University Fostering Entrepreneurs

Moving ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace can be difficult. That is because federal research dollars typically don’t support the proof-of-concept studies needed to demonstrate the feasibility of a promising new technology or diagnostic test. Also, very often scientists have to struggle to develop a successful pitch or execute a business plan.

To fill the gap, Washington University in St Louis established the Bear Cub program to provide university scientists with funding to help commercialize their research discoveries. Beginning this year, scientists who are funded through the program will have access to business mentors and other hands-on assistance to develop their technologies.

The university recently announced a new round of Bear Cub funding with $204,000 going to five scientists:

  • David Beebe PhD is developing a way to prevent the formation of cataracts in patients undergoing retinal surgery. To repair the retina, surgeons must remove a portion of the vitreous gel that fills the eye a process that exposes the lens to oxygen and increases the likelihood of cataract. Working with colleagues at Purdue University, Beebe is evaluating whether the polymer can preserve the remaining vitreous gel and restore its properties to prevent cataracts from forming


  • A test to detect acute kidney injury early has been developed by Joseph Gaut, MD, PhD and his colleagues. This complication can occur in critically ill patients and those undergoing heart bypass surgery. The test is based on a kidney-specific protein that is elevated in the blood soon after acute kidney damage occurs, typically several days before tests are available. The researchers will evaluate whether the protein can accurately diagnose early kidney damage in animal models and in heart bypass patients


  • Michael S. Hughes PhD and his team are developing an imaging technology to capture certain aspects of electromagnetic and acoustic waves and then convert that information into an image. This image would be able to measure the disorder in an object and detect features not easily picked up by ultrasound, CT scans, and by other conventional imaging


  • A monitor to noninvasively detect obstructions in vascular grafts and shunts is being developed by Eric Leuthardt, MD. The monitor uses a nanoscale flow sensor that can be integrated into an implantable shunt or graft to help when the shunt or graft becomes obstructed over time. The sensor can then be activated by light to measure the flow rate of fluids through grafts and shunts


  • Jung-Tsung Shen PhD has developed a photonic switch that is magnitudes faster, smaller, and more energy efficient than other switches typically used to support the information superhighway. In addition to telecommunications, the switch could also be used in high resolution medical imaging and in semiconductor manufacturing
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