CoMotion Innovation Gap Fund Awardees

The CoMotion Innovation Gap Fund has been helping UW research teams for more than a decade. Our mission is to fund and support projects with a high chance of making an impact but are unlikely to get there without gap funding. It helps technologies transition between the conclusion of academic research grants and achieving the level of development where they can attract seed-stage private investment.

Since 2005, over $15.6 million has been awarded to 325 teams in 70 different departments resulting in 102 new startups who have raised over $5 billion in investment. Awards have also resulted in 25 licenses to existing companies and 14 direct-to-user UW programs.

CoMotion Innovation Gap Fund Awardees – Fall 2022

This fall, eight teams competing in life sciences and engineering received a full $50,000 award, three teams received a $10,000 customer discovery support award, and two teams received a $5,000 customer discovery support award. Learn more about them and the vital work they are doing below.

Principal Investigator (PI)
  • Mo Li, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Team Members
  • Bingzhao Li
  • Qixuan Lin
Mentors
  • Luyu Yang
Innovation Manager
  • Forest Bohrer

LiDAR is a high-resolution 3D imaging technology used for many machine vision applications. It relies on mechanical scanners, which are bulky, fragile, and expensive, preventing greater adoption of LiDAR. Quantum Beam is a novel acousto-optic beam steering and frequency-angular resolving chip-based LiDAR system that is compact and low-cost to manufacture, which opens many new applications.

Principal Investigator (PI)
  • Benjamin Freedman, Nephrology
Team Members
  • Erica Jonlin
  • Randy Fennel
  • Max Frank
  • Hongxia Fu
Mentors
  • Todd Smith
Innovation Manager
  • Frieda Chan

Plurexa has developed the human MiniKidney™ platform, which recreates features of the kidneys to model disease in a petri dish. MiniKidney has enabled the discovery of a new therapeutic approach for treating polycystic kidney disease that results in kidney failure, which affects millions of patients worldwide and remains uncured.

Principal Investigator (PI)
  • Ryan Jense, Mechanical Engineering
  • Per Reinhall, Mechanical Engineering
Team Members
  • Yifang Hou
  • Haonan Peng
  • Yunhan Wang
  • Jack Wu
  • Jiaqi Yao
  • Tintin Zhang
Mentors
  • Jon Eddy
  • Matt Vasey
Innovation Manager
  • Judy Bridges

Blood pressure is a key metric; even a few minutes of abnormal levels can result in life-threatening outcomes in surgery or ICU care. The only high-accuracy, real-time solution is highly invasive atrial lines that many at-risk patients cannot receive. The Pressurge team is developing a novel noninvasive solution using deep learning and ECG and PPG signals to accurately determine blood pressure in real time.

Principal Investigator (PI)
  • Sarah Kolnik, Pediatrics
Team Members
  • Ulrike Mietzsch
  • Pierre D. Mourad
  • Tommy R. Wood
Mentors
  • Mike Blume
Innovation Manager
  • Jennifer McCullar

Brain injury in term and preterm babies most commonly results from acute or chronic hypoxic ischemia, leading to lifelong injury such as cerebral palsy, but current monitors do not accurately measure brain oxygenation due to the differences in adult and neonate physiology, resulting in missed opportunities for critical interventions. This team is developing a monitor with additional probes and an algorithm to account for neonates’ changing physiology to give clinicians accurate and actionable information.

Principal Investigator (PI)
  • Joshua Smith, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Team Members
  • Jared Nakahara
  • Nadya Peek
Mentors
  • Mark Kotzer
Innovation Manager
  • Forest Bohrer

Current mixing technologies used by countless biology labs rely on manual and robotic physical based methods; sample loss and poor mixing result in poor yields and inaccurate results. The Levity robotic liquid mixing system helps academic labs, biotechnology firms, and pharmaceutical companies increase their chemistry process yield by thoroughly mixing reactants together and preventing the loss of costly sample material by using cutting-edge acoustic levitation systems to perform non-contact sample mixing and containment.

Principal Investigator (PI)
  • Jonathan Reichel, Laboratory Medicine
Team Members
  • Gavin Ha
  • Swati Shree
Mentors
  • Terri Butler
  • Jon Eddy
  • Hana Gage
Innovation Manager
  • Jennifer McCullar

This team has developed a simple, noninvasive platform for liquid biopsy to help every patient and doctor by classifying disease characteristics in nearly real time. This improves the health outcomes associated with disease compared to existing standards of care.

