With support from Invent Penn State, the Penn State Research Foundation, and the University’s Fund for Innovation, the competitive Lab Bench to Commercialization (LB2C) program provides funding for researchers in the Eberly College of Science — enabling them to enhance the commercial potential of ongoing research and prepare them to translate their intellectual property to the marketplace.
This year’s grant recipients — Kenneth Keiler, Benjamin Lear, and Xin Zhang — have each been awarded $75,000 toward commercializing intellectual property from their research.
Keiler, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, was awarded LB2C funding for his project titled “Inhibitors of Bacterial Transcription and Gene Regulation by Hfq/sRNA Targeting.”
Infections caused by antibiotic resistant gram-negative bacteria — including Enterobacteriaceae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa — are of critical concern and have been identified by the Centers for Disease Control to be urgent and serious threats. New antibiotics to treat multidrug-resistant gram-negative bacterial infections represent an important yet unmet clinical need. Keiler and collaborators identified a novel therapeutic target that is conserved in several such pathogens, developed a novel high-throughput screen to identify antibiotic compounds that affect the target, and are currently working to develop and validate the initial leads identified by their screen.
Lear, associate professor of chemistry, was awarded LB2C funding for his project titled “Rapid On-demand Curing of Thermally Cured Thermosets.”
Lear and his collaborators mix nanoparticulate photothermal agents, which absorb light and convert its energy to heat, into pre-polymer mixtures. Due to the small size of the particles, they respond quickly — on the order of nanoseconds — to changes in incident light and can be heated to extreme local temperatures, resulting in rapid, on-demand curing of current commercially available mixtures, without the typical limitations in working time. The inventors believe their technology might provide value in the areas of coatings, adhesives, and additive manufacturing (e.g., 3D printing).
Zhang, assistant professor of chemistry and of biochemistry and molecular biology, was awarded LB2C funding for his project titled “Fluorogenic Assay of Protein Soluble and Insoluble Aggregates.”
Protein misfolding leads to the formation of various molecular complexes — pre-fibril protein oligomers, insoluble protein aggregates, and amyloid fibers — that are associated with neurodegenerative and metabolic disorders. At present, there are no commercially available products able to detect misfolded proteins in live cells. To address this need, the Zhang lab invented a series of small-molecule fluorophores, or fluorescent compounds — named AgGlow — that bind to misfolded proteins in vitro and in vivo. The inventors expect that their technology will enable researchers to determine how misfolded proteins contribute to disease, to develop tools for diagnosing associated diseases at a pre-symptomatic stage, and to develop screens for generating novel therapeutic leads.
Application criteria and awards
To apply for the LB2C grant program, applicants must demonstrate that the funding will significantly impact development activities for existing intellectual property or research that may be commercialized. Research and inventions include tangible products, therapeutics, processes/methods, software, or improvement of a current market product. After being reviewed for scientific merit and commercialization potential, awardees are granted $75,000 to be used within one year. In addition to funding, researchers also have the added benefit of working with the Fund for Innovation program, which assists grantees in critically evaluating their technology, finds market applications, and provides development and commercialization plan feedback. These services, along with the funding, provide inventors with the opportunity to take their inventions from the lab bench to the public sector where they can see real societal benefits.