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University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships
University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships

MTRAC Life Sciences Innovation Hub at U-M Awards $1M to Accelerate Six High-Tech Biomedical Innovations


(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) April 26, 2023 — The Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) Life Sciences Innovation Hub at the University of Michigan (U-M) recently awarded nearly $1 million to support and advance six translational research projects with high commercial potential.

Four of the projects are led by researchers at U-M, while the other two projects are led by researchers at Wayne State University and Grand Valley State University in collaboration with Corewell Health William Beaumont University Hospital.

The MTRAC Life Sciences Innovation Hub is supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and co-managed by Innovation Partnerships, a unit based in the U-M Office of the Vice President for Research, and Fast Forward Medical Innovation, a unit based in the U-M Medical School Office of Research. The Hub aims to fund high-tech projects addressing significant unmet needs in healthcare. U-M was recently renewed as the MTRAC Life Sciences Innovation Hub for a new six-year term; the awarded funding was the first of five years anticipated in project funding. Investigators at state research universities, nonprofit research centers and hospital systems across Michigan are eligible to apply for support from MTRAC Life Sciences.

“The MEDC has accelerated biomedical research for the last ten years through the MTRAC Life Sciences Innovation Hub at U-M. Over that period, the program has invested more than $20 million in innovations from seven Michigan public universities and four major hospitals and health systems across the State of Michigan,” said Kelly Sexton, associate vice president for research and innovation partnerships at U-M. “This investment has yielded a strong impact on biomedical technology development in Michigan. The funding has resulted in more than $160 million in follow-on funds, 35 startups and the generation of more than 120 high-tech jobs in the state.”

The MTRAC Life Sciences request for proposals received competitive submissions from across Michigan that focus on areas with high potential to impact human health, including therapeutics, medical devices, digital health technologies and research tools. The oversight committee selected projects to be funded and provided valuable feedback to all projects.

2023 awarded investigators and projects include:

  • Shorya Awtar (U-M) – High-performance prosthetic hand with anthropomorphic capabilities
  • Zhiqiang Cao (WSU) – Anti-adhesion technology
  • Gabriel Corfas (U-M) – Small molecule positive modulators of logan-induced Ret signaling as treatment for peripheral neuropathy
  • John Farris (GVSU) and Marlene Seltzer (Corewell Health William Beaumont University Hospital) – Labor assist device
  • Elliott Rouse (U-M) – An intelligent ankle-foot orthosis that can automatically adjust across activities and users
  • Scott VanEpps (U-M) – Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) prevention mouthguard

“The projects selected for MTRAC Life Sciences funding this year represent the advanced biomedical research occurring across the State of Michigan,” said Steven Kunkel, executive vice dean for research at the Medical School and chief scientific officer for Michigan Medicine. “We are grateful that the MEDC provides this support to investigators seeking to broaden the impact of their research through commercialization.”

From the application stage through funding, projects benefit from access to experienced mentors-in-residence, commercialization education programming and feedback from an extended network of expertise. The program has funded nearly 100 projects across Michigan since 2014.

“The MTRAC Life Sciences Innovation Hub has funded high-impact biomedical research for the last ten years. This funding, combined with the mentorship and resources dedicated to these projects, has resulted in returns through follow-on funding, job creation and technology licensing,” said MEDC University Technology Program Director Larry Herriman. “The program continues to be a bountiful resource to Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and we are pleased to continue providing support for projects 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  MTRAC Life Sciences Innovation Hub 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 and through university cost-sharing, the MTRAC Innovation Hub for Life Sciences at U-M is part of a network of statewide innovation hubs that includes the MTRAC Innovation Hub for Advanced Transportation at U-M, 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 October 2022, MTRAC Innovation Hubs have received 518 proposals, funded 256 projects, developed 44 startup companies, licensed 34 technologies to industry partners, and secured more than $216 million in follow-on funding.

About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

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