The Kleinmuntz Center has committed to providing resources to support IGB faculty with their innovations through a new pre-commercialization Proof-of-Concept (POC) Program, named the Mikashi Awards. The Mikashi Awards provide consistency and support for developing innovation at the IGB, bridging the funding "gap" between government-supported innovations that result from University research and private sector support of those innovations into commercial products, as well as facilitating the transformation of researchers' discoveries and technologies into useful products and services that benefit society.
This is the first time the IGB will be able to offer such programming on a regular ongoing basis.
Dr. Jospeh Irudayaraj has a background in biological engineering and computer sciences. The basis for his work stems from a multidisciplinary background and skills developed in the fields of engineering, biosciences, and computer sciences. He is the Founder Professor of Bioengineering at UIUC. Prior to UIUC, he has held faculty positions at Purdue University and The Pennsylvania State University. His group has extensively published in biosensors and nanotechnology applied to human health and biosecurity.
Oxygen nanobubble technology for treating retinal ischemia
This project aims to treat central retinal artery occlusion (CRAO), an ophthalmologic emergency, and a significant cause of acquired irreversible blindness using a focused oxygen delivery strategy that can preserve the retinal tissues by temporizing and mitigating the ischemic insult.
Since there is currently no standardized treatment for CRAO, FDA approval could be expedited, primarily because CRAO could be categorized as an orphan disease. Orphan diseases are classified by the FDA when the number of cases is less than 200,000 in the USA.
Mikashi Award funding will allow Professor Irudayraj and his team to address the comments from their pre-FDA filing and collect data to submit a competitive Investigational New Drug application for FDA approval to increase chances of licensing. Steps in their timeline include developing a product for commercialization and testing commercial feasibility, mitigating risks for potential clients, addressing knowledge gaps to secure FDA designation and SBIR Phase 2 funding, and exploring potential investors and licensing.
Dr. Xing Wang is a nucleic acids biochemist, structural DNA nanotechnologist, and molecular biologist at UIUC. He received a Ph.D. in Chemistry from New York University. He did his postdoctoral training at Princeton University to explore novel functions of synthetic RNAs in genome editing. Before joining UIUC, Dr. Wang was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Rapid, ultrasensitive, and inexpensive virus sensing technology with designer DNA nanostructures
The “DNA Star” strategy was recently created (published in Nat. Chem. (7), 2020, with two patents filed) for the development of rapid (< 10 min), ultrasensitive (PCR equivalent or better), inexpensive (< $0.50 per test) virus diagnostics in both point-of-care (POC) and laboratory high throughput settings.
The “DNA Star” strategy addresses a gap in existing technologies for virus detection as it combines a nanotechnological strategy for selective recognition and tight capture of intact virions and spontaneous release of fluorescent signals, which can be instantly read by either a portable fluorimeter in POC settings or a plate reader in lab-based high throughput testing. The strategy for direct sensing of intact virions is PCR-free and thus circumvents the need to extract nucleic acid material from the virus, RNA purification, enzymatic amplification, thermal cycles, and calibration of the complex equipment. Additionally, it may also inform people when they are no longer infectious and can come out of quarantine, as nucleic acid tests are known to generate false-positive results from the presence of nucleic acid molecules from degraded viruses.
Under the Mikashi Award support, Professor Wang and his team will continue creating DDN probes with the DNA Star strategy for the ultra-performance detection of two popular virus targets (influenza and HIV) in POC and home testing settings. They will use different fluorophores to tag the respective biosensors that display different signal readout colors in a single test to enable multiplex performance. Such signals can be read by a portable or benchtop fluorimeter.
The Kleinmuntz Center Mikashi Awards are open to all Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology faculty and affiliates.
Application submissions will open March 2023 and close May 2023.
Prepare a three to five-page proposal, including:
• project overview
• proposed budget
• detailed timeline with major milestones indicated
• Complete application form
• Submit the application form and the prepared proposal electronically at www.igb.illinois.edu/MikashiAwards
All proposals will be reviewed by an external committee and will be evaluated on the project’s perceived ability to successfully prepare for commercialization within the scope of the project, within the requested budget, and within the proposed time frame.
Mikashi Awards will be announced directly to faculty, as well as in a public announcement late May, 2021.