Biotech awards plant seeds for New York startups

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Melissa Osgood

Tissue-engineered spinal disc implants for treating degenerative disc disease and a next generation joint lubricant for treating arthritis are just two out of six new technologies that received 2013 Center for Advanced Technology (CAT) awards from Cornell’s Institute of Biotechnology. The awards are for feasibility and proof-of-concept research to enhance the commercial value of such innovations.

The awards, which started July 1, aim for each project to leverage matching funds from a New York-based company. The grants collectively total $485,600 in direct funds, with an additional $250,000 in matching funds this year.

“This program has a history of funding exciting and highly creative projects, but this year was notable for the remarkable breadth and diversity of entrepreneurial activities from faculty based on the Ithaca campus and at Weill Cornell Medical College,” said Jocelyn Rose, director of the Institute of Biotechnology.

The projects were selected from a record number of applicants from 26 departments across four colleges. The other four projects are:

  • novel allergen delivery method for more successful allergy immunotherapy treatments.
  • tools for controlling microfluidic flows that support lab cultures for growing vascularized tissues.
  • temporary anti-reflux valve for use as a diagnostic tool for gastroesophageal reflux disease that afflicts more than 40 million Americans, though most do not present classic symptoms.
  • novel compounds that enhance natural DNA-repair mechanisms in cells for use in wide-ranging applications, from cosmetics to topical creams.

The CAT has funded more than 1,000 projects in 30 years and has helped grow or start up two to three companies per year, on average. Seed money has also increased the number of viable candidates that eventually qualify for the Kevin M. McGovern Family Center for Venture Development in the Life Sciences, the on-campus business incubator that opened in 2011. 

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Krishna Ramanujan