Saturday, July 4, 2015

Translational Research

I haven't talked about it here too much before, but I'm actively working on commercializing some of the technology my lab has developed over the last few years. I've had a hard time getting subsequent funding for some of the projects in my lab after obtaining initial internal and external grants for them. We got a few papers out that the proposed ideas do work, and then I've applied for new grants that build on the things we developed. I had this idea that this is how science works, but the proposals keep getting rejected. Yet people in industry and medicine keep telling me how this is important and they would actually use it. I have IP filed through the university on a lot of these things, and tech transfer has me meet with companies and investors, but they keep saying that it still needs more work to be proven to the point where they would jump in and they want me or one of my students to be involved when they do license it. So after several such interactions, I've decided to just make the jump myself.
Where before I've been struggling to get academic collaborators to try things out and them waiting until a grant gets funded before anything gets done, now I have actual product users testing out our technology because they will actually use it long term if it really works. I've applied for several small business grants over the last few months. I should hear the results fairly soon. The panels for SBIR/STTR reviews include business people, not just academics, so I'm hopeful that the importance of product development and validation isn't lost on them the way it is on many of my colleagues. For example, one of the comments I get in paper and proposal reviews all the time is that making nanochannels is easy and that I'm spending too much time on the device and not enough on the science. And if your only source of information is NanoLetters, then you think that making nanostructures is the easiest thing to do in the world. This one journal alone publishes hundreds of papers on this topic. Yet not one single company makes these structures commercially. Nanoparticles yes, channels no. So obviously there is something challenging about it that needs additional research and development. Anyway, we'll see how my latest move plays out. I'll keep the blog world posted.