Networking hub to promote collaboration and accelerate commercialization of technologies 

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The Southeast XLerator Network is a Regional Technology Transfer Accelerator Hub that will promote collaboration and participation among faculty, students, and researchers by developing a number of online resources that educate researchers on how to effectively write SBIR/STTR grant submissions and commercialize their technologies. 

Using an invaluable network of educational resources, mentors, and expertise, the hub aims to increase SBIR funding and increase the commercialization of healthcare and biomedical technologies in the typically underserved Southeast IDeA state region.

XLerateHealth, a company that has worked with more than two-hundred early-stage healthcare startups, is the SBC recipient of the award for the XLerator Hub, one of four IDeA State Regions to receive a National Institute of Health STTR grant, with the University of Kentucky as the STTR academic partner institution.

The Southeast IDeA States region includes six states (KY, WV, SC, AR, MS, LA) plus Puerto Rico, each of which has a designated state lead institution comprised of representative leads, and 24 partnering academic institutions. State leads, which are part of the Internal Advisory Committee (IAC), coordinate communications and operations in conjunction with the other 16 academic partner institutions. These participating institutions, including Clemson University and the Medical University of South Carolina, each have an appointed site lead who facilitate engagement by building a number of online resources that give faculty, students, and researchers the opportunity to learn about ways to successfully commercialize their technologies. 

The Southeast XLerator Network leverages and connects existing assets to bridge the gap between innovative ideas and commercialization, in an effort to promote a long-lasting, entrepreneurial culture among researchers at research institutions.

To learn more about the XLerator Network, click here

Funding program to advance Clemson technology development

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The Clemson University Research Foundation (CURF) has announced seven researchers will be awarded fiscal year 2020 Technology Maturation Fund grants. 

The CURF Technology Maturation Fund supports researchers as they embark on the crucial last stage needed to move their technology from innovation to commercialization. 

 “The Technology Maturation Fund initiative assists in shaping a pathway for innovation and providing Clemson faculty with the unique opportunity to further their technological development,” said Chris Gesswein, CURF’s executive director. “The program has repeatedly demonstrated that targeted, strategic investments can have a significant impact on the probability of commercial licensing, industry collaboration, or follow-on research dollars. Congratulations to the recipients for their dedication to academic research and for the innovative contributions they have made to the Clemson University research enterprise.”

Since the Technology Maturation Fund program launched in 2014, CURF has awarded over $870,000 in maturation funds to Clemson researchers.

This year’s awards range from approximately $6,000 to $39,000 and were granted to:

  • Jeremy Mercuri, associate professor in the department of bioengineering, to further develop a new biomimetic osteochondral construct to be used in the repair of critically sized focal osteochondral defects through testing. This method doesn’t suffer from the traditional drawbacks many other treatments do that can lead to lower quality repair tissue, complications at the donor site, higher costs, and the inability to integrate repair tissue with the surrounding healthy tissue. 
  • Mark Roberts, associate professor in the department of chemical engineering, to continue development of a new type of electrode material for energy storage, carbon nanotubes with confined redox-active iron nanoparticles, that allows faster charge transfer rates and more than a 5x increase in power density relative to redox flow batteries. This new material provides a more efficient, inexpensive process with less voltage loss and the ability to use more abundant metals. 
  • Christopher Saski, associate professor in the department of plant & environmental sciences, to advance a new biotechnology involving extra-chromosomal circular DNA in the Amaranthus palmeri plant species, which contains and expresses genes and biochemical pathways that can facilitate gene copy number increases and mitotic stability. This technology enables targeted gene amplification and the engineering of the expression of complex crop genes to exhibit agronomically beneficial traits, while simultaneously reducing engineering constraints such as silencing, low-copy number, and non-target effects. 
  • Erica Walker, assistant professor in the department of graphic communications, in collaboration with Hudson Smith, research associate in analytical systems and applications, will continue development of ColorNet, a color-management system based on Neural Networks, which takes in color-incorrect images and automatically outputs color-correct images when displaying brand colors on jumbotrons. This correction alters only brand specific sections of the image, as improperly displayed brand colors can negatively impact the brand and fan experience. 
  • Daniel Whitehead, associate professor in the department of chemistry, to continue development of a new method for the synthesis of diazacyclobutene molecules. This technology produces an effective concentration of a drug capable of killing 50% of blood-stream form parasites in observed cultures. This molecular scaffolding has the potential to manage Human African Trypanosomiasis, a neglected tropical disease with only a handful of effective drug therapies, most of which cause significant, even lethal, adverse side effects. 
  • Dan Simionescu, professor in the department of bioengineering, to further develop a technology that efficiently seeds cells into scaffolds or tissues at multiple locations with high efficacy. Current methods of seeding cells are limited to static or injection seeding, which do not ensure uniform cell distribution or penetration of cells into scaffolds. This technology can seed millions of cells in a controlled pattern via a roller, which can improve regenerative medical and cellular therapy techniques. *This project was funded in conjunction with the department of bioengineering.
  • Victor Zordan, professor in the School of Computing, to continue the exploration of computer-controlled embroidery design and stitching, which covers the making of purposeful, precision changes to material properties of a base textile. This technique can increase the local tensile strength of a 4-way-stretch fabric, up to 10 times the original amount, to create tailored distributions of mechanical properties in the resulting embroidered materials. 

CURF will be accepting applications for the fiscal year 2021 Technology Maturation Fund this spring, the RFP release and proposal deadlines to be announced. For more information, visit curf.clemson.edu or contact the CURF office at curf@clemson.edu.

Clemson Researcher Developing Genetically-Enhanced Perennial Grasses as Potential Fuel Source

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture has awarded Hong Luo, a Clemson University College of Science Professor with the Department of Genetics and Biochemistry, a $500,000 grant to develop genetically enhanced and more resilient turfgrass and switchgrass.

These perennial plants, which constitute a multibillion-dollar sector of the U.S. agricultural economy, are found nationwide on athletic fields, cemeteries, golf courses, and parks. While turf and switchgrass can grow in harsh soil conditions using fewer resources than corn, these plants require large amounts of water, making them sensitive to extreme heat and drought. With Luo’s genetic enhancements, perennial grasses could become a favorable biofuel source producing high ethanol yields.

One obstacle faced with genetic-engineering is preventing the spillover of lab-engineered genes into the non-modified grasses or weeds growing in nearby fields, which could have unforeseeable effects on the environment. Luo’s approach to trans-gene containment is to merge two site-specific DNA recombination systems using completely sterile induction mechanisms.

The first line will consist of three active genes for Cre recombinase, hygromycin resistance (hyg) and endonuclease Cas9, and an inactive RNAi expression cassette for a flowering control gene, FLO/LFY homolog. The second line will contain an active herbicide resistance gene bar, recombinase gene phiC31 and FLO/LFY homolog gene guide RNA (sgRNA), and an inactive stress-regulating rice SUMO E3 ligase gene, OsSIZ1. When the two lines are cross-pollinated in the lab, specific genes will be activated and others removed, forming a more stress-resistant line.

The genetically enhanced plants will be completely sterile and produce no pollen or seeds, making it impossible for the modified genes to spread. By the end of the four-year project, Luo expects the new transgenic line to be ready for testing, with stringent USDA field tests and commercialization following.

Before joining the Clemson faculty, Luo led the development of the first genetically altered, environmentally safe, male-sterile and herbicide-resistant turfgrass while serving as the director of research at HybriGene, Inc. He also assisted in creating a new approach for hybrid crop production using site-specific DNA recombination systems.

To learn more about Hong Luo and his research in transgenic plants genomics, click here.