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CoMotion Innovation Gap Fund awardees: Where are they now?

Written by Debra Bouchegnies / August 14, 2019

CoMotion is dedicated to supporting University of Washington research projects that drive public good and empower innovation. Collaborating with the Washington Research Foundation, and other partners including UW Population Health and, beginning fall of 2019, BECU, the CoMotion Innovation Gap Fund awards up to $1 million each year to turn ideas into impact. The goal of the fund is to help innovators spin out their technology as a startup or social enterprise, or to strengthen the opportunity for licensing. In addition to the fund, which helps bridge the gap between the end of research dollars and early seed funding, CoMotion’s experienced innovation managers connect researchers to other resources, such as mentors and business development workshops, to increase their chances of success.

The fund has helped many UW researchers and innovators achieve the greatest impact as they transition their technologies from research into commercial products or community services. The $50,000 awards can be used for product development such as creating prototypes or completing code, with $10,000 of the award earmarked for business development such as researching customer demand.

Some of the groundbreaking innovations that were fueled by the CoMotion Innovation Gap Funds are included below. If you would like to help grow innovation at the UW, supporting this Fund is a wonderful way to do that. Make your a gift by clicking the button below.


Shawn Swanson & Richard Lee

MedsForAll (formerly EpiForAll), led by UW researchers Shawn Swanson and Richard Lee, is developing a universal and modular auto-injector. Their first upcoming product, the EpinJect, is an affordable epinephrine auto-injector that will be available at lower cost, includes improved safety features, and has a longer device shelf life. The ampule-based device allows for simple replacement of the drug ampule, without the need to replace the entire device. This device is designed to utilize any medication that comes in a glass ampule and requires intramuscular delivery.

MedsForAll won a first-place prize and $15,000 in the UW Buerk Center’s Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge. They then won fourth-place at UW Buerk Center’s Dempsey Startup Competition. The resulting high profile, as well as the award money, expedited product development. The team participated in CoMotion DubPitch in June 2019 to make valuable connections with investors who have the potential to fuel their business.

Artery Mapper

Artery Mapper is a novel device that quickly and accurately locates arteries for procedures such as placing an arterial access line to obtain blood samples. It aims to reduce discomfort to patients, and makes the process easier for the clinician. The device is not only easier to use than ultrasound, but also less expensive so that it could be readily available in every anesthesia cart.

The Artery Mapper team, led by Dr. Sheena Hembrador of the UW School of Medicine, was one of the winners of the Spring 2017 CoMotion Innovation Gap Fund. The team was also chosen by CoMotion as the sole project to represent the University of Washington for the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust Commercialization Initiation Fund. The Murdock Trust and Innovation Gap Fund awarded the Artery Mapper group with a $120,000 award grant to develop a prototype for use with patients to test the feasibility of the device in clinical settings against the current gold standards.

Dr. Sheena Hembrador


Tom Jarboe & Derek Sutherland

CTFusion is a spinoff company from the UW, co-founded by UW researcher Derek Sutherland, that builds on almost 30 years of Department of EnergyNational Science Foundation and the Advanced Research Projects Agency in Energy (ARPA-E) funded research and development. The work is carried out by the University of Washington’s HIT-SI laboratory, led by Professor Tom Jarboe. Founded in 2015, CTFusion  seeks to provide flexible, carbon-free electricity with a focus on the development of economical, magnetic fusion energy based on compact, toroidal plasma configurations. Their technology, imposed-dynamo current drive (IDCD), is able to pursue the most promising variety of fusion to date, steady-state magnetic fusion energy.

The CTFusion team was awarded a CoMotion Innovation Gap Fund award in 2015 to build connections with potential partners and investigate key regulatory issues. CoMotion has helped CTFusion with licensing, building a business case, and negotiating contracts for follow-up funds. They were recently awarded a $3 million grant by the U.S. Department of Energy’s ARPA-E to help it develop the first commercial nuclear fusion reactor on the planet. Their goal is to provide a commercially viable, grid deployable power plant design, given sufficient funding, by the 2030s. They have been featured by ForbesPhys.orgReuters, and IEEE Spectrum.

EarlyEdU Alliance

EarlyEdU Alliance is a program which grew out of a dream of founding director and Primary Investigator Gail Joseph, that aims to improve early childhood education by preparing teachers with relevant, accessible, and affordable teaching materials, coursework and mentorship. Early childhood education has an enormous impact on children’s ability to achieve their full potential. The EarlyEdU Alliance has developed a complete suite of competency-based higher education courses, which are offered both online and offline. They also use a video- sharing and coaching feedback app, Coaching Companion, to give students individualized support.

Their fall 2015 Innovation Gap Fund award fueled the collaboration between the University of Washington’s College of Education, EarlyEdU Alliance and CoMotion and led to developing a business model that distributed financial support between philanthropists, government and other funding agencies. CoMotion innovation managers have also helped them with promotion and licensing. EarlyEdU Alliance is currently supported through 2020 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other sources. Since 2015, 70 institutions of higher education have implemented EarlyEdU Alliance courses and technology.

Gail E. Joseph


Wes VanVoorhis

ParaTheraTech (PTT), led by UW researcher Wes VanVoorhis, is dedicated to research on new Cryptosporidiosis treatment options. Cryptosporidium is a highly infectious diarrhea pathogen and is one of the main causes of death in young calves. The problem can be observed at 30 to 70 percent of the world’s farms.

CoMotion has helped PTT sign a global license agreement to advance new therapies for farm animals through Bayer Animal Health. As part of the license agreement, Bayer will develop and commercialize novel compounds based on knowledge and intellectual property licensed by PTT from the University of Washington. In addition to patent filing and strategy, CoMotion also assisted PTT with a CoMotion Innovation Gap Fund award in 2014, helped with other funding, and supported the company in licensing exclusive rights to the compound.

CoMotion Innovation Gap Fund Video