Fall 2019 LEAP Gap Fund Winners Announced

LEAP WashU Gap Fund

By Sydney Everett, skandalaris.wustl.edu/blog

On December 5, 2019, for the first time the Skandalaris Center’s Leadership and Entrepreneurial Acceleration Program, better known as LEAP, announced the funded teams the day of cycle finals. 

Twenty-five teams from a variety of backgrounds presented their projects and were judged on the potential for license and the impact of LEAP funding toward license. Judges were asked to score the projects and determine which were their favorites.

The ten teams below were chosen to receive funding to help ready their projects for commercialization. These projects are generously funded from the support of Washington University in St. Louis’ Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences, Siteman Cancer Center, Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship, McKelvey School of Engineering, and Center for Drug Discovery.

  • Developing a Metabolic Inhibitor for the Treatment of Cancer – Brian Van Tine, Charles Schutt, and Maxene Ilagan
  • mySci Technology Program, the development of a national dissemination model of the mySci package – Victoria May, Rachel Ruggirello, Keith May
  • Activating Rust for Micro-supercapacitor Fabrication, activating rust, a ubiquitous raw material, into a precursor for developing high energy and power densities micro-supercapacitor for micro-electronics – Yifan Diao, Yang Lu, Haoru Yang and Hongmin Wang, and Julio M. D’Arcy
  • Seeing Sound: Redefining Hear Aids Through Light, optical sensors that will drastically improve the performance of hearing aids – Jie Liao, Abraham J. Qavi, and Lan Yang
  • Barbed Mesh for Sutureless Tissue Fixation, a mesh that can be used for fixating tissues, such as abdominal fascia, and skin, that eliminates the need for traditional suturing and saves OR time – John M. Felder and Guy Genin
  • SN-40X, a first-in-class drug that acts on a novel target and is ideally suited to treat nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, an advanced form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, in patients with type 2 diabetes – Rajan Sah and Daniel J. Lerner
  • Forward Defense Against Staphylococcus aureus Infection, a vaccine that harnesses the natural T cell immune response to bacteria to protect infants and children against infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus – Juliane Bubeck Wardenburg and Reuben Olaniyi
  • Protection of transplanted lungs using chemokine decoy receptors, pre-treating lungs with chemokine decoy receptor to protect against ischemia and reperfusion injury following transplantation – Olga Lubman, Daved H. Fremont, and Andrew E. Gelman
  • Ultrahigh speed optical coherence tomography, a novel, patented technology that offers over 10x speed improvement in eye scans while being compatible/ retrofit-able with tens of thousands of OCT devices in the market – Chao Zhou, Rajendra Apte, and Jason Jerwick
  • SelfCap, self-capacitance based wireless powering technology that improves the aesthetic value and user compliance of wearables and semi-invasive biosensors by reducing its form-factor and battery requirements – Joe Beggs, Yarub Alazzawi, Kenji Aono, Shantanu Chakrabartty

Speaking on the impact the program has had on her project, LEAP participant Dr. Celia Santi, Associate Professor in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at WashU’s School of Medicine, said “It has allowed me a different way of seeing my research in terms of how I can get a product [to market]. LEAP helped me understand how to present research to people who may be useful partners… LEAP will put you in contact with people who can give you advice and will make you think about the different things you have to consider.”

The Fall 2019 LEAP cycle represents the Skandalaris Center’s continued emphasis on entrepreneurship for all. “Our commitment is to entrepreneurship at all levels and all disciplines. This LEAP cycle marked a significant increase in faculty from around the university participating in LEAP,” shared II Luscri, Managing Director of the Skandalaris Center and Assistant Vice Provost for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. “It was exciting to see faculty from the School of Medicine, the McKelvey School of Engineering, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, and the College of Arts & Sciences bring forth university IP that has the potential to transform our region and world.”

For Federico Tripodi (Olin MBA alumnus), President of Blacktop Holdings, December 5th marked his fourth cycle judging LEAP. “I have seen an evolution in how the LEAP committee has helped the teams ask the right questions and think about the world as a broader market”, stated Tripodi. “My favorite part of being a judge is trying to connect the dots between technology, how it can be used, and how far the experience can take them.”

While ten teams were funded this cycle, judges and participants agree on the additional benefits of LEAP. Tripodi has found that “LEAP is worth a lot more than funding.” As a funded LEAP participant this cycle, John Felder, Assistant Professor of Surgery at WashU School of Medicine, “learned what it takes to make a good pitch and how to be a real player in the game of entrepreneurship…even if you don’t win LEAP, you end up with an incredible roadmap.”

To announce the winners, the Skandalaris Center partnered with Washington University in St. Louis’ Office of Technology Management for the Faculty Startup Celebration: Welcome to the Wall event, a chance to recognize new faculty startups and those working toward commercializing university intellectual property.

“I like running LEAP because WashU has some of the most amazing and innovative faculty in the world. The opportunity to facilitate the impact of these researchers is something I’m extremely passionate about and gives me a great deal of fulfillment. All of our partners collaborate to provide that,” emphasized Assistant Director of LEAP and Research Innovation, Tom Krenning. “LEAP is possible because of partnerships with the Office of Technology Management, the Center for Drug Discovery, and the Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences.”

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