The year 2016 marked the University of Maryland’s (UMD) second consecutive year of record-breaking research funding and more groundbreaking discoveries and innovations. University researchers tackled challenges related to cybersecurity, health, energy, and information management, developing inventions with potential for global impact to benefit humanity and our environment.
The most promising new inventions will be honored at "Innovate Maryland," a special Celebration of Innovation and Partnerships on April 12, 2017, as part of the University of Maryland’s "30 Days of EnTERPreneurship." This year’s event will mark the 30th anniversary of UMD’s Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) and the Invention of the Year Awards. Student entrepreneurs, Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) company of the year, and corporate connectors will also be recognized.
"As the state’s flagship institution, the University of Maryland is uniquely positioned to impact Maryland’s economy through our robust community of inventors, entrepreneurs, innovators, and partners," said Julie Lenzer, UMD associate vice president of innovation and economic development and co-director of UM Ventures. Lenzer joined the university in December 2016 to lead innovation-based economic development efforts after a two-year appointment as director of Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. "We look forward to showcasing the powerful innovation taking place on campus and building on our entrepreneurial DNA to unleash more of it out into the world."
Each year, UMD honors exceptional inventions that have the potential to make an important impact on science, society, and the free market. A total of nine Invention of the Year award nominees have been named across three categories: Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, and Information Sciences. One invention from each category will be selected to win the Invention of the Year Award.
The nominees were selected from the vast number of innovations produced by UMD’s faculty and students in 2016. Last year was a record-breaking year for OTC, with 10 new startups created, 39 U.S. patents and 22 new technology licenses issued, and a total of 195 invention disclosures received.
This year’s nominees in the Physical Sciences category are:
"Roving Comforter (RoCo): A Personal Cooling and Heating Device"
A group of researchers at UMD has invented a personalized heating and cooling device that can follow a person and heat or cool them as necessary. The device has the potential to cut energy costs significantly in large buildings by using air conditioning and heat more effectively tailored to individuals, rather than the entire space.
"Electrical Actuation of Cellular Gene Expression"
The U.S. biotherapeutics industry is one of the world's most robust and innovative industries, owing to the longstanding ability to make protein-based therapeutics at large scale using engineered cells. As we progress toward precision medicine, wherein drugs and their sites of delivery vary among patients, there is increased need to be able to synthesize and control protein production at the microscale using innovative devices. UMD researchers in the A. James Clark School of Engineering and the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research (IBBR) have helped address these challenges with a new invention that places transgene expression under the control of microelectronics. The system can be programmed, just like we program wearable devices; it can be turned on and off via electrical circuitry.
"Wireless Power Delivery to Moving Targets"
Wireless power transfer across short distances has demonstrably been mastered, but transferring power wirelessly over longer distances beyond a few centimeters remains impractical and difficult to achieve. A group of UMD researchers has discovered a potentially viable solution that will allow energy to be transmitted to a moving target using time-reversed electromagnetic signals. A power source sends weak signals over a variety of trajectories. These signals converge at one instant to deliver a large burst of power only on the target location that will use the energy to charge the battery of a mobile device.
The nominees in the Life Sciences category are:
"Antifungal Oral and Topical Treatment for Thrush in Cancer and HIV Patients"
Immunocompromised individuals, particularly HIV-positive individuals and cancer patients, are highly predisposed to oral candidiasis, a fungal infection commonly known as thrush. This infection tends to be chronic with no feasible therapeutic strategy for its prevention. Using natural, host-produced antimicrobial peptides as a blueprint, a UMD research team developed novel peptides with potent antifungal activity and a feasible bioadhesive hydrogel-based delivery system for the peptides designed for oral topical application. The efficacy and therapeutic applicability of the formulation as a prophylactic agent was established in vivo in a mouse model of oral candidiasis.
"Rotavirus and Norovirus Dual Vaccine"
The World Health Organization estimates that up to two million people die each year due to infections from gastrointestinal viruses like rotavirus and norovirus. These viruses are a primary cause of life-threatening illness in infants and young children. A UMD researcher is developing a recombinant oral vaccine capable of inducing protective responses that restrict the growth of rotaviruses and noroviruses in the gut. This innovation will not require physicians to introduce another vaccine into the childhood immunization regimen, as the combined rotavirus-norovirus dual vaccine can be administered in place of the current rotavirus vaccine.
"Anti-Aging Skin Care Solution"
The worldwide skin care market is growing rapidly, and even now beauty departments in stores are flooded with a myriad of skin care products claiming to reverse the effects of aging. However, currently there is no reliable, ethical, and cost-effective method of testing the true effectiveness of skin care products. This may change with a new platform developed by a UMD researcher. The invention uses 3D-bioprinting to create reconstructed human skin, which can be used to effectively and inexpensively test skin care products with no ethical or health concerns.
The nominees in the Information Sciences category are:
With the explosive growth of technology use, temporal event data is being recorded more than ever before, but that information is difficult to manage and analyze. A research team at UMD has invented a prescriptive analytics system that analyzes event sequences and presents a personalized action plan with a probability of success, based on past histories of similar people, such as cancer patients who want to know how previous patients did with their treatments and what side effects they experienced. The technology has the potential to be applied to student advising, medical treatment formulation, marketing interventions, and many other similar uses.
"Cyber Disruption Index and Framework"
Cybersecurity disruptions are a fact of life, but it can be difficult to fully understand the implications and severity of these disruptions. A UMD research group has created a method to qualify and quantify cyber disruptions by taking into account three characteristics: scope, magnitude, and duration. These three dimensions can be measured and graphed to compare the disruptiveness of various cyber events in order to better understand the implications of the disruptions.
"Low-Cost Commodity Camera Array for Acquiring Virtual Environments"
The virtual reality and augmented reality industries are growing rapidly, but content generation struggles to keep up because of the high cost of imaging equipment and the difficulty of capturing high quality images. To address this issue, a research team at UMD has invented a low-cost camera array that can capture a realistic environment in high-quality detail. Sixteen cameras are arranged in a hexagonal shape in order to capture images as the eye sees them, and the arrangement can be tiled to capture a larger area at one time. The invention team includes: Professor of Computer Science Amitabh Varshney, who is currently on leave from his role as director of UMIACS to serve as UMD interim vice president for research; College of Information Studies graduate student Mukul Agarwal; computer science graduate student and UMIACS research assistant Ruofei Du; and electrical engineering and UMIACS research assistant Corey Ferrick.
To learn more about the University of Maryland’s "30 Days of EnTERPreneurship," visit: http://www.umd.edu/30Days/.
February 21, 2017