Engineering Now :: Volume 5 - Edition 4:: January 2009

Western Innovation Fund - September 2008 Competition

Five Western research projects are a step closer toward commercialization following awards from the Western Innovation Fund. The awards, distributed annually by the Office of the Vice-President (Research & International Relations) provide incentive for researchers to explore commercial opportunities.

More than $210,000 in funding will be shared by the following winning projects:

Name: Dr. Arthur Brown
Award: $30,000
Title: Identification of Inhibitor Compounds of SOX9 to Promote Central Nervous System Regeneration
Abstract: The absence of nerve regeneration after central nervous system damage, such as in response to spinal cord injury and stroke, has been attributed in part to the physical and biochemical barrier of the scar. We have identified a target protein, SOX9, that acts as a molecular switch after spinal cord injury by turning on the production of anti-regenerative scar proteins and turning off the production of pro-regenerative scar proteins. The goal of the work supported by the Western Innovation Fund is to identify compounds that inhibit SOX9 and to then develop them for regenerative therapies in the central nervous system.

Name: Dr. Ian Cunningham
Award: $42,000
Title: Multi-centre validation of DQE measuring device for clinical x-ray imaging quality and safety optimization
Abstract: The balance between health risks from exposure to medical x-rays and inaccurate diagnoses in medical radiography is managed in part by ensuring the best possible image quality consistent with low patient exposures. The detective quantum efficiency (DQE) value is the best method of evaluating the safe functionality of x-ray systems. However, mandatory DQE measurement is costly, time consuming, requires specialized facilities, and employs rare scientific expertise. With funding from ORDCF and CIHR POP programs, we have invented a device that is portable and, for the first time, enables non-experts to measure the DQE. Working with collaborators at the FDA, Stanford, Duke, Michigan and elsewhere, the WIF support will enable us to implement and complete a multicentre trial to demonstrate that results obtained using our invention are accurate, reproducible, and consistent between multiple users having no specialized expertise. This proof-of-concept validation is a key step towards achieving credibility and acceptance of the invention for FDA-mandated testing within the scientific, medical and regulatory communities.

Name: Dr. Dimitre Karamanev
Co-applicant/Collaborator: Don Hewson, UWO Research Park (Sarnia-Lambton Campus)
Award: $50,000
Title: Commercialization of Biogenerator
Abstract: The Biogenerator is the first practical application of biotechnology to direct electricity generation. It converts hydrogen into electrical power with very high efficiency. The main goal of this project is to develop a control system that will be integrated into a pre-commercial 50kW scale unit to be installed at UWO Research Park (Sarnia-Lambton Campus). This demonstration will provide the pre-commercial demonstration required to launch a start-up to be called Biotricity.

Name: Dr. Rob Lipson
Co-applicants/Collaborators: Zhifeng Ding, Chemistry; Jesse Zhu, Chemical and Biochemical Engineering; Leo Lau, Surface Science Western and Chemistry
Award: $40,000
Title: Synthesis of thin films of Vanadium Oxide (VO2)
Abstract: Professor Rob Lipson and coapplicants Professors Zhifeng Ding, Leo Lau and Jesse Zhu have found that a certain class of alcohols used in the sol-gel synthesis of thin films of VO2 effectively inhibits the oxidation of the chemical precursors for months versus hours and days when using other literature methods. This advantage will allow industry to make VO2 thin films easily and reproducibly. Such films are significant because they undergo a remarkable, reversible semiconductor-to-metal phase transition at a relatively low temperature (68oC). This leads to dramatic changes in its electrical and optical properties in the near infrared that make it a useful material in several applications including “smart windows”, sensors, optical limiters, and optical storage devices. The WIF support will be used to explore thin film fabrication over large surface areas.

Name: Dr. Jin Zhang
Award: $48,500
Title: New Disposable Glucose Biosensor Based on Nanostructures-laden Contact Lens
Abstract: Determination of glucose levels in body fluids is a major and critical aid in diagnosing and improving the therapeutic treatment of diabetes. The most widespread example of a commercial glucose detector is the blood glucose biosensor. However, many patients feel are uncomfortable to havinge the required measurement taken by pricking their fingers several times daily. Thus, the aim of this project is to develop a new optical biosensor integrated into contact lens for continuous non-invasive monitoring of physiological glucose for diabetic patients. This new device can be worn by diabetics who can determine their glucose levels by colorimetrically detecting the changes in their contact lens. /s2b.

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.: Allison Stevenson
Spencer Engineering Building, Room 2074
Phone: (519) 850-2917 Fax: (519) 661-3808