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Author Archives: Jessica McBride

New Research Initiatives Supported by the Office of the Vice President for Research

Dear Colleagues,

In the current climate of declining federal funding and impending reductions in state support, the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) is taking measures to provide faculty with critical additional assistance to guarantee that UConn proposals have the best chances of success. I wanted to share a few new initiatives with you as you prepare to submit new grant proposals.

Reduction of Overhead Costs

In order to provide faculty with more buying power on proposals, reduced overhead costs will be charged to grants of up to $50,000 where total costs are inclusive (i.e., direct and indirect costs capped at $50,000). This policy will be in place at UConn and UConn Health. The effective overhead rate for such grants will be capped at 20% instead of the standard 59%. This reduced rate will apply to future grant proposals, and is not applicable retroactively. Existing grants will continue to be charged the standard 59% rate. In the case where agencies, such as NSF, view a reduced F&A rate as cost share, faculty should apply the full rate and the OVPR will return the F&A back to the PI. Additional guidelines will be forthcoming on how to incorporate this lower rate on new proposals.

Faculty Grant Mentorship Incentive Program

Faculty members with a history of grant success have valuable expertise that can benefit faculty colleagues. Through this program, experienced PIs will be eligible to serve as mentors for three untenured faculty in return for a stipend of $10,000. Faculty mentors will provide untenured faculty with strategic insight and guidance to more successfully navigate the grant submission process. Activities will include introductions to program managers, review of proposals, guidance and support, help to establish individualized goals and professional development plans for each mentee, and insight on how to learn about grant solicitations that may not be announced through standard methods. In the coming weeks, we will announce an open call for senior faculty to nominate their colleagues or themselves to serve as mentors. The selection process will include an evaluation of nominees’ previous experience as a mentor for untenured faculty, as well as a review of their success winning extramural funding. Additional guidelines, mentor/mentee applications, and program requirements will be forthcoming and available on the OVPR website.

SBIR/STTR Funding

Funding through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs encourage domestic small businesses to engage in federal research and development that has the potential for commercialization. Each year, Federal agencies with extramural research and development budgets that exceed $100 million are required to allocate 3.2 percent (FY 2017) of their R&D budget to these programs, and agencies with research budgets over $1 billion are required to set aside a portion of these funds for STTR. SBIR/STTR grants range from $300,000 to $1 million each and can be a valuable source of non-dilutive funding for startups and eligible small companies. Under SBIR, the PI must be primarily employed with the small business at the time of award and for the duration of the project period, but subcontracts often occur with collaborating research institutions. Under the STTR program, primary employment is not stipulated, so the PI may be primarily employed by a collaborating institution.

These programs can be an effective tool for entrepreneurial faculty and the university’s efforts to boost our industry sponsored research portfolio. The OVPR is initiating several support programs to increase the number of successful SBIR/STTR awards submitted with UConn/UConn Health PIs or co-PIs.

First, we will host a series of workshops to expose faculty to the programs and how to successfully apply. The first workshop is sponsored by CTNext and will be held on November 29 & 30 at 400 Farmington Ave on the UConn Health campus. For more information and to register, visit the CTNext site.

The OVPR is also piloting an effort to connect faculty to SBIR/STTR program managers, as well as existing companies seeking R&D partnerships to support SBIR/STTR proposals. In order to do this we are developing a team able to offer assistance directly to faculty, their startups, and outside industry partners that are eligible for SBIR/STTR support. If you are interested in learning more about these support services, please contact ovpr@uconn.edu.

Collaboration with the UConn Foundation

Finally, in partnership with the UConn Foundation, we will continue to seek creative solutions and establish innovative programs and initiatives to increase philanthropic dollars for student and faculty research.

For existing and new initiatives to support research, we will establish metrics and methods to track success to ensure that our investments result in returns for our faculty and the university.

We will be in touch again soon to share additional information and more specific details about these new programs and initiatives as soon as they become available. In the meantime, this message serves to reassure faculty and students that we are dedicated to helping UConn’s world-class researchers succeed despite the fiscal challenges we are currently facing. We are committed to supporting UConn’s vibrant research community, and we thank you for your invaluable contribution to the university, the state of Connecticut, and the global scientific community.

 

Sincerely,

Dr. Radenka Maric
Vice President for Research
UConn/UConn Health

Latest UConn Research Innovation Newsletter

Check out the latest in UConn Research Innovation News in the August edition of our UConn Research Newsletter.

