University researchers receive funding, state recognition
On Tuesday, 11 biomedical projects from across the state of Michigan were selected as recipients of the Innovation Hub awards. Fast Forward Medical Innovation, a unit within the Medical School’s Office of Research at the University of Michigan, grants the awards. More than $1.8 million in total has been allocated to health-related research projects statewide, ranging from automated brain tumor diagnosis using convolutional neural networks to reversing synchronized circuitry to treat tinnitus in humans.
The awards are funded by the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization for Life Sciences Innovation Hub, which is managed by Fast Forward Medical Innovation and funded by the University and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
The MTRAC Innovation Hub began solely as a University program in 2014 but has since expanded to the entire state of Michigan. It has an operating budget of over $4 million.
One project which was granted the award is a University research team led by Susan Shore, a professor within the University’s Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. The team is developing a device to treat tinnitus, a condition that causes a ringing in the ears and affects 15 percent of Americans. They have conducted successful trials on guinea pigs and are starting to work with humans.
“This tells us a lot about how the circuitry in the brain changes after noise damage and tells us how the auditory system works in general, so that can end up helping other kinds of hearing disorders as well,” Shore said in January.
Howard Petty, a professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, is another recipient of the Innovation Hub award. Petty is the principal investigator of a University research team working to improve ocular cancer therapy with semiconducting nanoparticles.
“In our preliminary studies, we have a couple papers on this. We have developed nanoparticles that generate toxins and what we can do is we can inject them into the eye and the nanoparticles have been developed so we can target the tumor cells in the eye,” Petty said.
In the future, Petty said he wants to make the drug available to human patients.
“What we’re going to be able to do with the money is get enough publications and data that if it works well in treating mice, we’ll be able to use it as an investigational drug,” Petty said. “The goal is to try to make this available to patients, and this will provide us, between fundamental research and clinical research, it will help us cross that gap.”
In early January, the finalists – whose initial proposals were due in September – gathered in downtown Ann Arbor to present their project proposals at the annual meeting of the external MTRAC oversight committee.
Those selected, spanning as far as Michigan Technological University to the University, received individual awards ranging from $75,000 to $250,000 with the goal of helping their products, which are already partially developed, reach the market and help patients as soon as possible.