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Updated 10:00 AM Sept. 18, 2006




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  21st Century Jobs Fund
$5.8 million goes to U-M research,
$16.4 million to spinoffs and licensees

More than a third of this year’s awards from the state of Michigan’s 21st Century Jobs Fund have been given to the University’s academic research, spinout companies and research collaborations.

U-M faculty members were awarded $5.8 million for five projects on the Ann Arbor campus and one at U-M Dearborn.

Area companies founded by University faculty, or using licensed U-M technology, garnered another $16.4 million from the fund. Several other projects totaling $8.4 million include some collaboration with U-M researchers. Two U-M faculty members, James Baker Jr. of the Medical School and Erdogan Gulari of engineering, are involved in two projects each.

Two statewide, multiuniversity programs administered by U-M were given an additional $7.75 million. The state estimates these investments will result in more than 1,200 new jobs.

“These awards affirm our belief that University of Michigan research is a powerful economic engine for creating new ideas and new economic opportunities in the state,” says Marvin Parnes, associate vice president for research and executive director of research administration. “We’re proud of our accomplishments and glad that we can contribute to retooling the state’s economy.”

The 21st Century Fund is part of a $2 billion, 10-year initiative administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) to accelerate the diversification of Michigan’s economy. The commercialization component of the initiative devotes approximately $800 million for competitive-edge technologies in four targeted sectors:  life sciences, alternative energy, advanced automotive materials and manufacturing and homeland security/defense.

“The breadth and quality of our research and tech transfer activities are evident in these awards,” says Ken Nisbet, executive director of U-M’s Office of Technology Transfer. “With help from our business, government and community partners, it is very satisfying to see that our technology, talent and resources are making a significant contribution to the economic vitality of our state.”

The 61 awards announced Sept. 6 included $47.5 million for life sciences, $37.3 million for advanced automotive materials and manufacturing, $9.3 million for homeland security and defense and $8.9 million for alternative energy.

Each award is administered by MEDC staff, with individualized contracts that set conditions and mileposts for the receipt of funds. In many instances, the award is more like a long-term loan that will be repaid to the state.

A review process conducted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) narrowed a field of 505 proposals to 179 finalists. Each project then was considered, following an interview process led by association experts who made final recommendations to the state’s recently created Strategic Economic Investment and Commercialization Board.

U-M awards totaling $5.8 million and their categories:

Cleaner diesel engines
Advanced automotive, $1,670,811

A team led by Dennis Assanis, the Jon R. and Beverly S. Holt professor of engineering, is working with Eaton Corp. to develop a better understanding of the chemistry of nitrogen oxide traps and selective catalytic reduction for cleaner-burning diesel engines. Simulations done at U-M will lead to improvements of these after-treatment technologies.

High efficiency hydraulic hybrid propulsion for trucks
Advanced Automotive, $1,248,904

U-M researchers are in partnership with Bosch Rexroth Intelligent Hydraulic Drive Products to develop and demonstrate a clean and efficient alternative propulsion system for medium trucks. The team will integrate Rexroth’s patented hydraulic energy conversion and storage components with other parts to form a complete vehicle, and then optimize the system using measurement and simulation in the W.E. Lay Laboratory at the College of Engineering. The project is led by Zoran Filipi, an associate research professor and assistant director of the Automotive Research Center.

Miniaturized, wearable radiation detectors
Homeland security, $1,228,172

Codrin Cionca, an assistant research scientist in applied physics, is working with an Ann Arbor firm, K-Space Associates and the U.S. Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego, to develop thin-film electronic devices that could act as neutron sensors. The goal is wearable devices for the detection and tracking of nuclear materials to protect civilian and military personnel.

Improved process control for hot forging
Advanced automotive, $895,000

In partnership with the state’s steel forging industry and an Ann Arbor company called OG Technologies, professors Jianjun Shi and Jionghua Jin of Industrial and Operations Engineering are developing a sensor-based technology to see hot metals as they are being formed to prevent costly and wasteful defects and to improve predictive control of the process. Current forging technology involves a lot of wasted material and energy, because defects aren’t detected until the piece is already formed and cooled. The new technology would see and correct defects before they occur, improving efficiency and saving energy and costs.

Computer-aided metal stamping
Advanced Automotive, $439,999

A. Galip Ulsoy, William Clay Ford Professor of Manufacturing in the College of Engineering, heads a consortium that includes private-sector partners which is developing a more automated system for stamping sheet metals. It would include sensors and computerized control to make stamping faster and more accurate and to improve the use of difficult-to-form materials, such as aluminum, which are important for lightweight vehicle structures. Partners in the effort include Ogihara America Corp. and Troy Design and Manufacturing.

Improved vehicle power management
Advanced automotive, $285,100

With the Ford Motor Co. and the U.S. Army, Yi Murphey, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at U-M-Dearborn, will be developing better software to manage an engine’s fuel economy and emissions without sacrificing performance, safety or reliability.

U-M spinout and licensee awards of $12.7 million:

NanoBio Corp, Ann Arbor
Nanotechnology anti-infective
Life sciences, $2,377,526

NanoBio is developing a new approach to toenail fungus that involves nanoscale particles invented in the lab of faculty member James R. Baker Jr., the Ruth Dow Doan Professor of Nanotechnology, who founded the company. The funds will be used for a proof-of-concept trial in humans at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and the U-M Medical School, and a study of how to manufacture the substance in Michigan.