Principal Investigator (PI)
  • David Baker, Biochemistry
Team Members
  • Goncalo Bernardes
  • Derrick Hicks
  • Daniel Silva Manzano
  • Jilliane Perkins
Mentors
  • Gregory Qushair
Innovation Manager
  • Dennis Hanson

This lab uses computational protein design to make a class of proteins called minibinders, which binds the same cancer targets as antibodies but at a fraction of the size. This work has created minibinder-drug conjugates, which we believe will be safer and more effective than the corresponding ADCs.

Principal Investigator (PI)
  • Michael Bailey, Applied Physics Laboratory
Team Members
  • Adam Maxwell
Mentors
  • Jessica Urban
Innovation Manager
  • Lisa Norton

Kidney stones are deadly for many pets, where the options are either a risky and expensive surgery or to euthanize the animal. We have developed an accessory for existing ultrasound machines that safely breaks up kidney stones, allowing them to pass. It’s undergoing human approvals that with a small investment can be adapted for animal use to make veterinary kidney stone treatment safe and routine.

Principal Investigator (PI)
  • Sawyer Fuller, Mechanical Engineering
Team Members
  • Daksh Dhingra
  • Vikram Iyer
  • Yash Talwekar
Mentors
  • Marty Levine
Innovation Manager
  • Forest Bohrer

Accurate motion capture requires expensive, bulky camera systems to capture the position of objects. This innovation is a dime-sized low-power sensor able to provide comparable motion and position accuracy for physical therapy, VR, and many other applications in sports. This technology untethers motion capture to track every step a runner takes, every throw of a baseball or swing of a tennis racket, providing basic data that could turn a smartphone into a personalized sports coach.

Principal Investigator (PI)
  • Bruce Hinds, Materials Science and Engineering
Team Members
  • Barry Fulkerson
  • Yushi Zang
Mentors
  • Jonathan Kagle
Innovation Manager
  • Roi Eisenkot

Kidney dialysis patients have only a 40% five-year survival rate, in part due to heart-damaging toxins that current dialyzer membranes cannot remove. This team has discovered a novel removal method for toxins that can be easily incorporated into conventional dialysis machines, greatly improving the longevity and quality of life of dialysis patients.

Principal Investigator (PI)
  • Christoph Hofstetter , Neurosurgery
Team Members
  • James Pan
  • Natalie Yap
Mentors
  • Gregory Paley
Innovation Manager
  • Laura Dorsey

Current routine post-operative follow-up for spine surgery is based on paper forms, making it resource- and labor-intensive as well as difficult for healthcare providers to assess after surgery. SpineHealthie is a smartphone app which makes it easy for patients to report their post-surgical progress, allowing providers to instantaneously communicate with and track patient’s progress and eliminating the in-person post-operative visit, which saves time and money. It uses large-scale data to build a dynamic community so that patients can know how they are doing in real time.

Principal Investigator (PI)
  • Feng Zhang, Radiology
Team Members
  • Zhiquan Shu
  • Karim Valji
Mentors
  • Terri Butler
Innovation Manager
  • Shamim Shonibare

Liver cirrhosis, which causes more than 1.3 million deaths annually, can be effectively treated with a carefully placed shunt. Even in the US only 7% of patients receive this life-saving intervention due to the extreme difficulty and risk of the procedure. This team is developing a new device for performing the procedure that greatly increases the success rate and reduces the training needed, making this life-saving procedure widely available.

Principal Investigator (PI)
  • Devin MacKenzie, Materials Science and Engineering
Team Members
  • Oliver Nakano-Baker
  • Richard Lee
  • Shalabh Shukla
Mentors
  • Ian Hameroff
Innovation Manager
  • Forest Bohrer

State-of-the-art tests for infectious disease (swabs, cultures, and blood tests) are invasive and expensiv, and often take days, resulting in decisions by observation and the overuse of antibiotics, which drives a growing medical crisis of antibiotic resistance. Odo is a microchip-based sensor platform that uses a biology-inspired mechanism to enable a new, powerful type of artificial nose, or eNose. The sensor will instantly and noninvasively detect, based on the smell of human breath, diseases such as respiratory viruses, bacterial infections, certain cancers, diabetic ketoacidosis, and epileptic seizures.

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