Auburn University researchers recognized for innovative ideas

Auburn University researchers recognized for innovative ideas
Feng Li of the Department of Drug Discovery and Development received Auburn University LAUNCH funding for a new formulation for existing cancer drugs. Pictured, from left, are Li, Larry Fillmer, Auburn executive director of external engagement and support, and Jennifer Kerpelman, Auburn interim vice president for research. (Auburn University)

Three Auburn University research teams have been recognized for innovative ideas that could have an impact not only on the economy of the state and region, but its health as well. The Office of the Vice President for Research presented faculty experts with funds from the LAUNCH Innovation Grant Program in an effort to help move their ideas from the lab to the marketplace.

“The LAUNCH program helps bring some of Auburn’s most promising research innovations to the marketplace, for the public good,” said James Weyhenmeyer, Auburn vice president for research.

“We encourage our faculty, staff and students to be entrepreneurial. Delivering research-based solutions to our stakeholders is part of Auburn’s land-grant tradition — delivering those solutions through commercialization creates jobs, grows the state’s economy and improves quality of life,” said Cary Chandler, director of business development and startups for Auburn’s Office of Innovation Advancement and Commercialization.

Yuan Tian and Elizabeth Lipke of the Department of Chemical Engineering received Auburn University LAUNCH funding for a device that can encapsulate human cells to better mimic their natural environment, allowing more efficient early screening of drug candidates. Pictured, from left, are Tian, Lipke, Larry Fillmer, Auburn executive director of external engagement and support, and Jennifer Kerpelman, Auburn interim vice president for research. (Auburn University)

This year’s recipients are:

  • Feng Li, assistant professor, Department of Drug Discovery and Development, Harrison School of Pharmacy, for “SMILE Plus: A Nanoparticle Drug Formulation for Cancer Therapy,” a novel formulation to enable a new use of an approved drug against late-stage, drug-resistant cancers for which there is currently no treatment.
  • Elizabeth Lipke, the Mary and John H. Sanders Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, as well as Yuan Tian, a doctoral candidate also in Chemical Engineering, for “Flexible microfluidic platform for rapid production of uniform cell-laden hydrogel microtissues,” a device that can encapsulate human cells to better mimic their natural environment, allowing for more efficient early screening of drug candidates.
  • Professors Sue Hudson Duran and Julie Gard Schnuelle and associate professor Tom Passler from the Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine; Soren Rodning, extension veterinarian and associate professor, Department of Animal Sciences, College of Agriculture; as well as Misty Edmondson, associate state veterinarian, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries; and Jennifer Koziol, a clinical assistant professor from Purdue University, were recognized for “Treatment of Bovine T. foetus with an Extended Release Topical Formulation,” a novel formulation of an approved drug to create the first treatment for an infectious reproductive disease in cattle that reduces birth rates.

Each team will receive a cash award from a pool of $150,000 toward commercialization of its work.

Sue Hudson Duran and Julie Gard Schnuelle are on the team that received Auburn University LAUNCH funding for a drug formulation to treat a disease that reduces the birth rate in cattle. Pictured, from left, are Duran, Schnuelle, Larry Fillmer, Auburn executive director of external engagement and support, and Jennifer Kerpelman, Auburn interim vice president for research. (Auburn University)

“We are very excited to receive this award,” Lipke said. “Our system for producing tissue microspheres has the potential to advance a wide range of fields, including drug discovery, therapeutic cell production, bioprinting and veterinary and human regenerative medicine. This funding will enable us to take important steps in bringing this technology from the lab to industries that can use it.”

LAUNCH is an endowed fund conceived by the Auburn University Research and Economic Development Advisory Board as a mechanism to bridge the gap between innovative research and the marketplace. Milestone-based awards are given to winning teams who complete a competitive process involving a two-stage evaluation of proposals by internal and external parties, followed by a live presentation before judges and the public. The fund was started in 2015 with the goal of creating an endowment of $10 million that will generate approximately $400,000 annually for research grants. Until the endowment is fully funded, the Office of the Vice President for Research provides the awards.

LAUNCH recipients have the opportunity to meet with experts in entrepreneurship from Auburn’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business as well as members of the Office of Innovation Advancement and Commercialization to assist in developing plans and assembling resources to move scientific achievement into commercial success.

Researchers may also be partnered with Auburn MBA students as well as alumni and friends with related experience whose expertise will assist in advancing the projects.

More information about LAUNCH is available online at https://cws.auburn.edu/ovpr/pm/tt/launch.

This story originally appeared on Auburn University’s website.

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