UConn Research Innovation Newsletter – June 2017

Check out the latest UConn Research Innovation newsletter to learn about exciting technologies and startups with a UConn connection.

Dr. Jeffrey Fisher Retirement Announcement

Dear Colleagues

I am writing to let you know that Dr. Jeffrey Fisher has recently informed me that he plans to retire from his position as Director of UConn’s Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP) next summer (August 22, 2018). This comes after almost 43 years of dedicated service as an esteemed faculty member at the University of Connecticut and as a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Psychological Sciences.

As a researcher, Dr. Fisher has published extensively in many areas in the field of health behavior change, including theory development and intervention design, implementation, evaluation and dissemination. He is one of the pioneers who helped define the field of HIV prevention intervention science and practice. He is the lead-author of the Information-Motivation-Behavioral Skills (IMB) model, which has been widely adopted around the world for conceptual and intervention work on health behavior change.  The interventions Dr. Fisher and his team developed have proven to be efficacious in multiple populations around the world, and in multiple health domains, with an emphasis on HIV prevention.  His work has also focused on increasing adherence to medications, an area in which he has published conceptual and intervention research. Dr. Fisher has been PI of over $25 million in NIH grants at UConn over a period of 25 years.

Along with his illustrious research career, Dr. Fisher is the founding Director of UConn’s Institute for Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP). InCHIP research has had a global impact in a variety of health domains, including HIV/AIDS, obesity, cancer, autism, and others. Thanks in large part to Dr. Fisher’s leadership, InCHIP has grown significantly over the last 16 years, from $1.4M in annual research spending in 2003 to $12M today. As the nexus of a vast network of researchers, InCHIP’s reach spans several UConn campuses and UConn Health and draws from more than 50 other research institutions both nationally and internationally. In FY17 alone, InCHIP had $55.5 million in active grants and total membership of 419 faculty/researcher affiliates. Since its inception, InCHIP researchers have brought over $140 million in new grants to UConn.

The university will conduct a national search for a new director of InCHIP. Additional information regarding the search will be forthcoming.

Please join me in thanking Dr. Fisher for his extraordinary service to the University of Connecticut, his outstanding contributions to the field of health behavior change and intervention research, and his dedicated mentorship of many graduate students and faculty, as well as his engagement with community leaders and policy makers to advance health promotion and intervention initiatives globally. We wish him well in his retirement.

Sincerely,

Jeff Seemann
Vice President for Research
UConn/UConn Health

OVPR Quarterly Reports

May 11, 2017

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to provide you with several reports relating to sponsored program activity—both research and education/service—managed by Sponsored Program Services within the Office of the Vice President for Research at UConn and UConn Health. These reports include:

In the reports, data is presented in two ways: by the PI’s Academic Home Department and by the Managing Department or Center/Institute. Please refer to the first pages of the reports for definitions and information regarding the data.

Should you have any questions regarding these quarterly reports, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,


Dr. Jeff Seemann
Vice President for Research
UConn/UConn Health

Mystic Aquarium Gets Federal Grant To Help Train UConn Marine Biologists

Published in the Hartford Courant / May 3, 2017

Gregory B. Hladky

The Mystic Aquarium is receiving a $241,030 federal grant to help train University of Connecticut students in critical marine biology issues that include climate change, ocean acidification and other aquatic ecosystem issues.

The grant is coming from the National Science Foundation and will be used in a partnership program between the Mystic Aquarium and the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus in Groton.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2, said the grant will enable the educational partnership to give eight UConn students “a hands-on, immersive experience in preserving our oceans.”

“The fight against climate change and other environmental damage to our oceans is a critical effort,” Courtney said in praising the program for helping to train “the next generation of marine biologists and conservationists.”

UConn Innovation Fund Provides First Round Funding to Three Biotech Startups

Storrs, Conn. – April 20, 2017The University of Connecticut, in partnership with Connecticut Innovations (CI) and Webster Bank, today announced first round funding to three startups through the UConn Innovation Fund. The $1.5 million UConn Innovation Fund was established to provide early-stage financial support to new business startups affiliated with UConn.

The UConn Innovation Fund provides investments of up to $100,000 to companies founded by students, faculty members, and alumni of the university with an in-state business startup tied to research, advanced technologies, or innovations developed at UConn.

