The Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) and the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) at the University of Illinois have launched a Proof of Concept Award Program to support commercialization of high-potential, early-stage technologies from the IGB. Two researchers have been selected to receive the first round of awards to help bridge the gap between the laboratory and commercial use.
“A Proof of Concept Award Program is central to the very mission of the IGB – to advance life sciences research and to stimulate bioeconomic development in the state of Illinois,” said IGB Interim Director Gene Robinson. “We are committed to providing resources that ensure our technologies are given the opportunity to make a positive impact on the world.”
One of the two funded projects was developed by Matthew Wheeler, of the IGB and the Department of Animal Sciences, in collaboration with Jennifer Lewis, Fei Wang, Jianjun Cheng, and Ralph Nuzzo. The group’s customized implantable therapeutics for wound healing, which enables cell growth on engineered scaffolding, is an example of the marriage between Illinois’ strengths in both biology and engineering.
The second project was developed by Brendan Harley, of the IGB and the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Harley has developed composite biomaterials for the treatment of tendon defects. His technology addresses the clinical need to improve the quality and speed of tendon regeneration after severe injury.
A panel of experienced commercialization managers, entrepreneurs, and a scientific advisor reviewed project proposals to identify those with clearly defined milestones for advancing early-stage technologies, a critical factor for potential investors or licensees. Funding for the projects comes from the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Institute for Genomic Biology.
“An essential component for any commercialization ecosystem is a proof of concept fund, preferably a sustainable source of funding for early stage projects to help ‘de-risk’ them and increase interest from licensees or investors,” said Vice President for Research Lawrence Schook. “The IGB Proof of Concept Award Program is a natural step in the ongoing development of the University of Illinois commercialization system.”