UC San Diego faculty receive funding from von Liebig Center to commercialize academic research

February 23, 2004

San Diego, Monday, February 23, 2004 -- The William J. von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) has awarded $275,000 to six projects led by faculty members of the Jacobs School of Engineering. The projects range from bio-sensors to nano-photonics, and include technologies to create synthetic bone for use in dental implants or prosthetics; to put anti-virus and other Internet networking functions on auto-pilot; and to enable affordable, predictable and reliable wireless data services (details below).

This is the fourth round of so-called "gap" grants since the Center was set up to foster entrepreneurism education on the campus and to provide funding to internal technology projects that have strong commercial potential. The Center received 19 full applications. All of the applicants went through a rigorous screening mechanism and their proposals were reviewed by an external committee of industry experts. "This solicitation was extremely successful," said Joe Bear, executive director of the von Liebig Center. "All of the applications showed great promise, and while we were only able to make six cash awards, the von Liebig Center will now work with all applicants to develop commercialization strategies for their technologies, and if possible, help them secure other types of funding for their projects."

With the latest round, the von Liebig Center has awarded a total of more than $1.2 million in grants to 25 projects led by Jacobs School faculty.

Of the six new grants, two each went to faculty or researchers based in the Computer Science and Engineering, and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering departments, and one each to professors in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Bioengineering. For more information on the von Liebig Center, visit http://www.vonliebig.ucsd.edu, call 858-822-5960 or email vlassist@soe.ucsd.edu. For information about previous awardees, go to http://www.vonliebig.ucsd.edu/Projects/current_projects.shtml.

Award Descriptions by Department:


Shu Chien, Professor and Yingxiao Wang, Postdoctoral Researcher
"Development and Application of Biosensors to Monitor Kinase Activity with High Temporal and Spatial Resolution in Live Cells"

Chien and Wang aim to establish the technology to monitor the activity in live cells of specific kinases, and to apply it to different physiological and pathological conditions, especially for the diagnosis of diseases such as cancer. Kinases play a crucial role in a variety of cellular processes, including cell division, angiogenesis, motility, and adhesion. Chien and Wang have developed a biosensor capable of detecting kinase activity in live cells based on an optical technology which allows the real-time measurement of kinase activity with high temporal and spatial resolutions in live cells. Preliminary experiments have demonstrated that this biosensor reports kinase activity with high degrees of specificity and sensitivity. With the von Liebig grant, they will conduct proof-of-concept research on this biosensor and its potential as a powerful tool to efficiently and conveniently diagnose the different developmental stages of cancers, e.g. in a biopsy or a pap smear sample.


Rajesh K. Gupta, Professor
"High-level Synthesis Using Aggressive Parallelization of System C Code"

There have been numerous attempts in the past at creating an effective high-level synthesis tool for designing integrated circuits directly from a behavioral language. While each of them has its own merits, Gupta and his team (in collaboration with Alex Nicolau and Nikil Dutt at UC Irvine) have taken a novel approach to this challenge by using aggressive code parallelization and motion techniques to discover circuit optimizations beyond what is possible with traditional approaches. They have developed a number of speculative code motion techniques and dynamic compiler transformations that optimize the circuit quality in terms of cycle time, circuit size, and interconnect costs. This grant will enable his team to productize the tool by enabling it to interface to common industry formats, linking it to simulation tools, and filing for appropriate intellectual property rights.

George Varghese, Professor
"NetControl: Setting the Internet on AutoPilot"

As the Internet expands, it is taking more and more time to oversee the networking technology that links it all together. Now, Varghese believes that he has settled on new software systems that could effectively remove human beings from the loop in certain key networking functions such as controlling Internet attacks and spam. He is proposing to develop two new software products that, according to one von Liebig reviewer, "represent technology that could solve a real pain."


Sujit Dey, Professor
"Enabling Affordable, Predictable, Reliable Wireless Data Services through Adaptive Content Shaping"

Next-generation wireless data networks are starting to offer new data services. Additionally, wireless data devices (wirelessly-connected laptops, PDAs and cell phones) are becoming more popular and affordable. But delivery of wireless data to, as well as general Internet surfing on, these devices is hampered due to limited bandwidth, unpredictable error levels, and handheld constraints. Dey and his team have developed techniques for shaping data dynamically as a function of network and device conditions and constraints, resulting in a rich wireless surfing experience. Wireless network operators as well as content providers and aggregators already have expressed interest in this technology. This grant will enable Dey and his team to make this software more commercial-ready and add several advanced features.


Prabhakar Bandaru, Assistant Professor
"Novel SiGe Processes and Devices for Nano-Photonics Applications"

Experts in the photonics industry see potential in the integration of Germanium-based optical components with conventional CMOS-based electronics, allowing for the development of opto-electronic integrated circuits with superior performance and functionality (compared to optical or electronic circuits alone). With this grant, Bandaru hopes to collaborate with an industry leader on further development and commercialization of his technology to make a Germanium-on-Silicon integrated photodetector capable of detecting 2.5 Gigabits per second.

Kenneth S. Vecchio, Professor
"New Method to Create Synthetic Bone"

The aim of this project is to refine a new method for creating synthetic bone for biomedical applications such as dental implants and biocompatible prosthetic interfaces. Vecchio recently developed a new method to convert marine skeletal structures into new materials with a composition similar to the structural basis of bone. These new materials have microstructural architectures similar to the marine skeletons imparting excellent mechanical properties, but possess bio-compatible constituents. This project will focus on optimizing the conversion process to develop this new material while maintaining the architecture structure required for high-performance bone substitutes.

University of California - San Diego

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