Congratulations “Accelerating from Lab to Market Pre-Seed Grant” Awardees

We are pleased to announce the first three awardees for our Accelerating from Lab to Market Pre-Seed Grant program. Thirteen competitive applications were submitted in response to the inaugural request for proposals and we thank all those members of the Penn faculty who submitted. We congratulate the following three awardees of pre-seed grants from this program:

Graphene-Enabled Medical Diagnostics
A.T. Charlie Johnson

Professor
School of Arts and Sciences
Department of Physics and Astronomy

Abstract: This project will significantly strengthen an ongoing collaboration between Penn and AVX Corporation to develop and commercialize graphene-enabled medical diagnostic devices. The specific goals of this project include 1) demonstration of a prototype all-electronic, label-free system to simultaneously quantify multiple Lyme disease biomarker proteins in human serum; 2) further development of our first-generation prototype portable electronic measurement system; 3) know-how transfer from Penn to AVX’s Advanced Products and Technology Center to commercialize a completed sensor platform. AVX is well-positioned in this space due to ongoing efforts in its Medical Device Division, and it has dedicated five people to the effort (including two Senior Members of Technical Staff at the Ph.D. level). The project is supported at the CTO level on the AVX side. Funds obtained through the Lab to Market program will be matched 1:1 by AVX.

3D Printed Meshes as Expansile Breast Reconstruction Implant Cages with Improved 3D Shapes
Shu Yang

Professor
School of Engineering and Applied Science
Departments of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CBE)

Abstract: In the US, about 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over their lifetime. To complete successful and aesthetically pleasing breast reconstruction, tissue reinforcing products, acellular dermal matrices (ADM), derived human or porcine tissue, are widely utilized to create slings/pockets to keep breast implants or autologous tissue transfer secured against the chest wall in the desired location. However, the ADM sheet does not have the 3D shape, and it requires the stitching of multiple ADMs to cover the entire implant, which is expensive, time-consuming, and demands surgical skills yet not providing natural shapes. We have developed a kirigami strategy to cut ADM such that it can expand to wrap an implant. However, cuts make ADMs vulnerable to tearing. Here, we propose to 3D print bioabsorbable surgical meshes with desired geometries that can expand into different 3D shapes, thus potentially replacing existing ADMs. By printing 2D sheets of different geometries, density, and thickness, we can achieve a different degree of stretchability to wrap around the implant, as well as control of the local elasticity for shaping. Our approach will offer a completely new paradigm to tackle the breast reconstruction problem, and a new opportunity to create better products for patients.

Sustainable and Scalable Hydrogen Production at Near-Zero Hydrogen cost
Eric Detsi

Assistant Professor
School of Engineering and Applied Science
Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE)

Abstract: Despite the remarkable key features of hydrogen H2 including electricity production with zero-emissions upon reaction with oxygen in fuel cells, a true sustainable H2 economy is still not realized, partly because of the absence of scalable and sustainable hydrogen production methods. Indeed, over 95 % of hydrogen used worldwide is produced through steam reforming of natural gas, which is not a sustainable method, since it heavily depends on fossil fuels, and undesirable CO2 is co-produced during the process. Water splitting by electrolysis, thermolysis or photo-electrolysis represents promising sustainable methods to produce hydrogen. However, the costs of these processes are much higher than that of steam reforming. We propose to co-produce H2, activated alumina and heat by hydrolysis of nanoporous Al in pure water, and sell these valued-added reaction by-products (activated alumina and heat) to reduce the cost of H2. To minimize the carbon footprint in our process, we source our nanoporous Al from secondary Al (i.e. recycled scrap Al).

About the Accelerating from Lab to Market Pre-Seed Grant program

Penn makes significant commitments to academic research as one of its core missions, including investment in faculty research programs. In some disciplines, the path by which discovery makes an impact on society is through commercialization. Pre-seed grants are often the limiting step for new ideas to cross the “valley of death” between federal research funding and commercial success. Accelerating from Lab to Market Pre-Seed Grant program aims to help to bridge this gap.

Accelerating from Lab to Market pre-seed grants can be awarded to Penn faculty for promising inventions disclosed to Penn Center for Innovation (PCI) and Penn faculty with existing Penn spinout companies based on Penn-owned intellectual property. Funding levels will be available from $10,000 to $50,000 but could be larger if justified (up to $200k). One goal of the seed program is to leverage this Penn investment with external partners through matching funds.

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