The companies receiving first-round funding are:

  • Torigen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a startup housed in UConn’s Technology Incubation Program (TIP) that is focused on providing veterinary cancer care solutions for companion animals using the animals’ existing tumor cells to fight the disease.
  • Bioarray Genetics, Inc. is a molecular diagnostics company focused on changing the way that cancer patients are evaluated and treated with tests that predict patient response to cancer treatments. Bioarray is housed at UConn’s Technology Incubation Program facility at UConn Health in Farmington.
  • Shoreline Biome, LLC. is another UConn TIP company that is focused on understanding how the human microbiome functions across the entire landscape of human health and disease.

“In the first round of funding, we identified three exceptional companies that all have ties to the university,” said Jeff Seemann, vice president for research at UConn. “UConn continues to be a center of innovation, and we look forward to supporting and catalyzing more promising startups in the future to continue to create new companies, new jobs, and economic growth in the state.”

The UConn Innovation Fund serves as a critical early-stage revenue stream for in-state business startups that will allow them to stay in Connecticut and grow. The fund’s investors review a company’s strength and existing resources, innovative technology, potential for commercialization, and likelihood of obtaining additional external funding among other factors. All investment decisions are made by a unanimous vote from UConn, CI, and Webster Bank.

“We look forward to supporting these startups with the resources to help them bring their products closer to commercialization,” said Matt McCooe, CEO of Connecticut Innovations. “We know how difficult it can be to grow a company at the earliest stages of development and this funding can help companies overcome some of those first hurdles.”

The fund is managed by the UConn Evaluation Board, fund managers, and an investment committee comprised of representatives from UConn, CI, and Webster Bank. The fund permits Connecticut Innovations—the leading source of financing and ongoing support for Connecticut’s innovative, growing companies—to continue its support of new business startups established through UConn. Webster Bank provides the key financial and banking expertise needed to help new companies grow.

“We are pleased to support Connecticut-based entrepreneurs in their efforts to bring exciting biotech innovations to market,” said Peter Hicks, senior vice president of the emerging growth banking group at Webster Bank.

The next deadline for applications is July 14, 2017.  Businesses interested in learning more about the fund should go to: innovationfund.uconn.edu.

About the University of Connecticut
The University of Connecticut is one of the top 25 public research universities in the nation and is a research leader in the fields of advanced materials, additive manufacturing, biomedical devices, cybersecurity, energy, life sciences, sensors, and nanotechnology.  As Connecticut’s flagship institution of higher education, UConn serves as an important resource for Connecticut economic development and is dedicated to building collaborations with industry and entrepreneurs. To learn more, visit ip.uconn.edu.

About Connecticut Innovations
Connecticut Innovations (CI) is the leading source of financing and ongoing support for Connecticut’s innovative, growing companies. CI provides venture capital and strategic support for early-stage technology companies; grants that support innovation and collaboration; and connections to its well-established network of partners and professionals. For more information, please visit www.ctinnovations.com.

About Webster Bank
Webster Financial Corporation is the holding company for Webster Bank, National Association. With $26.1 billion in assets, Webster provides business and consumer banking, mortgage, financial planning, trust, and investment services through 168 banking centers and 349 ATMs. Webster also provides mobile and Internet banking. Webster Bank owns the asset-based lending firm Webster Business Credit Corporation; the equipment finance firm Webster Capital Finance Corporation; and HSA Bank, a division of Webster Bank, which provides health savings account trustee and administrative services. Webster Bank is a member of the FDIC and an equal housing lender. For more information about Webster, including past press releases and the latest annual report, visit the Webster website at www.websterbank.com.

UConn Incubator Companies Raise $39.9 Million in 2016

Farmington, Conn. – April 17, 2017 – The University of Connecticut, today announced record growth in 2016 for the University’s Technology Incubation Program (TIP). TIP was established in 2004 to accelerate the growth of technology-based startups with a strong connection to the University of Connecticut.

TIP companies raised record investments in 2016. Last year TIP startups attracted a record $39.9 million in debt and equity to accelerate the growth of their operations. This is $15.5 million more than the previous record set in 2014.

TIP facility in Farmington, CT at UConn Health

TIP facility in Farmington, CT at UConn Health (UConn Photo/J. Gelineau)

Under the umbrella of UConn’s Office of the Vice President for Research, TIP supports UConn startups as well as innovative external technology ventures. Outside startups conduct R&D activities in Connecticut and benefit from UConn’s research infrastructure, specialized equipment, customized business support services and talent pool.

