MIT Deshpande Center awards $600,000 in grants to five faculty research teams

Ignition and Innovation Grants Combined With Hands-On Support Accelerate Commercialization of New Technologies

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (October 18, 2005) -- The Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at MIT today awarded first-time grants to three teams doing research that 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.

The Fall 2005 grants, totaling $600,000, bring to $5.5 million the total funding provided to 47 research teams at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since the Deshpande Center began its innovation support programs in 2002. They further broaden the range of projects funded by the Center, whose mission is to help MIT innovators make a social, economic, and academic difference with their discoveries and inventions. More than a third of the projects are already in the process of forming independent companies and/or licensing their inventions, and nine have already raised a total of $36 million, above and beyond their Deshpande Center grant money, in private equity from venture capital firms and angel investors.

"The Deshpande Center has a well-defined process to nurture innovation and accelerate the migration of ideas to the commercial marketplace," said Clark Colton, an MIT Professor of Chemical Engineering, whose research on targeting and illuminating cancer tumors for MRI scans won an Ignition Grant in 2004 and is being supported with an Innovation Grant in the current round. "I feel fortunate that the Center was willing to take a chance on our idea a year ago. As we continue reducing the risk of our early-stage research, hands-on support from Deshpande Catalysts has been helping us make connections and clarify the commercial potential of our project." Catalysts are committed volunteers from the business community that guide Deshpande Center projects.
Projects receiving Fall 2005 grants are:

Human liver models for faster, safer drug development: Sangeeta N. BhatiaCreation of miniature human liver tissue could lead to safer, faster, and more cost-effective drug development by measuring toxicity at an early stage in the development process.

Finding early-stage cancers using novel contrast agents for enhanced MRI: Clark Colton
This technology could help pinpoint early stage tumors, dramatically improving the chances of cancer survival.

Novel conductors for flexible, robust electronic devices: Karen Gleason
This transparent conductive material could enable large-scale production of flexible, reliable next-generation displays and touch screens and make possible a variety of new portable devices.

Catalytic particles for rapid decontamination in carbon filters and clothing: T. Alan Hatton
When added to carbon filters in gas masks, garments, and ventilation and filtration systems, these catalytic particles can quickly neutralize toxins in air and water.

Low-cost multispectral infrared detector arrays: Lionel Kimerling and Anu Agarwal
The large potential for infrared sensors used for night-vision systems and other applications may be unlocked by this novel approach for making commodity-priced multispectral photodetector arrays.


"The grant winners this Fall not only are among the most exciting we've seen, but also will benefit from the success of those who have come before," said Deshpande Center Executive Director Krisztina Holly. "Over the past three years, we have refined our process to provide the most effective support to innovators, starting with hands-on expertise at the very inception of a commercial idea."

Deshpande Center Ignition Grants go to research teams that are in the early stages of determining technical feasibility of breakthrough ideas, and Innovation Grants go to teams that have already made significant academic progress but are at the cusp of applying their research to the most promising markets and determining whether to start a company or pursue a license to commercial partners. The Center supports each team with a structured set of programs and referrals to other resources, including assignment of one or more Catalysts; opportunities for exposure at events and other activities; introductions to entrepreneurs, investors, and customers; and possible participation in the unique "i-Teams" course.

About the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation

The Deshpande Center was established to increase the impact of MIT technologies in the marketplace. It serves as a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship by supporting MIT research through grants ranging from $50-250K, a Catalyst Program of volunteers that provide market focus and connections, i-Teams, and other opportunities. Over the first three years, the Deshpande Center has awarded $5.5 million in Ignition and Innovation Grants to 47 projects in a wide range of emerging technologies. So far, nine of these projects have turned into startups, collectively raising over $36M in capital. Founded with an initial donation by Jaishree and Desh Deshpande, the Deshpande Center depends on the financial and professional support of successful alumni, entrepreneurs, and investors to provide a sustainable source of funding for innovative research.