Commercialization Fund supports six VCU innovators – VCU news

A refrigerated shipping container designed and powered by technology invented by engineers at the Commonwealth of Virginia University could one day bring fresh food to people living in food deserts or disaster victims living without electricity.

The VCU Marketing Fund chose this project by Stephen Fong, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Life Sciences at the College of Engineering, as one of six academic inventions to be funded this fall to improve their chances of commercialization for profit of the society. Two projects received a second round of funding to support their commercialization.

With the launch of the first phase of the One VCU Strategic Research Priorities Plan, the commercialization fund has been expanded by the Office of the Vice President of Research and Innovation from a total of $ 300,000 allocated annually to $ 500,000. The prizes are awarded twice a year, in the spring and in the fall.

At the heart of Fong’s modular refrigerator is the use of magnetic refrigeration, an alternative and environmentally friendly refrigeration technology that requires energy consumption and less maintenance while being inexpensive enough to be used in consumer products. Criticism of magnetocaloric material Technology was developed by a team including Everett Carpenter, Ph.D., co-director of the Nanoscience and Nanotechnology program at VCU.

“We are trying to build long-term sustainable solutions where people can get nutritious food,” Fong said. It is part of the Transdisciplinary core of access to sustainable foods iCubed, where he identifies and addresses local sustainability issues through an interdisciplinary approach combining technology and socio-economic factors.

VCU Innovation Gateway staff put Fong and his refrigerated container concept in touch with Carpenter, who is the co-investigator of the project. Initially, Fong said he plans to apply the refrigeration system in a standard 40-foot-long shipping container that will be stationary when dropped off at a site. It could be used in humanitarian relief efforts following earthquakes or hurricanes, or by food banks to address food insecurity in areas where access to fresh produce is limited.

For example, according to the Promise Land Pastures food bank, who works with the VCU supply chain management and analytics department, there isn’t a single grocery store in the 204 square miles of Charles City County. Fong says the many small-scale farmers in Charles Town could collectively fill three or four shipping containers located in a “food hub,” such as a parking lot, increasing the volume, consistency and variety of food available to them. residents or even larger buyers, such as public school districts.

The second phase of development will focus on the production of a mobile refrigerated system for shipping and trucking applications. A magnetic refrigeration system can theoretically operate using 30% less energy than a comparable conventional refrigeration system, allowing for better portability and a smaller size that would lend itself to shipping.

We are trying to create long term sustainable solutions where people can get nutritious food.

Stephen Fong

In addition to the Fong scheme, these other projects have recently received funding:

Dean of the College of Engineering Barbara D. Boyan, Ph.D., Professor Alice T. and William H. Goodwin Jr. of Biomedical Engineering, and her colleagues have secured renewed funding to continue their design work new biodegradable materials that quickly integrate into the body. The project would allow orthopedic surgeons replacing bone with an implant to incorporate a commonly used antibiotic into a polymer hydrogel (invented by researchers at VCU and Georgia Tech) that enables the programmed release of drugs.

Carlos Castano, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, was funded to study a new method to modify the surface of metal powders used for sintering, a process in which the powders are transformed into solid masses without being liquefied. He hopes the work will expand the technology for coating metal, ceramic and polymer powders. The work also aims to improve the quality of the materials produced while increasing the scale. He says this will open a window for wider applications in solar power, providing access to clean water, developing efficient carbon sequestration methods and designing better drugs.

Youngman Oh, Ph.D., professor of pathology, biochemistry and molecular biology in the Faculty of Medicine and director of the Cancer and Metabolic Disorder Lab, will use his renewed award to continue his work to promote an investigational biologic, a variety of products derived from biotechnology from humans, animals or microorganisms, to Food and Drug Association approval for clinical trials as targeted antibody therapy for triple negative breast cancer . Triple negative breast cancer is an aggressive form of the disease that accounts for about 15% of all breast cancers diagnosed and disproportionately affects black women. Patients with this cancer have few treatment options other than chemotherapy after surgery.

A team led by Wei-Ning Wang, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, in collaboration with Ping Xu, Ph.D., professor at the VCU School of Dentistry, and doctoral student in mechanical and nuclear engineering Zan Zhu got support to develop a comfortable three-layer mask that uses chemical reactions and electrical charges to kill microbes, including the coronavirus particle.

Guizhi “Julian” Zhu, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacy, obtained support to develop small circular mRNA vaccines. Linear mRNA vaccines are limited by their large size, complicated manufacturing, shelf life, and need for extreme cold storage. Zhu is seeking to construct a small circular mRNA vaccine, which shows promise in treating or preventing not only viral infections, but also cancer, especially for melanoma immunotherapy.

“Innovation Gateway is pleased to support these VCU inventors, whose projects demonstrate a commitment to the university’s efforts to improve the human condition through the four initiatives of the One VCU Strategic Research Priority Plan: Enriching the Human Experience , achieve a just and equitable society, optimize health and support sustainable energy and environments, ”said Ivelina Metcheva, Ph.D., Senior Executive Director of Innovation Gateway.

Innovation Gateway facilitates the commercialization of academic inventions to benefit the public by fostering VCU’s culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, helping inventions to reach a more mature and licensed stage, and developing strategic relationships with industry and investors. “Over the past five years, we will have over $ 1.9 million in funding for 59 projects, over $ 19 million in follow-up funding and nine licenses, including the launch of five Virginia-based startups,” Metcheva said.

For more information on the Commercialization Fund or Innovation Gateway, please contact Innovation Gateway at [email protected] or (804) 828-5188.

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