Biomedical Engineering is Translating Engineering Advances in Medicine at UC Davis
Tucked behind a single door in the Genome and Biomedical Sciences Facility at UC Davis lies one of the most powerful new engines for getting technology startups off the ground. The TEAM Design, Prototyping, and Fabrication Facilities were launched in January, 2014 to help commercialize technologies developed by UC Davis researchers. TEAM is part of national and UC Davis-wide trend aimed at reenergizing advanced manufacturing and improving United States’ competitiveness in the global economy. As an example, TEAM has enabled two recent startups co-founded by researchers from the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Assistance included administrative support, consulting on steps required to form a business entity, prototyping, and securing funding.
TEAM has also been instrumental in providing facilities and support for new companies to develop prototypes and obtain proof of concept data required to successfully compete for federal funding.
“In just one year, the synergistic partnership with campus built into the TEAM model has led to two startups by biomedical engineering professors receiving NSF funding to continue to refine their technologies,” said Dr. Kyriacos Athanasiou, TEAM Director.
Several other startups are in earlier stages of organization. Without the current campus’ infrastructure and amazing campus support for effectively translating research inventions out towards commercialization, these two small companies would not have gotten off the ground. TEAM’s assistance and advice on company formation, proposal submission, Institutional Review Board (IRB) review, and prototyping have not only led to the formation of multiple startups but also to funding.
Sersense, Inc. has been awarded a 12-month Phase1 Small Technology Transfer Research (STTR) grant for $225,000. Sersense is developing bioassays for blood analysis. Specifically, it is seeking to produce a simple-to-use analytical platform for diagnosis of tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. Gulnaz Stybayeva, MD/PhD, is a co-founder of the company, together with Dr. Alexander Revzin, a Professor of Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Stybayeva is a microbiologist/epidemiologist, who was the head of an infectious diseases reference laboratory in her native Kazakhstan, and has been working with Dr. Revzin to develop antibody microarrays and microfluidics for point of care blood testing devices.
StreamTex Inc., founded by Dr. Tingrui Pan, a Biomedical Engineering Associate Professor, and Siyuan Xing, his graduate student, is developing a fabric that drives moisture away similar to how the body naturally sweats. A network of water-attracting threads attached to fabric drains water droplets through microchannels away from the skin. Many apparel companies have expressed interest in the technology. Uniforms that help firefighters and soldiers stay cool in the field, as well as athletic wear are also potential applications for the new advanced materials. TEAM’s assistance included identifying counsel for licensing the technology from UCD, assembling StreamTex’s Board of Directors, grant proposal and IRB protocol submission, and ongoing scientific advice. StreamTex has received a 6-month Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant award for $150,000. If they succeed in their proposed research, StreamTex and SerSense can apply for 24-month, Phase 2 funding of up to $750,000 each.
Key partners across campus work together seamlessly so that TEAM endeavors succeed. Talented faculty and efficient, knowledgeable administrators in the Biomedical Engineering Department, which runs TEAM, go out of their way to meet deadlines, adhere to requirements, and discover the most effective ways to get jobs done. The TEAM Design, Prototyping, and Fabrication Facilities offer all the tools required to create functional prototypes from almost any idea, from design software to the latest in 3D printing technologies. TEAM is unique in offering molecular prototyping capabilities so that researchers can fabricate molecules and novel microorganisms. Dr. Marc Facciotti, Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor, and Assistant Director for TEAM’s BioInnovation Laboratory, has provided assistance for AmberCycle, a student-formed startup for plastic recycling using custom-designed microbes, since the company’s inception. AmberCycle has received funding from the UC Davis Big Bang competition. The international award-winning UC Davis iGEM team also uses TEAM’s BioInnovation Laboratory, and Dr. Facciotti has just received a $50,000 grant to support launching more student-led entrepreneurial efforts through TEAM.
There has been an administrative shift at UC Davis toward building an environment that supports faculty in developing early technology so that they can attract industry’s interest and become a reality for patient health. The UC Office of the President provides Proof of Concept (POC) funding for new technologies that could offer good opportunities for commercialization. Both Professors Revzin and Pan have been recipients of POC funding, which has helped them progress to the point they’re at now.
“Whether it is creating prototypes from molecules to machines or taking businesses from startups to manufacturing, TEAM is excited to be part of the amazing ecosystem we have at UCD and the Sacramento region,” said Team Assistant Director, Dr. Jerry C. Hu.