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U.Va. Ventures Score $1.8M to Commercialize Research

Nine Charlottesville companies founded on University of Virginia research discoveries are being awarded a total of nearly $1.8 million from the Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund.

Administered by the state's Center for Innovative Technology, or CIT, on behalf of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority, the fund "advances science- and technology-based research, development and commercialization to drive economic growth in Virginia."

"The people behind these new ideas are the next Edisons and Einsteins – and they are the main source of tomorrow's prosperity and security for our nation," said Thomas C. Skalak, U.Va.'s vice president for research. "U.Va. is honored to serve the commonwealth by nurturing the creative talent needed to create original discoveries, practical inventions and economic growth. 

"This program shows great vision by our legislative leaders, by planting the seeds of the next Apple, Google, 3M, or Johnson & Johnson right here in Virginia."

The fund awarded a total of $3.6 million to 22 organizations throughout the commonwealth in the fall 2011 cycle.

"These awards will advance crucial technology research and commercialization initiatives that will result in company growth, research expenditure growth and new company formation opportunities throughout the commonwealth," said Peter Jobse, president and chief executive officer of CIT.

"The strength of U.Va.'s research and commercialization programs, combined with the region's growing life sciences industry, produced a significant number of high-quality proposals, which we view as a leading indicator for the region's ability to achieve national recognition in high-technology industry development," he added.

U.Va. spin-offs HemoShear LLC, Phthisis Diagnostics Inc. and RetiVue LLC were awarded $250,000 to $500,000 each under the fund's Commercialization Program.

For Phthisis Diagnostics, a biotechnology firm developing easy-to-use and cost-effective solutions for detecting harmful pathogens, "This funding will support development and launch of two molecular diagnostic kits that will fulfill a critical need for better diagnosis of intestinal parasites," said Crystal R. Icenhour, company president and chief science officer.

The company was awarded nearly $500,000 under the commercialization program to advance technology useful in the detection of microscopic, diarrheal-disease-causing parasites cryptosporidium and giardia. The company will also receive $50,000 from the fund's Small Business Innovation Research Matching Funds Program, which matches Phase I SBIR awards distributed by the National Institutes of Health, to advance a molecular diagnostic for the parasite microsporidia.

Also receiving approximately $50,000 to $100,000 under the SBIR Matching Funds Program are U.Va.-affiliated Alexander BioDiscoveries LLC, Gencia Corp., HemoSonics LLC, Indoor Biotechnologies Inc. and iTi Health Inc.

A bone-imaging project from Rivanna Medical LLC was awarded $120,000 under the fund's general Matching Funds Program, providing a match to an ongoing project supported by the U.Va.-Wallace H. Coulter Translational Research Partnership.The award will fund technology development for a 3-D, ultrasound-based, bone-imaging device designed to improve the success rates of common spinal anesthesia procedures, such as epidurals. 

"With the generous support of U.Va., CIT and the Commonwealth of Virginia, Rivanna Medical will continue to commercialize innovative medical device products that improve patient care and create high-wage, high-skilled jobs within the Charlottesville community," said F. WilliamMauldin II, co-founder and chief technology officer of Rivanna Medical, a Ph.D. graduate of the U.Va. Department of Biomedical Engineering.

The company recently secured an additional $50,000 investment from CIT as part of its A 3-D image of the spine – with spinal bone depth indicated in grayscale – rendered using Rivanna Medical LLC's proprietary ultrasound technology, developed at U.Va. portfolio, which "makes seed-stage equity investments in Virginia-based technology and life science companies with a high potential for achieving rapid growth and generating significant economic return."

"State-level initiatives like the Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund are critical in building and sustaining a robust ecosystem for innovation-focused start-up companies," said W. Mark Crowell, executive director of U.Va. Innovation and associate vice president for research. "We are proud of the U.Va.-affiliated companies that competed successfully for these awards and grateful to the governor, the General Assembly and CIT for their support of this program."

To see a complete list of the companies and projects receiving funding from the Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund in fall 2011, click here (PDF).