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CoMotion announces Spring 2021 Innovation Gap Fund winners, including a joint award with Population Health

Written by Debra Bouchegnies / June 17, 2021

Winners include a leak sensing “smart paper” platform, a surgical video auto-editing tool, and online support for foster care families

In May, CoMotion ran the first of its twice-yearly cycle of the Innovation Gap Fund. These awards, typically up to $50,000, target research projects within the University that have typically moved beyond the stages of academic research grants but are too risky for private capital. Support in this “valley of death” can be transformational for an innovator as they try to navigate the often difficult early stages of being an entrepreneur.

MicrobiomX, a UW spinoff that developed a medical device that improves gut health, is a recent example. After receiving an Innovation Gap Fund award in 2019, they raised $1 million in pre-seed funding in June.

For the Spring 2021 cycle held in May, 19 University of Washington teams, ranging from life sciences to engineering to social work disciplines, pitched to a panel of entrepreneurs, investors, and business experts. The winning teams, which will use the funds to advance their research and further define their markets, may follow different commercialization paths depending upon their goals: launching a startup, licensing to industry, or offering their innovation directly to the user.

some of the Spring 2021 Innovation Gap Fund winners

Other teams with exciting inventions include “Tuberculosis Treatment Support Tools (TB-TSTs)”, led by Dr. Sarah Iribarren, Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Informatics, which was selected for the Population Health joint award. Another is the Smart Paper team led by Anthony Dichiara, assistant professor in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences’ Bioresource Science and Engineering program in the College of the Environment, which was selected to represent the UW in applying for a Murdock Trust grant.

In addition to the financial awards, the Gap Fund program is also a platform that brings together innovators and investors. The team led by Shiri Levy, a post-doctoral fellow in Hannele Ruohola-Baker’s lab, participated in the Gap Fund where she presented Epi-RNP, a system that allows for precise gene activation via epigenetic remodeling. She was selected for an award, but because of the connections made at DubPitch, she also received an opportunity to launch her startup earlier than expected. As such, she declined the award and will be starting her company soon, where she will continue to develop the technology. Congratulations, Shiri!

The complete list of winners and descriptions of their innovations can be found below. We will be sharing more in-depth stories about each in future blog posts. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn so you don’t miss them!

About the CoMotion Innovation Gap Fund

The CoMotion Innovation Gap Fund is a partnership between CoMotion and the Washington Research Foundation. The fund, which awards grants of up to $50,000 each, is open to any UW innovator who has disclosed their technology to CoMotion, supports research that could attract seed-stage investment or make a societal impact, and has reached the conclusion of academic research grants.

This cycle of the Innovation Gap Fund also included forthcoming awards via a funding track from the Washington Entrepreneurial Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub (WE-REACH), a partnership that provides teaching and funding tools to accelerate the development of therapeutic, device, and diagnostic products to address significant challenges in health. CoMotion provides funding and program support to WE-REACH in sourcing, selecting, and ongoing guidance of the project teams.

Lingga Adidharma, MS4: Semi-Automated Method of Editing Surgical Videos

An AI platform that edits surgical videos down to a highlights reel providing just the critical information to surgeons.

UW Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Resident

Innovation Manager: Ryan Buckmaster, Mentor: Karim Fanous

Dr. Xu Chen: Detecting 3-D Printing Defects

Platform that intelligently detects 3D printing defects in real-time.

Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering [link to bio]

Innovation Manager: Ryan Buckmaster, Mentor: Paul Pomeroy

Dr. Beth Devine: The REAdi Tool

Web-based tool for policymakers to make decisions about drug reimbursements and other health technology adoption.

Professor, Pharmacy; Adjunct Professor, Health Services and Biomedical Informatics and Medical Education; The CHOICE Institute, School of Pharmacy (CHOICE: Comparative Health Outcomes, Policy & Economics) [link to bio]

Innovation Manager: Roï Eisenkot, Mentor: Doug Cusick

Anthony Dichiara, Ph.D.: Smart Paper

A liquid-sensing technology made from “smart” paper that detects leaks, with applications ranging from residential to industrial to research labs.

Assistant professor in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences’ Bioresource Science and Engineering program [link to bio]

Innovation Manager: Forest Bohrer, Mentor: Ozgur Yildirim

Dr. Sarah Iribarren: TB Treatment innovation (Population Health winner)

TB treatment adherence test and companion mobile tool.

Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, Biobehavioral Nursing & Health Informatics [link to bio]

Innovation Manager: Roï Eisenkot, Mentor: George Gosieski

Laura Orlando and Dr. Susan Barkan: Strive Online

An evidence-informed curriculum designed to facilitate quality visits between parents and their children who have been placed in foster care.

Dr. Susan Barkan, Director of Research, Partners for Our Children (P4C), School of Social Work [link to bio]

Laura Orlando, Project Director, Partners for our Children (P4C), School of Social Work [link to bio]

Innovation Manager: Kelly Meinig, Mentor: Chris Crane

Dr. Brian Shirts: ConnectMyVariant

Prevention of hereditary cancer through family history and social networks.

Associate Professor, Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathology, School of Medicine [link to bio]

Innovation Manager: Jennifer McCullar, Mentor: Chandler J. Lewis

Dr. Dong Si: DeepTracer

Protein structure prediction from 3D maps using deep learning yields a more accurate model than existing tools and does so in minutes rather than months.

Assistant Professor, Computing and Software Systems Division of STEM, UW Bothell [link to bio]

Innovation Manager: Laura Dorsey, Mentor: Todd Smith