TTDC awards $500K to six teams.

November 2, 2009

from Venture Nashville Connections:

The six grant-winning teams are linked to the University of Tennessee, the UT Health Sciences Center, Tennessee Tech, the University of Memphis, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Middle Tennessee State University and the Y12 Security Complex at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

? Cancer testing – Nashville-based Insight Genetics and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s Dr. Stephan Morris are partnering to develop an extraordinarily sensitive assay to detect mutations in the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene, which mutations can drive particularly aggressive cancers. The development will enable physicians to intervene more quickly, with more precision in selection of treatments. The market for cancer diagnosis in patients is estimated at more than $7.4 billion. In 2007, Insight Genetics established a presence in the Cumberland Emerging Technologies incubator in Nashville. CET is jointly managed by Cumberland Pharmceuticals, Vanderbilt University and TTDC. Josh Nichols, Ph.D. is listed as Insight’s contact.  $100,000.

? E-car motor – Dr. Charles Perry (at right) of Middle Tennessee State University and Dr.Ali Alouani of Tennessee Tech at Cookeville are developing a prototype electric hybrid motor that could be used to retrofit non-electric vehicles, at a target price of $3,000 per kit, and promising a potential doubling of mileage, when installed. No change in the retrofit auto’s drive train is required, they say, adding that the technology might conceivably become the core of an entirely new vehicle. $50,000. Perry is a former IBM engineer and holds the MTSU Robert E. and Georgianna West Russell Chair of Manufacturing Excellence.

? Infusensor – A University of Memphis-based project to enable physicians to monitor levels of anesthetic propofol in patients’ blood and monitor the progress of anesthesia, improving patient post-op recovery and safety, while reducing costs. The grant will support development of electromechanical detection cells and feedback systems. Principals: Erno Lindner (University of Memphis) and Dr. Edward Chaum, UT Health Sciences Center, Memphis. $100,000.

? Fuel-cell advance: Fuel-cell membrane technology costs a lot, but a new inexpensive ion-exchange membrane being developed by Prof. Jimmy Mays at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, is said to cost only 7 percent of current membrane technology, represented primarily by Nafion®, which Mays says generates $200MM per year in sales.  Mays cites among potential commercialization partners Asahi Chemical Company, BASF, DuPont, 3M, and Dow Chemical. “Revolutionary” and “disruptive” are the key words, here, apparently. Refinement of Mays’ production processes and adaptation for a wide array of applications are in prospect.  Mays’ product is a “novel cross-linked polycyclohexadiene (PCHD) membrane,” not the more expensive and less “green” hydrocarbon monomer. $67,224

? Foam – Polystyrene foam is versatile and ubiquitous, but its production is energy-intensive and enviro-unfriendly. Dr. Dayakar Penumadu at University of Tennessee – Knoxville has come up with a more rapid, less costly and less toxic process that could lead to new applications of the material, as well lower capital outlays for manufacturers. The grant will support studies of scale-up and commercialization factors. $85,751.

? Pro-Ox Nano – One of the strongest materials in existence, high-purity carbon nanotubes are in high demand for reinforce grinding wheels, cutting tools and metal composites and producing electrically conducting polymers and flexible heating elements. The tubes also reinforce automobile body panels and bullet-resistant body armor. The TTDC funds will support Oak Ridge, Y-12 National Security Complex, and Tech 2020 in a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with an industrial partner in Tennessee to establish a privately-owned lab in Oak Ridge and perform product-related nanomaterials R&D. Dr. Roland Seals of the Y12 National Security Complex is listed as the lead fellow in this work. $100,000.

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