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MIPS Awards $1 Million for Research with Maryland Companies

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  July 23, 2003

CONTACT:

Eric Schurr
301 405 3889
schurr@umd.edu

COLLEGE PARK, Md.—The Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) Program awarded $1 million in funding on July 23 for research projects teaming Maryland companies with University System of Maryland faculty.

The 18 jointly-funded awards, worth a total of $5.1 million, went to projects with established companies such as MedImmune Inc. and Hughes Network Systems, as well as to early stage ventures such as Calibrant Biosystems and DataStream Conversion Services—for research with high commercial potential.

MIPS contributed $1.02 million to the projects, while companies are supplying $4.1 million in funding and resources. $2.4 million came from Hughes Network Systems alone.

"This project has enabled us to go in an exciting new direction with our proteomics products—pathogen detection," said Cheng Lee, CEO of Rockville-based Calibrant Biosystems Inc.Calibrant is developing a portable lab-on-a-chip system for detecting biological warfare agents, in conjunction with Mechanical Engineering Professor Don DeVoe, from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Calibrant and DeVoe are developing a tiny chip—centimeters in diameter and a millimeter thick—that can detect multiple pathogens extracted from many environments, including air, water, and tissue samples. The chip will be used as a portable pathogen detection system, although it could also be integrated into existing or planned systems. One example is a new U.S. soldier uniform under investigation, which could combine a micro-needle with Calibrant's product to regularly analyze blood samples for exposure to biological agents—including anthrax, botulism, and smallpox.

"Our system will be compact and universal," said DeVoe. "We'll be able to detect nearly every pathogen out there."

Current detection systems often utilize DNA chip or protein chip technologies, which require biologically-active reagents and tend to be very slow, according to DeVoe. Calibrant's system will separate and identify proteins in viruses, bacteria and toxins, often within 15 minutes—in a compact, low-power system.

Calibrant's MIPS project has already yielded benefits beyond the forthcoming research. "We've leveraged the MIPS award for an $850,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to expand upon this work," Lee explained, "so the immediate impact of this project cannot be overstated."

Gaithersburg-based GenVec Inc. will work with the University of Maryland, Baltimore on a potential treatment for the most common cause of hearing loss and balance disorders—the absence of functional hair cells in the inner ear. GenVec has developed a gene-based treatment that early preclinical studies have shown can generate new hair cells in mature mammalian inner ears. Dr. Hinrich Staecker, associate professor in the department of otolaryngology, head and neck surgery at UMB, will team with GenVec to develop safe and effective methods for delivering genes to the inner ear, after which they will perform tests to determine if the regenerated hair cells restore hearing and balance.

"We're excited about the opportunity to support collaborative research with GenVec," said Peter Hudson, associate director for MIPS. "Their technology has the potential to help millions of Americans suffering from hearing loss, and could bring new jobs and revenue to Maryland as GenVec grows."

MIPS offers matching funds for collaborative research and development between any company in the State and faculty from any University System of Maryland institution. Funded projects have to be technology-based and carry high commercial potential. MIPS project contributions go specifically towards university project costs.

MIPS-funded projects have helped companies solve vital technical problems and create revolutionary technologies, including MedImmune's Synagis product, which prevents a prevalent respiratory disease in pre-mature infants, Black & Decker's ultra-efficient masonry drill bits, and Martek Bioscience's top-selling additive for infant formulas. The program has supported more than 680 faculty-company research and development projects since its inception in 1987, infusing $119 million in funding into the State's technology development efforts. MIPS' $24 million in contributions have been matched by $96 million of private sector investment from Maryland companies.

MIPS is a program of the A. James Clark School of Engineering's Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (MTECH), whose mission is to enable technology commercialization, strengthen companies, and catalyze new ventures in Maryland.

For more information about MIPS, please visit www.mips.umd.edu.

Complete listing of Round 32 awards.

 

 

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