“The unprecedented state support from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for the Bioscience CT initiative is bearing fruit in the University of Connecticut Technology Incubation Program,” said Jeff Seemann, Ph.D., UConn/UConn Health vice president for research. “Instead of going to Boston or New York, these companies choose to stay in Connecticut to grow their companies, create jobs, and benefit society with their cutting-edge advances.”

Several TIP companies raised significant investments from debt and equity in 2016, contributing to the program’s record setting total.

Agrivida, an agritech company focused on animal nutrition, had the most substantial raise with $21 million in Series E funding. The funds will be used to advance the commercialization of Agrivida’s patented GRAINZYME® feed additive enzymes for use with poultry and swine, and to support product development for dairy and beef cattle.

“Being a part of UConn’s incubator has helped us meet significant milestones for our company,” said Dan Meagher, CEO of Agrivida. “We are looking forward to delivering on our promise to improve the production efficiency of meat, milk, and eggs to help address the growing global demand for food.”

Frequency Therapeutics successfully raised $9.1 million in 2016, and recently announced a $32 million Series A financing, to continue developing a drug-based therapy to restore hearing in individuals with hearing loss caused by continuous exposure to loud noises. Frequency is applying its proprietary platform, called Progenitor Cell Activation (PCA™), to regenerate inner ear sensory hair cells, which detect sound and transmit signals to the brain. Per the World Health Organization (WHO), 360 million people worldwide have moderate or worse hearing loss, with an additional 1.1 billion people at risk for hearing loss from recreational noise alone.

“Frequency’s scientific team, based at TIP at UConn Health, played an important role in supporting the development of the company’s PCA platform to restore healthy tissue in the body,” said Bob Langer, Ph.D., the David H. Koch Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-founder of Frequency Therapeutics. “We greatly appreciate the ongoing support from TIP as Frequency advances its program for chronic noise-induced hearing loss and looks to expand into additional therapeutic indications.”

Diameter Health, a healthcare software company that helps providers analyze data from their electronic health records more effectively, raised $2.3 million; and CaroGen Corporation, an emerging vaccine immunotherapy company, raised $2 million.

UConn researchers working in the lab

Kepeng Wang, assistant professor of immunology, right, with Kasandra Rodriguez, a research associate at CaroGen Corporation’s technology incubation lab in Farmington onDec. 12, 2016. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

According to Bijan Almassian, CEO of CaroGen Corporation, the TIP location provides a beneficial vantage point to meet and acquire the talent and expertise needed to conduct R&D operations to grow his company. “The powerful combination of faculty expertise, student and graduate hires, and seasoned industry scientists from across the state give us access to the full array of capabilities that are enabling our progress,” Almassian said.

UConn’s Technology Incubation Program continues to outperform other technology incubators, both in Connecticut and nationally. According to the latest National Business Incubation Association survey data, in 2016 UConn’s incubator was 12,000 square feet larger and housed 62% more startups than that national average. TIP companies raised $39.5 million dollars more in capital investments than the Connecticut average, as reported in the latest Connecticut Business Incubator Network survey.

“TIP is an established program in Connecticut that is known to improve the likelihood of startup success,” said Mostafa Analoui, Ph.D., executive director of venture development and TIP at UConn. “We are pleased with the growth we experienced in 2016, and hope to keep up this momentum.”

Analoui was hired in last year to lead UConn’s efforts to identify disruptive technologies that are ripe for venture development, recruit entrepreneurs and talent to lead these startups, and raise early-stage and follow-on funding to grow these companies.

In January 2016, a $19 million expansion at the TIP facility in Farmington at UConn Health was completed. Paid for through the state of Connecticut’s landmark Bioscience CT initiative, the addition increased total square footage by 20,000 square feet. The program now boasts over 32,000 square feet of high-tech wet labs and office space at its two major locations in Storrs and Farmington.

The extra space has allowed TIP to accept more technology startups into the program. In 2016, TIP was home to 33 companies – the most in the program’s history.

TIP companies contributed to economic development in the state through increased job creation. At the end of 2016, TIP companies employed 71 full-time and 30 part-time employees. This compares with the state average of 27 full- and part-time employees at other incubators in Connecticut.

More than 85 startup companies have been supported through TIP since it was established in 2004. These companies have raised more than $50 million in grant funding, $80 million in debt and equity, and more than $45 million in revenue during that time.

For more information about the UConn Technology Incubation Program, call 860-679-3992 or visit ip.uconn.edu.

