UMass Researcher Sees Dollar Signs

Caleb Nelson

This year UMass President Jack Wilson awarded $175,000 partitioned in seven $25,000 grants to UMass researchers to turn technologies developed at UMass labs into commercial products.

These grants were awarded through the Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Properties (CVIP) Technology Development Fund created by Wilson in 2004. The fund generated $3 million in funds for research since its creation.

“These grants allow the University to support faculty-developed inventions with the potential to drive the economy and change people’s lives. Throughout our nation’s history, breakthroughs made in university labs have shaped our social and economic development and spurred economic growth,” said President Wilson. “As the Commonwealth’s public research University, the University of Massachusetts serves as an innovation engine for the Commonwealth, fostering the development of new technologies that create new companies and new jobs in Massachusetts.”

UMB hopes to capitalize on these funds next year through the Venture Development Center, said Daniel Phillips who is associated with the new research facility on the UMB Campus.

This year the funds went to researchers at Lowell, Amherst and UMass Medical School campuses.

One of the researchers who received the grant this year was Xingwei Wang, from UMass Lowell. She met with Mass Media to discuss her project and plans for the $25,000 she and her team received.

Would you explain your research and its purpose?

We proposed a disposable blood pressure sensor for cardiologist use. The purpose is to find out the location and the severity of the blockage in the coronary arteries. The information is very useful for the cardiologists to judge which treatment is necessary for the patients: medication, angioplasty, or bypass surgery. The value is that the pressure sensor can reduce unnecessary stints in approximately 25% of the cases and results in $2 billion in medical saving.

What prompted the research?

We have been working on miniature sensors including pressure sensors for years. Recently we worked with a local company and we realized that our miniature sensor can be embedded into the standard guide wire for direct blood pressure measurement, which could be very useful.

Why did you decide to do your research at UMass Lowell?

Massachusetts is very attractive to scientists and researchers in high-tech and biomedical areas. UMassLowell is a very friendly environment and encourages the interdisciplinary collaboration which is very important for our research. I enjoyed my stay here. I have been working on sensor design and fabrication for years. I am always eager to see their real applications in helping people’s daily life, including in biomedical applications. I was excited to get my project for DNA detection as my Ph.D. topic. And then after that, biosensors and sensors for biomedical applications are one of the main areas that our group is enthusiastic about.

What is the timeline on this project, and how much is done?

We are improving the fabrication of the sensors now and will spend most time this year for different kinds of tests. We hope the sensors can go for the animal test, too.

How did your vision change as the study progressed?

For successful technology transfer, collaboration is very important. The sensor fabrication and tests are going well and technology should be fine. But we need to collaborate closely with cardiologists and experts in this area. We have a good connection with a local company. We are still actively looking for experts in cardiology area for collaboration, such as in the animal testing phase. In addition, the students in the management department are helping us to look deeply into the market for more possibilities. Good collaborations with different groups are very important.

How will $25,000 transform your research into a marketable product?

The funding is very helpful to support the sensor tests, which is very important before technology transfer.