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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

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February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

UMass Researchers Lead Scientific Innovation, Pres Ponies Up The Dough

UMass+Researchers+Lead+Scientific+Innovation%2C+Pres+Ponies+Up+The+Dough+
UMass Researchers Lead Scientific Innovation, Pres Ponies Up The Dough

Last week UMass President Jack M. Wilson announced $200,000 in grants for UMass researchers at the Amherst, Lowell and Worcester campuses. The awards were given to eight research groups to advance the commercial development of technologies they discovered in their laboratories. “These University of Massachusetts researchers stand at the forefront of scientific innovation and are bringing forward discoveries that could benefit mankind in significant ways, whether that is by creating new treatments for cancer, new approaches for wound care, or improving the fire-safety of the clothes we wear,” President Wilson said in a press release. The money for the grants comes from the University’s Commercial Venturesa and Intellectual Property Technology Development Fund, which President Wilson established in 2004. To date, the fund has provided $1,115,000 in grant funding to faculty members on all five campuses. “The University of Massachusetts has become a national leader in bringing faculty discoveries to the world and the marketplace, and we want to preserve and advance our leadership role through programs like the CVIP Technology Development Fund,” President Wilson said. UMass made $73 million in royalties from technology developed on UMass campuses grants in Fiscal-Year 2009. According to the University’s communications department this puts it at the forefront of scientific innovation. This year’s applicants were assessed on the technical merit of their ideas, the progress of their research, development cost, commercial potential and business viability, probability of commercial success, and the ability to execute the plan. Each of the following projects will be given a $25,000 grant from the 2010 CVIP Technology Development Fund: Sludge Processing Technology (Amherst)New treatment technology developed at UMass Amherst effectively reduces sludge and removes nutrients from wastewater. These are major challenges in wastewater treatment systems, and this invention could lead to significant simplification of reactor design and operation. The CVIP funding will provide proof of concept with engineering optimization as well as a full-scale test at a treatment plant. The project called, “A New Sludge and Nutrient Reduction Method for Wastewater Treatment” was developed by Chul Park, PhD, from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UMass Amherst.Wound Dressings that Speed up Healing (Amherst)Researchers at UMass Amherst have developed a dressing for injuries that may speed up the healing process. They created stable hydrogels with oxygen-carrying domains, which are gels that can be cast onto gauzes. These can be used as wound dressings, and would draw oxygen to injuries and speed up the healing process. Funds from the CVIP grant will be used to conduct in vivo studies and identify industrial partners for further development. Surita Bhatia, PhD, and Susan Roberts, PhD, from the Department of Chemical Engineering at UMass Amherst, developed these dressings in a project they call, “Alginate Wound Dressings with Enhanced Oxygen Supply.”  Wound Dressings for Chronic Injuries (Worcester)Special dressings that would speed up the healing process are being developed at Worcester Medical Center. The overall objective of this project is to study the technology developed at UMass Medical School on accelerated wound healing by topical application of a-gal liposomes. When applied on injuries, these liposomes interact with the most abundant antibody in humans — the natural anti-Gal antibody. This interaction induces rapid recruitment and activation of macrophages in the treated wounds. The activated macrophages produce and secrete substances (cytokines) that mediate healing of injuries. If successful, the studies will help in the commercialization of this technology by UMass and in establishing clinical trials on healing of chronic wounds in the general population and in patients with impaired wound healing, such as diabetic patients and the elderly. Uri Galili, PhD, from the Department of Surgery at UMass Worcester received a grant for his project, “Accelerated Wound Healing With Liposome Nanoparticles.” Improved Hacker Shield For Wireless Devices“Communication randomness,” defined as transmission errors and user movements, interferes with wireless communication. Technology developed at UMass Amherst converts this randomness into security shields against hackers. The new security model offers better security at low cost. The CVIP grant will be used to develop a prototype of this technology for commercialization. This idea was developed by Weibo Gong, PhD, and Sheng Xiao, MS, from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at UMass Amherst. They call their project “Wireless Secret Key Management Using Communication Randomness.” Improved Treatment for MelanomaA treatment for melanoma may be improved with by using recumbent IGFBP7 (rIGFBP7). IGFBP7 encodes a secreted protein as a melanoma tumor suppressor gene – lost during melanoma development.  Adding recombinant IGFBP7 (rIGFBP7) induces apoptosis (cell death) in BRAF-positive human melanoma cell lines. Systemically administered, rIGFBP7 markedly suppresses growth of BRAF-positive melanoma in mice. rIGFBP7 represents a promising new treatment for BRAF-positive melanoma and therefore has significant commercial potential. CVIP Funding will be used to figure out how to produce rIGFBP7 in a biologically active form, and to determine the optimal conditions that suppress growth of BRAF-positive melanomas in mice. Michael Green, PhD, MD, Program in Gene Function and Expression, UMass Worcester, developed this idea. His project is called, “Methods for Efficient Production of Bioactive Recombinant IGFBP7, a Promising New Therapeutic Agent for the Treatment of Melanoma and Other BRAF-Positive Cancers.” Brain Tumor TreatmentGlioblastoma brain tumors are tremendously difficult to treat and are invariably fatal. Current therapies ease the pain and slow the growth of brain tumors but do not provide a real cure. Alonzo Ross, PhD, from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at UMass Worcester developed a method for enhancing chemotherapy of glioblastomas. This novel approach combines a chemotherapy drug with a specific inhibitor of a signaling pathway. Using this approach, Dr.Ross has gotten promising results analyzing tumor formation in mice. His goal is to expand these results and provide a foundation for a clinical trial as well as licensing of his patent.  Less Toxic Epoxy DevelopmentThis technology attempts to address growing concern surrounding the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in epoxy can liners. BPA is used in the vast majority of metal food and beverage cans. Daniel Schmidt, PhD, from the Department of Plastics Engineering at UMass Lowell, has developed practical, high-performance BPA free epoxy resins. In particular, new formulations have been identified that show significant promise as replacements for BPA-based epoxies. And they contain no components with structural similarities to human hormones (like BPA). CVIP grant money will be used to support immediate scale-up of this technology, as well as the generation of application-specific data to prove industrial relevance.  Eco Friendly Flame Retardant (Amherst, Lowell)Plastics in everything from textiles to electronics contain chemicals that keep them from catching fire. These brominated and halogenated flame-retardants are toxic, not only to our eco system but to also our bodies. They have been banned in the European Union and in the states of California and Maine. Nagarajan and Kumar (UMass Lowell), along with Bryan Coughlin, PhD and Todd Emrick, PhD (UMass Amherst)) have demonstrated that flame retardant additives derived from phenolic materials using “greener” synthetic routes may be able to replace some of the more toxic materials currently used.  Their project called, “A New Class of Halogen-free Greener Flame Retardant Materials” will receive a $25,000 CVIP grant for continued testing.

About the Contributor
Caleb Nelson served as the following positions for The Mass Media the following years: Editor-in-Chief: Fall 2010; 2010-2011; Fall 2011 News Editor: Spring 2009; 2009-2010