 

MEDIA CONTACT:

Jessica McBride
Office of the Vice President for Research
860-486-5813
jessica.mcbride@uconn.edu

Elimination of Graduate Research Assistant Tuition on Grants

April 4, 2017

 

Dear Colleagues:

In our continuing effort to reduce the costs of research at UConn and UConn Health, we are eliminating the requirement to charge any portion of graduate research assistant tuition to research grants, effective Spring 2017.

From 2009 to 2016, University policy required that 60% of full-time in-state tuition per graduate assistant be charged to external grants funding faculty members’ research projects. In Fiscal Year 2016, we reduced the impact of this policy on grant funds by returning an amount equal to half of the tuition collected from grants to faculty investigators’ indirect cost return accounts.

Beginning with charges for the Spring 2017 semester, faculty will no longer be required to charge any portion of graduate research assistant tuition to their grants. Faculty will also no longer be required to include [tuition] charges for graduate research assistants on future grant applications, thus increasing their competitiveness with funding agencies. Savings from graduate research assistant tuition charges can now be applied toward other direct cost needs for faculty research projects. This applies to all sponsored projects, including those being conducted at UConn Health.

Researchers with existing grants or grant applications that include graduate research assistant tuition for Spring 2017 and beyond should rebudget those dollars into other direct cost items, at their discretion within sponsor specific rules. For questions or to request assistance with the rebudgeting process, please reach out to your department grant administrator or your regular contact person in Sponsored Program Services within the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Although this is another positive step towards increasing the buying power of grants for our faculty, we recognize that it does not directly address a major concern contributing to the high cost of doing research at UConn and UConn Health: very high fringe rates relative to our peers and aspirants. While these rates are controlled by the state, we will continue to seek solutions for this important issue.

Despite significant financial constraints, we will continue to pursue creative solutions to decrease the cost of doing research at UConn and UConn Health. Some of the recent initiatives to accomplish this include: providing financial support to PIs impacted by large increases in fringe rates in 2016, establishing direct IDC returns to PIs for the first time at UConn Health, non-research IDC returns for the first time in Storrs, and supporting the NIH-driven increase in minimum salaries for postdoctoral fellows.

Thank you for your continued contributions to UConn/UConn Health’s success as a leading research institution. We look forward to supporting you in your future research activities.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jeff Seemann
Vice President for Research UConn/UConn Health
Dr. Jeremy Teitelbaum
Interim Provost & Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Scott Jordan
Executive Vice President for Administration &
Chief Financial Officer

Crossing the River to Find Healthcare Solutions

Jessica McBride, Office of the Vice President for Research

Kourosh Parham, MD, Ph.D. has come up with a blood test that can detect hearing loss far sooner than existing tests.  Early detection can potentially prevent further hearing loss, Parham told a group of medical practitioners, faculty and students from engineering, business, medicine and other UConn graduate programs at Healthcare Solutions Night, held recently at UConn Health.

Many people suffer from hearing loss, but hearing tests are limited and fail to capture the full range of hearing, he said. Researchers are working on medications to prevent further hearing damage – once it has been detected. But, at this point, he can’t give patients their test results until he has 90 blood samples to test at once. He was seeking someone to help him find a way to test blood samples individually.

As soon as he finished his presentation, people in the audience suggested ideas and offered to collaborate.

A biodegradable force sensor developed by Dr. Thanh Duc Nguyen from the Department of Mechanical Engineering

A biodegradable force sensor developed by Dr. Thanh Duc Nguyen from the Department of Mechanical Engineering

Parham was one of five clinicians and researchers at the recent cross-pollination event aimed at developing solutions to pressing health-care problems. He and the other presenters had devised a potential solution to a problem and came hoping others with different skills could help bring the ideas to market. In addition, Thanh Duc Nguyen, Ph.D., a member of the department of mechanical engineering who invented an implantable, dissolvable sensor, was looking to partner with clinicians who could apply his biodegradable sensor to their practice. He knew he had a great idea, but needed to demonstrate its ability to positively impact medical conditions.

Teams that formed during the team-building portion of the event will compete for two $1,500 Healthcare Solutions Seed Grants offered through the Accelerate UConn program. Accelerate UConn is a joint operation of the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Accelerate UConn’s goal is to build and support cross-disciplinary teams that improve the likelihood of commercial success of UConn technologies. The funds are intended to help the winning teams begin working together and prepare for future competitions where they can win additional funding and business development support.

