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Research Teams Led by Chul Park, Mariana Lopes, and Ashish Kulkarni Among Winners of the Third Annual Manning/IALS Innovation Awards

Park, Lopes, and Kulkarni

The University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) has announced that six campus research teams have been named recipients of the 3rd annual Manning/IALS Innovation Awards.

These translational grants are designed to advance applied research and development efforts from UMass-based faculty research groups in the sciences and engineering through the development of spin-out/startup companies and the out-licensing of UMass intellectual property.

Alumnus Paul Manning and his wife, Diane, committed $1 million through their family foundation to establish the Manning Innovation Program. The gift provides three years of support in advancing a robust and sustainable commercialization pipeline of applied and translational research projects from UMass Amherst. 

Peter Reinhart, founding director of IALS, says, “We are grateful to the Manning Family Foundation and Paul Manning for their support of this exciting translational initiative. This seed fund program enables UMass Amherst start-up companies to traverse the funding ‘valley of death’ towards success.”

Six projects were selected from a highly competitive group of applicants. Each successful team will receive seed funding of up to $100,000 over 12 to 18 months towards achieving translational milestones. In addition, a collaborative effort from IALS, the College of Natural Sciences, the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship and the Isenberg School of Management will provide support for commercialization efforts, including business training and mentorship resources.

The winning team leaders and their projects are:

  • 3Daughters: Carlos Gradil, veterinary & animal sciences. A women’s healthcare startup developing a new ergonomic, pain-free, magnetic intrauterine device (IUD).
     
  • E2-PATH: Karen Dunphy/Joe Jerry, veterinary & animal sciences. A diagnostic personalized medicine screening platform for selecting optimized breast cancer treatments.
     
  • OPG Wastewater Treatment: Chul Park, civil & environmental engineering. Developing technology that enables aeration-free and energy efficient wastewater treatment.
     
  • Optical Waters: Mariana Lopes, civil & environmental engineering. Germicidal optical fibers to prevent disease causing biofilms in medical devices.
     
  • RNA4Therapeutics: Craig Martin, chemistry. A novel manufacturing technology for the synthesis of high purity, low-cost, and large scale RNA manufacturing for therapeutic use.
     
  • Volvox Sciences: Ashish Kulkarni, chemical engineering. Developing a novel supramolecular nano-therapeutic (CSF-SNT) that can efficiently remove cancer tumor cells.

The award process brought together on-campus and off-campus reviewers of these applications. The reviewers bring diverse perspectives with science, engineering, nursing, public health and health sciences, and data/computer science expertise and were supplemented by industry/start-up and IP expertise. The project was supported by Manning-IALS Summer Business Innovation Fellows.

“The Manning Innovation Awards are the perfect catalyst for forging collaborative effort across campus disciplines in support of moving ground-breaking science from our labs to our community,” says Tricia Serio, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and associate chancellor for strategic academic planning. “This investment again supports UMass as a partner of choice in advancing and generating new knowledge, leading to the betterment of society.”

“At UMass, we are dedicated to finding solutions to real-world problems that impact society and our planet,” says Sanjay Raman, dean of the College of Engineering. “The Manning/IALS innovation awards represent a vital investment in taking science and engineering discoveries from lab to market. We are incredibly proud of this year’s winners and are looking forward to seeing these exciting projects move forward on the path to commercialization.”

Paul Manning, a 1977 graduate of UMass Amherst, is an entrepreneur with 30 years of experience in the healthcare industry, who most recently founded PBM Capital Group in 2010. It is a healthcare-focused private investment group that looks for opportunities to use its entrepreneurial and operational experience to make high-growth pharmaceutical, molecular diagnostic, gene therapy, life science, health/wellness and consumer product investments.

Manning was also the anchor investor in Maroon Venture Partners, the first venture-capital fund at UMass Amherst. Created in 2017, the fund is a $6 million for-profit investment vehicle created to support alumni, faculty, and student businesses in their early stages. 

IALS was established in 2014, supported by a total investment of more than $150 million from the Massachusetts Life Science Center and the campus. The Manning-IALS partnership has enabled a total of 18 UMass-based translational projects since 2019.

Originally published by the UMass Amherst Office of News and Media Relations

 
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