MIT Deshpande Center Announces Fall 2013 Research Grants

Twelve Research Teams Receive $949,764 to Develop New Technological Innovations

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at MIT today announced it is awarding $949,764 in grants to twelve MIT research teams currently working on early-stage technologies. These projects have the potential to make a significant impact on our quality of life in disease monitoring, cancer treatment, arthritis, water desalination and purification, digital printing, nano-electronics, multi-material fabrication, peptide synthesis, retinal disease detection, actuators, food production and distribution and data communications.

The Deshpande Center, acting as a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship, awards grants that fund proof-of-concept explorations and validation for emerging technologies. Marty Schmidt, Associate Provost, MIT commented, "The Deshpande Center is truly a 'gem' at MIT. In spite of its comparatively short 10-year history, the Deshpande Center has played a profound role in accelerating the movement of ideas to real impact. This year's grantees represent a fascinating cross-section of MIT research, and I look forward to seeing them write the next exciting chapter of the Deshpande Center story."

The fall 2013 grant recipients are:

• Ultrasensitive Noninvasive Disease Monitoring Platform: Sangeeta Bhatia with Gabe Kwong
This project will leverage advances in nanotechnology to allow disease-specific enzymes to generate highly predictive ‘synthetic biomarkers’ that appear in the urine of patients for easy analysis. The approach dramatically broadens the number of diseases that could be detected and monitored by urinalysis and increases detection sensitivity and specificity.

• Targeting Oral Cancer: Jane-Jane Chen and Manijeh Goldberg with Erkin Ayden, Kuan Chen and Gurtej Singh
The current treatment of oral cancer is to intravenously administer a highly toxic chemotherapy drug with systemic side effects. This project is developing a topical delivery of anti-cancer drugs that can significantly reduce the side effects while allowing for a more effective cancer treatment. (Renewal from Fall 2012 grant round).

• Drug Delivery System for Treating Post Traumatic Osteoarthritis: Alan Grodzinsky and Ambika Bajpayee, with Chris Evans, Paula Hammond, Rohit Karnik and Ryan Porter
Joint trauma can injure cartilage and lead to osteoarthritis within 10 to 15 years. Treating the joint and cartilage immediately after the injury could prevent long-term damage and arthritis. This project is developing a drug delivery system for the treatment of injured joints to prevent arthritis (Renewal from Fall 2012 grant round).

• Nanoporous thin films for water desalination and purification: Jeff Grossman with David Cohen-Tanugi, and Shreya Dave
The project focuses on the development of graphene nanoporous thin-films (NTFs), which promise significant value for the fields of water desalination and filtration. The aim of this project is to develop fabrication techniques for ultra-permeable thin film membranes and to identify and optimize specifications for commercial applications with a global impact.

• High Resolution Digital Printing of Particulate Matter: John Hart with Justin Beroz
There is a growing need for innovative printing technologies that can adapt to emerging electronic and biological materials, with compatibility to large-area and flexible substrates.  This project will develop a new technology for high-speed digital printing with a higher resolution and expanded materials capability compared to industrial inkjet printing.

• Stable Carbenes As General Surface Anchors: Jeremiah Johnson with Michelle MacLeod, Michael Mavros, Troy Van Voorhis, and Aleksandr Zhukhovitskiy
This project is developing a new methodology for attaching materials to surfaces using carbene molecules. The technology has applicability in the manufacture of semiconductors, development of medical devices, any many other industries (Renewal from Fall 2012 grant round).

• A Platform for Multi-Material Fabrication: Wojciech Matusik with Desai Chen, Moira Forberg, Joyce Kwan, David Levin, Javier Ramos, Pitchaya Sitthi-Amorn, Kiril Vidimce, and Wenshou Wang
Current multi-material additive manufacturing systems have many limitations with regards to both software and hardware. This project proposes to develop a complete end-to-end platform for multi-material additive manufacturing with many components that can be used for a variety of applications in both academic and industrial markets.

• Fast flow peptides: Bradley Pentelute and Klavs Jensen with Andrea Adamo, Surin Khai Mong, Mark Simon, and Alex Vinogradov
Peptides are an important and growing area of therapeutics. The development of peptide-based pharmaceuticals requires the synthesis of custom peptide sequences made on demand. With current batch systems these can take weeks to synthesize. This project is developing a flow system that greatly accelerates the rate of production and reduces overall synthesis time to minutes.

• eyeMITRA: Feature Revealing Computational Retinal Imaging and Predictive Analysis: Ramesh Raskar with Amy Canham, Everett Lawson, and Karin Roesch
Early detection of diabetic retinopathy allows treatment that can prevent blindness.  The high cost of retinal imaging devices and the expertise required to use them makes early screening unavailable to millions around the world. The eyeMITRA technology being developed by this project will bring retinal exams into the realm of routine care at a fraction of the current cost. (Renewal from Fall 2012 grant round).

• Shape Memory Actuators: Chris Schuh with Alan Lai
Shape memory materials are solid-state actuators that can produce both large forces and displacements, making them ideal materials for actuation applications in, e.g., robotics, electronics and haptics. The project will develop shape memory actuators to meet the growing need for advanced actuators.

• Sensors for Food and Agriculture: Selectivity for Key Markers and the Development of Scalable Manufacture: Tim Swager with Joe Azzarelli, Brendon Deveney, John Fennell, Kelvin Frazier, Jisun Im, Sophie Liu, Katherine Mirica, Alexander Petty, and Jan Schnorr
Gases emitted by plants indicate the ripeness of produce. An inexpensive low power gas sensor would improve the economics by optimizing the harvest, storage, transportation and distribution of food. This project will develop a low cost sensor allowing for less food spoilage and more efficient distribution. (Renewal from Fall 2012 grant round).

• Scalable Photonic Links for Ethernet Systems: Michael Watts with Michele Moresco
Network limitations can have an adverse affect on the performance of large-scale computing systems such as data centers. This project will integrate laser sources with silicon photonics to create versatile and scalable photonic links for Ethernet systems which will enable unprecedented performance and scalability.

The Deshpande Center’s mission is to move technologies from the laboratories at MIT to the marketplace. The Deshpande Center grants help recipients assess and reduce the technical and market risks associated with their innovations. In addition to financial support, the Deshpande Center’s network of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and academic and legal experts helps recipients assess the commercial potential of their innovations and make decisions that accelerate progress toward the development of business plans or licensing strategies.

For more details on the research projects, visit:

The Deshpande Center has provided $13,000,000 in grants to 100 MIT research projects since 2002. Twenty-eight projects have spun out of the center as independent startups, having collectively raised over $400 million in outside financing from investors.

About the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation
The Deshpande Center is part of the MIT School of Engineering and was established through an initial gift from Desh and Jaishree Deshpande. It is sustained by the generosity of alumni, friends and corporations. The center serves as a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship by supporting leading-edge research and bridging the gap between the laboratory and marketplace. Additional information on the Deshpande Center's grant program, research portfolio and other entrepreneurial resources can be found at