“Sometimes you get unexpected solutions when you mix the crowd together,” said Mostafa Analoui, Ph.D. executive director of Venture Development, Office of the Vice President for Research and the evening’s host.  Anne Diamond, CEO of UConn John Dempsey Hospital and Dr. Bruce Liang, dean of the School of Medicine, welcomed and encouraged the attendees, a mixture of medical students, graduate students, faculty and clinicians.  “This is a great way to spur an accelerated effort to commercialize academic research,” Liang said.

The other presenters were Dr. Santhanam Lakshminarayanan, Division of Rheumatology; Dr. Joel Levine, Colon Cancer Prevention Program; Dr. Courtney Townsel, Department of Maternal-Fetal Medicine; and Heather Spear, M.S.N., A.P.R.N., Department of Psychiatry.

Dr. Courtney Townsel is a Maternal Fetal MedicineFellow at UConn. She is developing a non-invasive treatment for cervical cerclage. (Janine Gelineau/UConn Photo).

Dr. Courtney Townsel is a Maternal Fetal MedicineFellow at UConn. She is developing a non-invasive treatment for cervical cerclage. (Janine Gelineau/UConn Photo).

After Parham and other presenters explained their concepts, attendees from the various disciplines were invited to approach whichever presenter they felt they could help, given their various disciplinary expertise or interest. Evan R. Jellison, Ph.D., assistant professor, immunology, who runs the Flow Cytometry lab at UConn Health, met with Parham to discuss ideas for an alternate, more efficient and individualized blood test method.

“We are planning to apply for the Healthcare Solutions Seed Grant to fund our collaboration,” Parham said following the meeting.

Another presenter, psychiatric nurse Heather Spear, held her son’s teddy bear while explaining her idea for a device that could be imbedded into a stuffed animal to help sooth delirious patients. She outlined the problem faced in hospitals nationwide, pointing out that as Baby Boomers age, the challenge will snowball.

More than 40 percent of the patients admitted to UConn John Dempsey Hospital are over 65, and nationally, about 35 percent of admitted patients are at least age 65.  About 10 to 31 percent of patients 65 and older come to hospitals in a state of delirium, said Spear, a leader in the NICHE (Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders) program at UConn Health. Once they arrive, another 11 to 42 percent develop delirium.

As a result, these patients’ hospital stays are prolonged, increasing their risk of infection, decline, continued confusion and death. These factors lead to increased costs and decreased quality of life.

Spear hopes to create a hospital-acceptable bear that has a four-quadrant, digital panel imbedded in its belly. When patients touch the bear, whether intentionally or accidently, they would see and hear either a video of a loved one, the date and time, video clips of TV shows from their younger years or music from their youth. The bear has to withstand being thrown, since delirious patients can become agitated, anxious or disoriented.

During the team-building portion of the event, electrical engineer Insoo Kim, Ph.D., assistant professor, department of medicine at the UConn Health, offered Spear new ideas to advance her product’s development. “The solution to your idea is a software design rather than a device,” he said with confidence. “We can program the tablet. A student can write an app.”

“To me, it was rocket science,” she said later. “I was thinking, ‘This is exactly why I came to this event.’ ”

She’s had this idea for a few years, but jumped on the chance to present it to colleagues with different skills, she said.

“I was somewhat nervous, but I knew that I only had to present what I know,” Spear said. “It was a very welcoming audience. They’re there because they want to be there. They’re hoping to hear something they can jump in on and invent and make.”

It was comforting to see a few other nurses in the audience, she said. She wasn’t sure her idea would gain any traction and was thrilled at the response. Other nurses who work with dementia patients felt it would help their patients who experience memory loss.

Kim invited Spear to attend the Senior Design Pitch Day on March 27, where third-year biomedical engineering students hear about different ideas that they could work on for their senior design projects. Energized, she’s working on her application for the Healthcare Solutions Seed Grant offered through the Accelerate UConn program.

Accelerate UConn is the University’s National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Site. Its mission is to bring scientific discoveries and capabilities from the lab to the marketplace.  Participating teams receive $3,000 in seed funding for their new ventures and an introduction to the most critical elements of the I-Corps Curriculum and Lean Launchpad methodology. Over seven weeks, teams learn how to assess the market opportunity for their product or technology.

Each workshop provides hands-on training in the basics of business planning and is delivered by entrepreneurs and faculty members. These coaches provide personalized guidance and feedback to help teams construct an evidence-based business model and market-entry strategy.  Participating teams also receive $3,000 in seed funding for their ventures. Accelerate UConn is open to all university faculty and students.  For more information, visit www.accelerate.uconn.edu.