questions? Reach out to Justin Streuli <streulij@uncw.edu>

 

The UNCW Office of Innovation & Commercialization’s “Translational Research Grants” are specifically aimed to stimulate commercially-focused research and creative activity that result in societal impact and practical application.  

Broad examples of projects faculty may propose could: 

OIC hopes that projects will result in invention disclosures, innovations, technology, scholarship, or other outcomes that have practical application off-campus through licensing, external partnership, or another pathway. 

Two different grants will be offered this spring. 

  1. OIC New Invention Grant – Awarded to support faculty projects focused on transforming fundamental research or early-stage innovations into commercially viable products and services or even a new business. Awards $5,000 - $15,000. 
  2. MARBIONC Blue Economy Grant – Awarded to support faculty research and innovation resulting in societal impact and practical application tied to the Blue Economy.  Awards $5,000 - $15,000. 

The submission process is three-steps. 

  1. Information Session – Faculty are encouraged to attend or view the recording of the Zoom information session on Wednesday, January 27, 2021 12pm – 1pm – Zoom Link 
  2. Online Proposal – Faculty will submit a brief proposal through the OIC Translational Grant Info. 
  3. Innovator’s Pitch – 10-minute presentation that outlines how the proposed project will accelerate the commercialization of the underlying innovation, with a brief period for questions and answers. 

 Innovation Research Grants not only award funding, but also include other benefits like entrepreneurial training, consulting and other benefits to help researchers amplify outcomes.

Grants are open to all full-time EHRA Faculty are eligible to serve as Lead Principal Investigators (PIs) on externally sponsored projects. 

The tentative submission process is outlined below.

Additional information on these two grants can be found below.

 

Evaluation Criteria

 

OIC New Invention Grant

  1. Feasibility
    • This category is meant to evaluate probable or likely this innovator might be at achieving the details outlined in this proposal. Based on your experience, what is the likelihood this innovator will be able to accomplish the deliverable, goals, technological developments, and outcomes outlined in this proposal? How realistic are the details they have provided including the problems outlined in the market, ability of their innovation to address said problems, their ability to meet milestones/timeline they have provided, and other claims the innovator has made. Is the technology they are looking to develop realistic or unlikely to be achieved. Rubric Guidelines: 1 – Based on the application, it is highly unlikely the innovator will be able to meet milestones, achieve the technology developments, or market expectations they have outlined. 4 – Based on the application, there is a strong likelihood this innovator will be able to meet the milestones, technology developments, and realistic market expectations outlined.
  2. IP Status/Strength
    • This category is meant to evaluate the strength or defensibility of the innovations described in the proposal, once completed. Based on your experience, how strong is the IP or potential IP this innovator has proposed? What is the likelihood it will result in a patent, trademark, copyright, trade secret, or other deliverable that could be defensible against competition? Focus on potential IP, not just existing IP.  Rubric Guidelines: 1 – There is little or no potential IP tied to the innovation that has been described in this application. 4 – This application already includes protected IP or has a strong likelihood that the deliverables described could result in IP.
  3. Market Opportunity
    • This category is meant to evaluate the effect this innovation will have on the market described, once completed. Based on your experience, how strong of an impact could the innovation described have on an existing or new market. Focus less on the size of the market described and more on the significance this innovation will have. Will this innovation dramatically solve the problems outlined in the market? Or, will it fail to exceed current solution resulting in little change? Rubric Guidelines: 1 – The innovation described is unlikely to have any impact on the markets described by the innovator. 4 – There is a strong likelihood the innovation described could dramatically disrupt the market described.
  4. Impact of Award on Licensability or Commercial Potential
    • This category is meant to evaluate the business case and technology readiness level of the solution described upon completion of the project. Based on your experience, how interested would outside companies be in the deliverables, solution, or innovation outlined in this proposal? How likely would the market be to purchase the deliverable, solution, or innovation at the technology readiness level described in this proposal? Is the prototype too early in development? Rubric Guidelines: 1 -  It is unlikely that outside companies would be interested in the deliverable, solution or innovation described in this proposal. 4 – There is a stong case that outside companies would be interested in licensing this product or that customers will be ready to purchase this product at the technology readiness level described.

MARBIONC Blue Economy Grant

  1. Feasibility
    • This category is meant to evaluate probable or likely this innovator might be at achieving the details outlined in this proposal. Based on your experience, what is the likelihood this innovator will be able to accomplish the deliverable, goals, technological developments, and outcomes outlined in this proposal? How realistic are the details they have provided including the problems outlined in the market, ability of their innovation to address said problems, their ability to meet milestones/timeline they have provided, and other claims the innovator has made. Is the technology they are looking to develop realistic or unlikely to be achieved. Rubric Guidelines: 1 – Based on the application, it is highly unlikely the innovator will be able to meet milestones, achieve the technology developments, or market expectations they have outlined. 4 – Based on the application, there is a strong likelihood this innovator will be able to meet the milestones, technology developments, and realistic market expectations outlined.
  2. IP Status/Strength
    • This category is meant to evaluate the strength or defensibility of the innovations described in the proposal, once completed. Based on your experience, how strong is the IP or potential IP this innovator has proposed? What is the likelihood it will result in a patent, trademark, copyright, trade secret, or other deliverable that could be defensible against competition? Focus on potential IP, not just existing IP.  Rubric Guidelines: 1 – There is little or no potential IP tied to the innovation that has been described in this application. 4 – This application already includes protected IP or has a strong likelihood that the deliverables described could result in IP.
  3. Market Opportunity
    • This category is meant to evaluate the effect this innovation will have on the market described, once completed. Based on your experience, how strong of an impact could the innovation described have on an existing or new market. Focus less on the size of the market described and more on the significance this innovation will have. Will this innovation dramatically solve the problems outlined in the market? Or, will it fail to exceed current solution resulting in little change? Rubric Guidelines: 1 – The innovation described is unlikely to have any impact on the markets described by the innovator. 4 – There is a strong likelihood the innovation described could dramatically disrupt the market described.
  4. Impact of Award on Licensability or Commercial Potential
    • This category is meant to evaluate the business case and technology readiness level of the solution described upon completion of the project. Based on your experience, how interested would outside companies be in the deliverables, solution, or innovation outlined in this proposal? How likely would the market be to purchase the deliverable, solution, or innovation at the technology readiness level described in this proposal? Is the prototype too early in development? Rubric Guidelines: 1 -  It is unlikely that outside companies would be interested in the deliverable, solution or innovation described in this proposal. 4 – There is a stong case that outside companies would be interested in licensing this product or that customers will be ready to purchase this product at the technology readiness level described.
  5. Blue Economy Tie In 
    • This category is to evaluate how closely this proposal fits within the goals of supporting innovation in the Blue Economy. What type of impact will this innovation, upon completion, have on the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem? Will this innovation help in the stewardship of our oceans and blue resources? Areas include, but are not limited to Sustainable Marine Energy, Sustainable Aquaculture, Tourism, Maritime Transport, Coastal Resiliency, Marine Biotechnology, Marine Engineering, and more. Rubric Guidelines: 1 – The innovation described in this proposal will have little impact on the stewardship of our oceans and blue resources. 4 – There is a strong likelihood the deliverables described in this proposal will have a positive impact on the stewardship of our oceans and blue resources.