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Six projects, ranging from thin-film solar cells created with ink-jet printing technology to a meter that can measure the nitrogen content of leaves to a device that promises to revolutionize mass spectrometry - the molecule-smashing technology made famous on the "CSI" TV crime show - are being funded at Oregon State University, thanks to an innovative tax credit program that supports commercialization of university research.
Launched in October, 2007, the University Venture Development Fund University Venture Development Fund , or UVDF, offers Oregon residents a 60 percent state tax credit for gifts to the fund, with the goal of helping move university research to the marketplace. As part of the project, the state legislature authorized eight Oregon universities to receive a total of $14 million in tax credit-eligible gifts.
Oregon State's first round of awards under the program will provide approximately $435,000 to support the next stages of development for six projects.
"Some amazingly innovative work is coming out of Oregon State, and this venture funding, provided by the citizens of Oregon, will help translate new knowledge into viable business ventures," said John Cassady, OSU vice president for research. "This is just the beginning. As more people give to the venture fund, additional awards can be made, spurring more innovations like these."
Sen. Frank Morse, R-Albany, who championed the legislation that established the venture fund, said the awards at Oregon's largest public research university would demonstrate the value of the tax incentive.
"Great things happen when Oregonians have a chance to directly invest in their universities," said Morse. "The selected projects at Oregon State University will launch new businesses and develop new entrepreneurs who will grow our economy."
An advisory committee made up of university, research and business leaders chose the first round of OSU projects for funding based on their commercial and technological viability, said Brian Wall, the committee chair and director of OSU's Office of Technology Transfer.
"Each of these projects has already made significant progress toward the marketplace," said Wall. "These awards will help speed the technology's time to market, allowing faculty, students, entrepreneurs or existing companies to take the next steps to turn research into businesses."
The following projects will receive awards under OSU's venture development fund:
• A small-scale water pasteurization system -- A team led by mechanical engineering professor Richard Peterson will use the venture award to complete bench-top demonstrations of an ultra-high temperature pasteurization system for processing tap water. At less than half the size of the current equipment, some of which can be as large as a washing machine, this briefcase-size invention can be used as part of a portable kidney dialysis machine, also under development at OSU, as well as for other medical or scientific uses that require water of high chemical and biological purity. Peterson is part of the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, a collaborative project between Oregon universities, industry and government agencies headquartered in Corvallis.
• "Hua Cat," a new organic compound to improve drug production -- Chemistry professor Rich Carter, who is affiliated with the signature research center, OTRADI, the Oregon Translational Research Discovery Institute, is leading a project to explore the industrial production of a novel organocatalyst, nick-named Hua Cat, after the OSU post-doctoral researcher, Hua Yang who first produced it. Organocatalysts are used by pharmaceutical companies to manufacture chiral or asymmetrical drugs—approximately 90 percent of drugs under development today are chiral. Hua Cat has many advantages over currently-used catalysts. It is more soluble, easily prepared and environmentally-friendly, which eliminates the need for currently used solvents that are difficult to recycle.
• Wood-adhesive from all renewable materials -- The holder of four patents, wood science professor Kaichang Li is hoping to take his much hailed soy-based wood-adhesive a step further by creating the product from all renewable materials, eliminating the need not only for formaldehyde in wood-adhesives but also replacing petroleum-based chemicals used in the adhesive processing. If successful, the final product will not only be more environmentally friendly but more cost-effective, as its production will be less tied to the cost of oil.
• Thin-film solar cells -- A student-led team is working to commercialize a low-cost process for creating thin-film solar cells through inkjet printing. Building on a process patented by OSU chemical engineering professor Chih-hung Chang, chemical engineering doctoral student Wei Wang will work on the fabrication of the cells while business student Nate Edwards will conduct market research and develop a business plan with the goal of spinning out a company in the next year. Debra Gilbuena, a master's student pursuing degrees in business and chemical engineering, will also be working on both aspects of the project. Chang, the faculty advisor on the project, is involved with the signature research centers ONAMI and BEST, or Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center, which focuses on new technologies involving renewable energy and green building materials and services.
• The "Ping Meter" -- Invented by horticulture professor emeritus Les Fuchigami and former OSU doctoral student Pinghai Ding, the Ping Meter is a handheld tool equipped with GPS that can easily, instantly and non-destructively determine the chlorophyll, nitrogen and water content of plant leaves, and show the results in a color-coded map. The Ping Meter enables growers and researchers to monitor or "ping" plant health status more precisely than currently available equipment. This empowers growers to maximize their crop yield and quality while minimizing pollution of the environment and use of resources such as fertilizer and water. The venture fund grant will allow the researchers to fine tune the meter's functions, calibrating it to major crops and testing it in both the lab and the field.
• A major advance in mass spectrometry -- Critical tools used for biological sciences, medical research, forensics and a variety of scientific fields, mass spectrometers can break down proteins, DNA, and other types of molecules, revealing their makeup to researchers. As part of an OSU Environmental Health Sciences Center team led by emeritus professors Douglas Barofsky and Max Deinzer, research associate Valery Voinov and Barofsky are developing a simple tool that will improve the quality and speed of mass spectrometer analysis. The venture fund will help the team demonstrate the utility of the invention to secure intellectual property rights and market to industrial partners.
About OSU Foundation
The OSU Foundation is the nonprofit organization chartered to raise and administer private funds in support of Oregon State University education, research and outreach. Recent major fundraising projects include the construction of the Kelley Engineering Center and the expansion of Reser Stadium. OSU’s endowment stood at $434 million at the end of the 2007 fiscal year.
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