MTRAC Innovation Hub for Life Sciences at the University of Michigan Awards $1.6 Million in Funding to Biomedical Projects

Hand in a lab

Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization Program Funds Innovations with High Potential to Positively Impact Human Health

The Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) Innovation Hub for Life Sciences at the University of Michigan (U-M) recently awarded a combined $1.6 million in funding to nine translational research projects with high commercial potential led by researchers at U-M, Wayne State University, Beaumont Health System, and Grand Valley State University. These projects aim to address significant unmet needs in healthcare and positively impact human health through commercialization. 

“Through the generous support of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), the University of Michigan MTRAC Innovation Hub for Life Sciences has provided over $18 million in project funding over the last nine years. These awards have served innovations from seven Michigan public universities and four major hospitals and health systems across the state of Michigan,” says Kelly Sexton, PhD, associate vice president for research and innovation partnerships at the University of Michigan. “Since its inception, the MTRAC Innovation Hub for Life Sciences has been a catalyst for Michigan’s biomedical industry. Over 20 new companies have been launched to commercialize technologies supported by the program. These companies have raised over $100 million in follow-on funding and have created high-tech jobs throughout the state. Innovation Partnerships at the University of Michigan, in collaboration with Michigan Medicine’s Fast Forward Medical Innovation, are proud to continue serving as the hub for life science innovation in Michigan.”

In this funding cycle, investigators from five universities and health systems across Michigan presented their proposals to an oversight committee composed of experienced technologists, entrepreneurs, industry partners, and venture capitalists with a track record of commercializing and investing in frontier technologies. The oversight committee selected projects to be funded and provided valuable feedback to all teams. 

The funded projects spanned a number of different areas impacting human health, including therapeutics, devices, digital technologies, and research tools. The nine funded projects include: 

  • Sardar Ansari, PhD (U-M) – EMMETT (Environment for Model Monitoring, Evaluation and Timely Tuning): A health IT tool for clinical model surveillance
  • Cagri Besirli, MD, PhD and Thomas Wubben, MD, PhD (U-M) – A novel small molecule for photoreceptor neuroprotection to reduce vision loss
  • Merritt Delano-Taylor, PhD (Grand Valley State University) – Proof of concept test of a commercializable genetic tool to promote dopamine neuron production
  • David Fox, MD (U-M) – Development of the anti-CD6 monoclonal antibody UMCD6 as a new class of cancer immunotherapy
  • Carolyn Harris, PhD (Wayne State University) – A solid-state smart valve for hydrocephalus responsive to patient heart rate and blood pressure
  • Joseph Holoshitz, MD (U-M) – Preclinical Studies of Orally Available Anti-Bone Erosion Small Molecule
  • Nishaki Mehta, MD (William Beaumont Hospital) – PressRite: Novel compression mechanism to reduce post-operative hematoma formation and improve wound healing in patients undergoing pacemaker/defibrillator implantation
  • James Varani, PhD (U-M) – Non-irritating retinoids for skin repair and wound healing
  • Yan Zhang, PhD (U-M) – CRISPR-Cas3 base editing therapy for human blood disorders

The MTRAC Innovation Hub for Life Sciences is co-managed by Innovation Partnerships at the University of Michigan and Michigan Medicine’s Fast Forward Medical Innovation Program. “U-M is proud to partner with the MEDC to serve as the hub for biomedical innovation in the state of Michigan,” says Steven Kunkel, PhD, executive vice dean for research of U-M Medical School and chief scientific officer of Michigan Medicine. “We look forward to working with the best and brightest in biomedical technologies from Michigan’s universities and health systems.”

Investigators at state research universities, non-profit research centers, and hospital systems across Michigan are eligible to submit projects for funding consideration. Funded projects benefit from access to experienced mentors-in-residence, commercialization education programming, and an extensive network during and beyond the project funding duration. The program has funded over 100 life science projects across the state of Michigan since 2016.

“The MTRAC Innovation Hub for Life Sciences is able to accelerate the development and commercialization of innovative new technologies to impact human health from across the state of Michigan through funding, mentorship, and resources,” said MEDC University Relations Director Denise Graves. “The program is a vital resource to Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and we are pleased to see continued successes originating from participating universities, hospital systems, and nonprofit research centers across the state.”

To learn more about current or past MTRAC Life Sciences projects, or how your organization can get involved, please visit us at MTRAC Innovation Hub for Life Sciences or contact Meghan Cuddihy, program director.

Additional information on partner MTRAC programs:

Co-funded through the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) which is administered by the MEDC, as well as cost share through the universities, the MTRAC Innovation Hub for Life Sciences at the University of Michigan is part of a network of statewide innovation hubs that includes the MTRAC Innovation Hub for Advanced Transportation at the University of Michigan, the MTRAC Innovation Hub for AgBio at Michigan State University, the MTRAC Innovation Hub for Advanced Materials at Michigan Technological University, and the MTRAC Innovation Hub for Advanced Computing at Wayne State University. Each hub is strategically located at a university with significant strengths in the sector, further increasing the quality and quantity of resources available. Since the inception of the statewide program in 2016 through March 2022, MTRAC Innovation Hubs have received 494 proposals, funded 234 projects, developed 44 startup companies, licensed 41 technologies to industry partners and secured more than $180M in follow-on funding.

About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

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