School — McKelvey Engineering School — Medicine WashU Gap Fund

WashU Gap Fund Makes First Two Awards

Washington University in St. Louis recently launched a fund to facilitate the commercialization of technologies created by its researchers. The Gap Fund, operated by the Office of Technology Management (OTM), has made its first two awards to WashU researchers to support the advancement and commercialization of technologies to improve maternity outcomes and treat diabetes.

“The Washington University Gap Fund is a vehicle for making strategic investments to advance medical, engineering, and physical science technologies that hold significant promise for benefiting society,” says Malcolm Townes, PhD, innovation fund manager for Washington University’s Office of Technology Management. “By providing financial support that enables translational research to de-risk and mature these technologies, we increase the chances for them to attract the necessary partners to successfully commercialize them.”

Christine O’Brien, PhD

Christine O’Brien, PhD, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, received the first Gap Fund award. She and several collaborators developed wearable light-based blood flow technology for use in a medical device for early detection of postpartum hemorrhage. The Gap Fund award will enable them to improve upon a proof-of-concept prototype by developing a manufactured prototype that can be validated in clinical studies.

“Receiving the Gap Fund award has allowed us to significantly de-risk our technology to engage potential investors and remain competitive in a national commercialization competition,” commented O’Brien. O’Brien and her team are currently competing in the National Institutes of Health’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Technology (RADx Tech) for Maternal Health Challenge, a competition to accelerate development of technologies to improve maternal health outcomes for those who live in areas lacking access to maternity care.

Mohamed A. Zayed, MD, PhD, MBA, FACS
Mohamed A. Zayed, MD, PhD, MBA

Mohamed Zayed, MD, PhD, MBA, an associate professor of surgery, radiology and molecular cell biology at the School of Medicine, also received an award from the Gap Fund. Zayed and his team have developed an innovative approach to treating type 1 diabetes. Financial support from the Gap Fund is making it possible for them to conduct critical in vivo studies to validate the technology.

“The Gap Fund is going to be a significant catalyst to bring our pancreas replacement therapy platform technology to the next significant development milestone,” predicts Zayed. “Not only will funds be used for large animal efficacy testing, but [also] strategic customer discovery research [that] will help further validate our product for potential commercialization.”

Moving forward, the Gap Fund aims to increase the commercialization potential of other promising medical, engineering, and physical science technologies created by WashU researchers.

“These funds are critical to advancing the University’s intellectual property portfolio by enhancing the value of the technology which enables us to find the right partner,” commented Nichole Mercier, PhD, assistant vice chancellor & managing director for the Office of Technology Management. “It provides support by truly filling the gap between traditional research funding and private investment, thereby advancing more WashU technologies toward commercialization.”

Interested in learning more about the Gap Fund? More information is available on the OTM website or contact Malcolm Townes, innovation fund manager at

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