Avidimer Therapeutics Inc., Ann Arbor
Nanotechnology drug delivery
Life sciences, $2,250,000

Avidimer will be starting clinical trials in human patients for a cancer drug delivery system that has been shown to work in mice. The system was developed in the lab of faculty member and company founder James R. Baker Jr., the Ruth Dow Doan Professor of Nanotechnology. The company proposes to deliver cancer-killing drugs specifically to cancer cells in human trials conducted at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, as well as the Barbara A. Karmanos Cancer Center at Wayne State University in Detroit.

Biodiscovery LLC, Ann Arbor
Low-cost DNA chips
Life sciences, $2,194,675

Erdogan Gulari, the Donald L. Katz Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering, is head of a company that is developing a new way to make microarray chips for medical diagnosis and discovery. The company, Biodiscovery LLC, is able to put specific pieces of DNA and enzymes on an array using technology developed at U-M.

Polytorx, Ann Arbor
New way to reinforce concrete
Advanced materials, $1,500,000

Polytorx, founded by a recent U-M engineering graduate, is ramping up its manufacturing and sales of Helix concrete reinforcement materials, twisted steel “straws” that make concrete more resistant to impact, cracking and shrinkage at less cost than traditional reinforcing. The University holds some intellectual property rights to the product and has an ownership stake in the company.

Compendia Bioscience Inc., Novi
Cancer gene database
Life sciences, $1,238,212

Arul Chinnaiyan, the S.P. Hicks professor of pathology, has formed a company in Novi, Compendia Bioscience, to commercialize Oncomine, a database of cancer genes that is being used to improve drug discovery and cancer research. The product was developed by Chinnaiyan and Daniel Rhodes, a fellow in the Medical Science Training Program at U-M who is nearing completion of his doctoral degree.

Molecular Imaging Research, Inc., Ann Arbor
New imaging technology for cancer
Life sciences, $1,233,274

Molecular Imaging is a contract research firm founded by two U-M professors that is developing new imaging techniques to see how tissues respond to anti-cancer drugs at the molecular level. The 12-employee firm was founded by radiology Prof. Brian Ross and radiation oncology Prof. Alnawaz Rehemtulla.

Integrated Sensing Systems Inc., Ypsilanti
Fuel concentration sensor
Alternative energy, $974,999

ISSYS is developing a small, affordable sensor of liquid fuel concentration for use in fuel cell vehicles and consumer electronics. The firm was founded in 1995 by U-M faculty members Kensall Wise, the J. Reid and Polly Anderson Professor of Manufacturing Technology and William Gould Dow Distinguished University Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; and Khalil Najafi, the Schlumberger Professor of Engineering and director of the Solid State Electronics Laboratory and the Center for Wireless Integrated MicroSystems.

T/J Technologies, Ann Arbor
Batteries for residential solar power
Alternative energy, $952,665

T/J Technologies, founded by faculty member Levi Thompson, the Richard Balzhiser Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering, is developing an improved lithium-ion rechargeable battery to store solar-generated power for later use. The maintenance-free battery is expected to be lighter and have a longer life cycle than competing technologies.

U-M Research collaborations totaling $8.4 million:
IA, Inc./ThreeFold Sensors, Ann Arbor
Point-of-care biosensors
Life Sciences, $2,600,657

Emergency physicians at U-M will be helping test a fiber-optic device that gives results of blood tests for heart attack markers in minutes rather than hours.

Michigan Venture Capital Association, Ann Arbor
Venture Upstart Program
Advanced automotive, $2,100,000

U-M’s Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies is part of a consortium that will assess the health of the state’s entrepreneurial community and provide services and loans to help new companies get started.

AVL North America, Inc., Plymouth
Advanced engine and powertrain testing
Advanced Automotive, $1,514,311

Members of the Department of Mechanical Engineering will be helping develop and improve a testing system for advanced engines and powertrains with this Austrian company.

Sonetics Ultrasound Inc., Ann Arbor
Portable, real-time, 3D ultrasound
Life Sciences, $1,214,682

Researchers in the Medical School Department of Radiology are helping Sonetics Ultrasound test and develop a new ultrasound transducer based on thousands of micro-electro-mechanical-systems. The firm is headed by two recent graduates of doctoral programs in engineering. 

Michigan State University and AquaBioChip LLC, East Lansing
Lab-on-a-chip device
Homeland security, $966,608

Erdogan Gulari, the Donald L. Katz Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering at U-M, is part of a three-year project to develop a polymerase chain reaction chip that can screen for 50 biological threat agents in a single test, resulting in a low-cost, portable device for homeland defense.

Other U-M awards totaling $7.7 million:

The Michigan Universities Commercialization Initiative (MUCI)

The initiative has received $4,724,999 to enhance technology transfer efforts at U-M and Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State universities, as well as the Van Andel Resarch Institute in Grand Rapids, specifically in the area of life sciences. The funds will be used in part for small grants of seed money to help university spinouts get started.

The Core Technologies Alliance

This collaborative statewide network of life sciences labs that do fee-for-service research received $3,020,000 to continue the operations it began in 2001 as part of the Life Sciences Corridor. Alliance participants include Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Michigan State University, U-M, the Van Andel Institute and Wayne State and Western Michigan universities.


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