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University of Iowa News Release

May 1, 2006

Iowa Centers For Enterprise Award Grants For Technology Commercialization

The University of Iowa's newly formed commercialization center -- the Iowa Centers for Enterprise (ICE) -- has announced recommendations for the award of $300,000 in grant seed funding to UI researchers designed to expand the commercialization of UI technology. 

The seed fund program is supported by Iowa Department of Economic Development appropriations to the Board of Regents, State of Iowa under the Grow Iowa Values Fund.

The funds will support the development of UI innovations with commercial potential within the state of Iowa, said Pamela York, executive director of the UI Research Foundation.

"For early-stage technologies and startup companies coming out of universities, there is often a funding gap between research and investment dollars. As a result, few technologies successfully make it out of universities. We're stepping into that gap with this funding, as are other universities in Iowa and around the world, in an effort to increase the number of projects that are commercially viable," York said. "It's important and impacts our community and society at large when discoveries find application outside the laboratory and the classroom."

The funding will support several stages of technology development, from initial concept (prior to intellectual property disclosure), to proof of concept, to prototype development. Each project award ranged from $10,000 to $50,000, required matching funds from the proposers, and demonstrated a path to impact within the state of Iowa. A typical project lasts from six to 18 months.

The grant awards went to:

--Michael Abramoff, associate professor of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences in collaboration with iOptics LLC, to develop a low-cost retinal camera that can be used by family eyecare clinics.

--Mark Arnold and Gary Small, professors in the Department of Chemistry, in collaboration with ASL Analytic, Inc., to make a portable prototype of an infrared spectrometer for the easy measurement of glucose in the treatment of diabetes. This device would scan a section of tissue for glucose, eliminating the need to draw a blood sample for analysis.

--Raymond Hohl, professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, and David Wiemer, professor in the Department of Chemistry, for drug development to treat some forms of cancer in collaboration with Terpenoid Therapeutics, Inc.

--Gregory Leno and John Engelhardt, professors in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, to develop cell therapy techniques that could be used to treat Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease and other diseases. A startup company RepGenix LLC is being formed around their discoveries, in collaboration with other Iowa resources and companies.

--Michael Welsh, Beverly Davidson and Joseph Zabner, professors in the Department of Internal Medicine, and Paul McCray, professor in the Department of Pediatrics, to develop new models to study cystic fibrosis, cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases and cancer in humans. A startup company is being formed around their discoveries. 

--Markus Wohlgenannt, assistant professor of Physics and Astronomy and member of the UI's Optical Science and Technology Center, to make a touch screen device similar to those used in tablet computers or personal digital assistants using new technology with the potential for low cost, ultrathin and flexible displays in collaboration with OMR Sensors, Inc.

York said the projects selected show a high potential to lead to one or more of the following:

--UI technology resulting in the formation of a new, viable Iowa startup company

--UI technology licensed to an existing Iowa company.

--Collaborative development projects with Iowa companies, that could lead to new products and/or services.

The Iowa Centers for Enterprise (ICE) integrate existing economic development activities at The University of Iowa. ICE offers a comprehensive program that promotes economic development and technology transfer, provides assistance to Iowa startups and existing Iowa businesses and communities and helps the state of Iowa develop a creative, entrepreneurial workforce. Also, ICE optimizes the flow of university intellectual property into opportunities for licensing, commercialization and business development.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: George McCrory, 319-384-0012,; Pam York, UI Research Foundation, 319-335-4311