Six USC Research Teams Complete Startup Boot Camp and Receive Nearly $500K to Commercialize Technologies

Feb 05, 2013, 16:24 ET from USC Stevens Center for Innovation

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 5, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The USC Stevens Center for Innovation, whose mission is to support the creation of start up companies and commercially viable products emerging from research across the University of Southern California, announced today that six faculty led research teams received nearly $500K in gap funding to develop and commercialize their innovations.

The funds are part the USC Ideas Empowered Program, which is designed to bridge the gap between basic research and the marketplace by supporting both the idea and the innovator through mentoring and coaching, connections to resources and proof-of-concept funding of typically $50K-$100K. The program requires teams of USC faculty and graduate students to determine viability of their research becoming a product or company, demonstrate feasibility and develop a go to market strategy. The ultimate goal is to reduce any development and investment risks in order to attract outside funding within a year. For more information watch the USC Ideas Empowered Overview Video.

"The USC Ideas Empowered Program was an incredible experience because it forced us out of the confines of our 'controlled' scientific experiments and gave us a sneak-peak into the exciting, ever dynamic, world of an entrepreneur," explains John Pham of the ComfortCorrect team that was a judge favorite and will receive initial funding of $100,000 for his innovative approach to orthodontics.  "Through the process, our team has grown stronger and is better equipped to translate our ideas into a product that can create impact in the marketplace."

Forty-six teams applied for the 12-week mentoring and funding program. Eleven program participants were chosen and the final presentations were given to a select group of investors, entrepreneurs and industry experts on December 11, 2012 at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies in Playa Vista, CA. From the eleven teams, six were chosen to receive funding and those are listed below. To learn more about the USC Ideas Empowered Final Pitch event on December 11, 2012, download the Event Program.

The University of Southern California is committed to scholarship with consequence, to research that results in insights and inventions with the potential to transform existing industries, create new industries and improve lives," said Karen Kerr, Sr. Director of New Ventures and Alliances at the USC Stevens Center for Innovation. "We developed the USC Ideas Empowered Program to accelerate the commercialization of these groundbreaking insights and inventions."

Funding for USC Ideas Empowered comes from Charter Members and Program Supporters, the Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SC-CTSI) and the Johnson and Johnson Corporate Office of Science and Technology (J&J COSAT). USC Ideas Empowered Program mentoring and workshops are supported by our University Partners and an extensive network of Mentors, Reviewers, and Collaborators.

2012 Ideas Empowered Program Funding Recipients

ComfortCorrect: Fully customized, contoured "behind the teeth" smart memory alloy orthodontic braces

2012 USC Ideas Empowered Program Grant: $100,000

Through a joint collaboration between USC's top engineers and orthodontists, ComfortCorrect develops an orthodontic solution that combines the effectiveness of conventional braces, the aesthetics of behind-the-teeth braces, and the comfort and ease of use of Invisalign all in a single appliance. Through an advanced robotics process that programs shape memory alloy, the product delivers an orthodontic treatment that is faster, more effective and more hygienic than any of the current orthodontic solutions.

Team Members:

  • Yong Chen, USC Viterbi School of Engineering
  • Behrokh Khoshnevis, PhD, USC Viterbi School of Engineering
  • Xuan Song, MSE, USC Viterbi School of Engineering
  • Hongsheng Tong, DDS, PhD, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC
  • John Pham, DDS, BSE, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC
  • Robert Lee, BSE, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC

EvoRx: System for drugging protein-protein interactions with cell-permeable, biologically stable peptides

2012 USC Ideas Empowered Program Grant: $75,000

Effective treatment of many diseases will require a new generation of therapeutics.  These next-generation therapeutics need to translate our immense knowledge of cellular biology into highly effective medications.  Unfortunately, many of the most attractive drug targets are classified as "undruggable." EvoRx develops highly effective molecules against "undruggable" drug targets. EvoRx can rapidly generate new molecules to treat a wide range of diseases such as cancer, inflammation and cardiovascular disease. Compared to their competitors, EvoRx technology is faster, less expensive and has a higher success rate.

Team Members:

  • Richard Roberts, USC Viterbi School of Engineering
  • Stephen Fiacco, USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
  • Terry Takahashi, USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
  • Pin Wang, USC Viterbi School of Engineering
  • Farzad Jalali-Yazdi, USC Viterbi School of Engineering

UniFlu: Universal, shelf-stable, glycolipid-based influenza vaccine

2012 USC Ideas Empowered Program Grant: $65,000

UniFlu has a novel, universal flu vaccine under development that can be effective against most, if not all, flu strains year after year, which is not the case today. A single shot of UniFlu will increase a long lasting protection against influenza, avoid lengthy development delays during high flu seasons and prevent increased sickness and death in the case of another flu pandemic.

Team Members:

  • Omid Akbari, Keck School of Medicine of USC
  • Jonathan Lamb, Keck School of Medicine of USC

Second Spectrum: Data analysis and visualization tools for sports analytics

2012 USC Ideas Empowered Program Grant: $80,000

Second Spectrum develops proprietary software that transforms data from motion tracking and vision systems, used to monitor motion-based sports like basketball, into intuitive and meaningful analytics and visualizations to uncover insights, develop game strategies, improve player selection, and diminish play injuries.

