October/November 2005 Newsletter

In This Issue

  • The Deshpande Center Awards $600,000 to Five Faculty Research Teams
  • Event - Innovating Established Industries: Building Large New Businesses in New England
  • Nine Startups and Counting - Deshpande Center Primes the Pump for Commercial Innovation
  • Leaders from Top Reaches of Academia and Business Join Steering Committee
  • In the News: Technology Review’s TR35, BBC News, and Fortune 75 Recognize Deshpande Grant Winners

The Deshpande Center Awards $600,000 to Five Faculty Research Teams
The Deshpande Center awarded three new grants in its Fall 2005 round to teams whose work could result in new commercial applications ranging from gas masks that neutralize nerve agents to laboratory-grown human liver cells that test new drugs to a new material enabling flexible computer displays.

The Center also awarded follow-on Innovation Grants to research teams already exploring ways to commercialize two additional technologies — a medical imaging process designed to pinpoint tiny cancer tumors, and a multispectral infrared array technology that could result in very-low-cost night-vision systems for military and security applications.

Event - Innovating Established Industries: Building Large New Businesses in New England
"The past twenty years has seen technology advancement primarily in new industries while large established industries have adopted technology at a much slower rate. As a result, large industries such as food, textiles, building materials, chemicals, plastics, coatings, packaging, and many more, are ripe for innovation and investment."

That's the idea behind an upcoming forum, sponsored by Atlas Venture, called Innovating Established Industries: Building Large New Businesses in New England. An Innovation Showcase will feature four Deshpande Center projects that aim to disrupt established industries: Novel ice cream production method, Accelerating innovation in the chemistry lab, Short-warp weaving for fast-changing fashions, and A cheaper, greener way to produce titanium.

The event, which is free with registration, will bring together industry leaders, entrepreneurs, technologists, investors, academics, and public sector professionals to share information toward the goal of creating large new businesses that fall outside the typical "venture backed startup" industries of communications, enterprise software, and biotech. Go to Atlas Venture's web site for more information about this event.

Nine Startups and Counting - Deshpande Center Primes the Pump for Commercial Innovation
Since awarding its first grants three years ago, the Deshpande Center is already showing that a little bit of help early in the innovation cycle goes a long way toward successful commercialization of academic and scientific research. Cambridge biotechnology startup Pervasis Therapeutics' recent announcement that it secured $12 million in additional funding from top-tier venture capital firms was a major milestone for both the company and the Center.

"The Deshpande Center was critical to the creation of Pervasis. Deshpande associates and leadership provide insightful guidance, and the Center's events present unique contacts with an informed and enabling community," said Elazer Edelman, a professor in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology who co-founded Pervasis.

Like Pervasis, more than a third of the 44 teams that have won Deshpande Center grants are in the process of forming new companies, raising venture capital, or seeking licensing arrangements with established companies for their innovations. The group has raised more than $36 million in private equity so far to develop and deliver products based on their research. Collectively, they are setting a pattern for faster and more efficient commercialization of academic research.

Leaders from Top Reaches of Academia and Business Join Steering Committee
MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif and MIT Institute Professor Robert S. Langer have joined the Deshpande Center's Steering Committee, rounding out a leadership group that includes outstanding individuals from the upper reaches of both academia and industry. Reif, an internationally recognized researcher and educator in microelectronics, and Langer, who has over 500 issued or pending patents worldwide, will help guide the Center as it expands its presence within MIT and the broader business community.

"Provost Reif and Professor Langer have unique vision, knowledge, and experience, not only with pure scientific discovery, but also with the hands-on process of bringing practical innovations to life. They will make a huge contribution to the Deshpande Center as it fulfills its mission to help MIT innovators make a societal, academic and economic impact," said Charles Cooney, faculty director of the Deshpande Center and professor of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering at MIT.

In the News: Tech Review’s TR35, BBC News, and Fortune 75 Recognize Deshpande Grant Winners
Deshpande Center grant winners have received media attention recently for their work.
In a special section called Fortune 75: How the World Will Work, Fortune magazine named Angela Belcher, professor of Biological Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering, one of "ten people to watch" for her work "investigating how nature grows things and then trying to replicate the process in the lab."

BBC News profiled Chemical Engineering Professor Paula Hammond's work in "smart" polymer coatings that deliver drugs precisely where and when they are needed in the body.
Materials Science and Engineering Professor Francesco Stellacci made the TR35 – Technology Review's list of the top technology innovators under age 35 – thanks to his method of producing DNA microarrays faster.