Twenty-four researchers at UCLA have been named recipients of awards from the 2019 UCLA Innovation Fund Biomedical Competition.

The award, up to $200,000 in some instances, is intended to advance projects toward specific milestones, enabling these technologies to be licensed to an existing company or startup. These funds support commercialization activities, which usually aren’t supported by basic research grants. As a result, researchers can develop their technologies to a point where the chances of success are greatly increased. Importantly, all awarded projects receive consultations from an outside industry and investor adviser panel, which provides technical and commercial feedback that is key to technology development.

The UCLA Innovation Fund was established by the UCLA Technology Development Group, in conjunction with the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, UCLA College’s divisions of physical sciences and life sciences, the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, the School of Dentistry and UCLA Health.

“The collaboration between the Technology Development Group and the UCLA ecosystem has allowed the UCLA Innovation Fund to become a leading effort in bridging the gap between academia and an investable opportunity,” said Amir Naiberg, who leads the UCLA Technology Development Group and is the associate vice chancellor, president and CEO of UCLA Technology Development Corporation. “It also allows us to attract leading investors to campus. The feedback we receive from faculty on this program is extremely positive.”

The applicants’ projects were evaluated on their novelty, significance and potential public benefit, as well as the status of the intellectual property and other factors relating to the projects’ technical feasibility and commercial potential.

The two tracks in the 2019 cycle were therapeutics and medical technology.

The award recipients for the therapeutics track:

  • Heather Christofk, associate professor of biological chemistry, and Michael Jung, distinguished professor of chemistry, were recognized for their work developing a novel cancer therapeutic that targets ketohexokinase, a key enzyme involved in fructose metabolism.
  • Dr. Ichiro Nishimura, professor of dentistry and bioengineering; Dr. Akishige Hokugo, assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery; School of Dentistry scientist Dr. Hiroko Okawa; and Dr. Reza Jarrahy, associate clinical professor of surgery and pediatrics, were awarded for their program to develop a therapeutic that suppresses the peripheral clock gene NPAS2, which would prevent postsurgical scarring.
  • Urologic oncologists Dr. Matthew Rettig and Dr. Robert Reiter — collaborating with chemists Jung and Elshan Nakath — received funds to advance a small molecule inhibitor of the androgen receptor N-terminal domain, with the hope of providing a treatment for prostate cancer patients who are resistant to existing hormone therapies.
  • Pediatrician Dr. Paul Krogstad and Jung were honored for their work developing a broad spectrum antiviral therapeutic for enterovirus infection, an area of high unmet need.
  • Varghese John, professor of neurology, and scientists Jesus Campagna and Patricia Spilman were recognized for their work developing a platform that enables the delivery of a broad range of therapeutics across the blood-brain barrier via deformable synthetic exosomes.

The award recipients for the medical technology track:

  • Dr. Alireza Moshaverinia, a prosthodontist, collaborated with scientist M. Mahdi Hasani-Sadrabadi to develop a new tooth-remineralizing dental filling.
  • Dr. Nelson Soohoo, a surgeon, developed a mechanized system to assist with the operative reduction and setting of long bone fractures.
  • Sam Emaminejad, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Janet Tomiyama, associate professor of psychology, partnered to develop a wearable device that helps manage stress by detecting cortisol levels.
  • Dr. Ashley Kita, an ear, nose and throat resident, Dr. Maie St. John, professor and chair of head and neck surgery, and Daniel Kamei, professor of bioengineering, led a team to develop a point-of-care detection device for cerebrospinal fluid leaks.
  • Tsu-Chin Tsao, UCLA professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; ophthalmologist Dr. Jean-Pierre Hubschman; and Jacob Rosen, director of the UCLA bionics lab, teamed up to develop a surgical robot that reduces the risk of blindness and vision impairment following cataract surgery.

The Innovation Fund is currently accepting 2020 applications. Click here for more information.