Team Members:

  • Rajiv Maheswaran, USC Viterbi School for Engineering
  • Yu-Han Chang, USC Viterbi School for Engineering

ARMORWAY: Software and services for risk mitigation and security resource optimization

2012 USC Ideas Empowered Program Grant: $80,000

ARMOR's game theory based algorithms automatically generate security resource deployment schedules that improve security by minimizing predictability, and decrease the cost of security by maximizing the efficiency of resource utilization.

Team Members:

  • Milind Tambe, USC Viterbi School of Engineering
  • Isaac Maya, USC Viterbi School for Engineering
  • Jason Tsai, USC Viterbi School for Engineering
  • Errol Southers, USC Sol Price School of Public Policy
  • Manish Jain, USC Viterbi School for Engineering
  • Rong Yang, USC Viterbi School for Engineering
  • Zhengyu Yin, USC Viterbi School for Engineering
  • James Pita, RAND Corp

Atricode: Small molecule therapy for Myotonic Dystrophy Type 1

2012 USC Ideas Empowered Program Grant: $90,000

Atricode is developing treatments for rare diseases. The lead indication, Myotonic Dystrophy Type 1 (DM1,) is a devastating genetic multisystem disorder with no available treatment or cure. This team identified highly potent and selective small molecule leads that rescue DM1 pathology in patient myoblasts and in DM1 mouse models. The team joined forces with experienced entrepreneurs to form a startup company that moves the drug candidates towards the clinic. The drug candidate could be the first therapy to treat this devastating disorder and the Ideas Empowered funds are critical for the selection of the lead candidate for clinical development and to support fundraising efforts.

Team Members:

  • Sita Reddy, Keck School of Medicine of USC
  • Lucio Comai, Keck School of Medicine of USC
  • Donald Dixon, Keck School of Medicine of USC
  • Nouri Neamati, USC School of Pharmacy
  • Adam Simpson, Atricode
  • Bob Baltera, Atricode
  • Brian Varnum, C3 Jian
  • Raju Mohan, Atricode

2012 Ideas Empowered Program Finalists

iPas: Inexpensive and intelligent pavement assessment system 

iPas provides solutions for assessing the conditions of road surfaces. A third of the major roads in the U.S. are in a poor condition, which has been responsible for one-third of traffic fatalities and costs U.S. motorists more than $67 billion per year for repairs and operating costs. Insufficient inspection is a major reasons for the bad condition of roads. iPas provides a cost-effective solution that revolutionizes the way the roads are currently inspected.

Team Members:

  • Sami Masri, USC Viterbi School of Engineering
  • Mohammad Jahanshahi, USC Viterbi School for Engineering
  • Burcin Becerik-Gerber, USC Viterbi School for Engineering
  • Yulu Chen, USC Viterbi School for Engineering

NanoFoundry: Scalable manufacturing of metal nanoparticles via parallelization of low-cost microreactors

NanoFoundry develops low-cost, high-throughput manufacturing technologies for the production of metal nanoparticles, which reduce the manufacturing cost of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. The fuel cell industry is a $1.2B industry growing at 30% per year but wide commercialization has been hindered by high manufacturing cost. This unique, patent-protected technology helps industry drop the manufacturing cost of metal nanoparticles — a key, high-cost PEM fuel cell component — by a factor of ten.

Team Members:

  • Noah Malmstadt, USC Viterbi School of Engineering
  • Malancha Gupta, USC Viterbi School for Engineering
  • Carson Riche, USC Viterbi School for Engineering
  • Richard Brutchey, USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

PLAYground: A collaborative platform for ideation

The PLAYground is an online multimedia digital canvas powered by a patentable social analytics engine designed to aid large enterprises in their innovation and ideation initiatives. The PLAYground connects people to one another by facilitating creative exchanges among employees, customers and clients and stimulating collaboration opportunities typically overlooked or difficult to identify in larger organizations. 

Team Members:

  • Jonathan Taplin, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
  • Erin Reilly, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
  • Aninoy Mahapatra, USC Viterbi School for Engineering
  • Anthony Maddox, USC Rossier School of Education
  • Henry Jenkins, PhD, Advisor
  • John Seely Brown, PhD, Advisor

STEEL FOAM: Affordable manufacturing process for syntactic steel foams

STEEL FOAM has a technique for manufacturing high energy absorbing syntactic steel foams. The primary application is a cushioning material, like "bubble wrap," that is used as armor on military tanks and vehicles to protect lives. The material offers higher protection than current armor materials without significantly increasing weight and maneuverability of vehicles.

Team Members:

  • Steven Nutt, USC Viterbi School of Engineering
  • Gerhard Castro, USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Viderics: Ultrasound based non-invasive, automated, comprehensive hemodynamic monitoring

The Viderics team has under development the first non-invasive, automated, unattended monitoring system that enables continuous real-time visualization of a critically ill patient's cardiovascular system. This system is capable of early detection of cardiac ischemia and assessment of advanced hemodynamic parameters.  With this proprietary, ultrasound-based device, doctors in the ICU/CCU/PICU, operating room, step-down rooms, and ER have a more complete, on-demand picture of the patient's cardiac performance than is currently possible. The clinical goal is to enable more timely and appropriate therapeutic decisions leading to decreased morbidity, reduced cost of care, and decreased length of stay for patients.

Team Members:

  • Jesse Yen, USC Viterbi School of Engineering
  • Yuling Chen, USC Viterbi School of Engineering
  • Philip Lumb, Keck School of Medicine of USC
  • Mark Witman, VA Long Beach Healthcare System
  • Harry Tarnoff, Viderics Inc.

Media Contact: Ian Murphy


SOURCE USC Stevens Center for Innovation