A wearable ring that detects date rape drugs and desalination technology that uses solar thermal conversion to convert seawater into fresh water are just two of the innovative projects that are being developed through an inaugural University of Hawaiʻi fellowship program.
Launched and managed by the UH Office of Innovation and Commercialization (OIC), Patents2Products is a new and unique program to develop the next generation of technology innovators from within UH’s ranks of PhD candidates and postdoctoral researchers. The systemwide program is part of a $2.4-million grant from the Office of Naval Research.
Through the one-year program, Patents2Products Fellows will receive intellectual property training, technology transfer guidance and industry mentorship to translate innovative ideas into meaningful commercialization opportunities. This program takes what students have learned and researched during their time at UH to make meaningful impacts on the lives of people in many everyday situations.
Utilizing the National Science Foundation I-Corps™ Desert and Pacific Region Hub regional training program, fellows will assess the commercial landscape and leverage the Lean Startup methodology as a development tool for technology maturation, participate in professional development workshops, and engage in networking opportunities to seek future funding and cross-functional collaborations for continued venture development. Each fellow will receive salary compensation, a stipend for research supplies, and have access to state-of-the art facilities and specialized equipment.
“The Patents2Products program is the first-of-its-kind in the State of Hawaiʻi and is designed to mature the readiness level of UH-developed, impact-driven technologies in the blue economy and healthcare sectors,” said Steven Auerbach, interim director of OIC. “The program provides in-depth innovation and entrepreneurship training and experience to help develop the next generation of scientists and technologists to translate their world-class research into impactful, commercial products or services that can improve our everyday lives.”
The inaugural cohort of Patents2Products Fellows and their projects include:
- Project: A Wearable Sensor for Detecting Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault Drugs
Fellow: Kaylee Clark, UH Mānoa postdoctoral researcher
Details: The wearable sensor will be a stylish and functional ring equipped with integrated sensors for personal detection of flunitrazepam (also known as Rohypnol) in beverages to mitigate drug-facilitated assaults.
Faculty sponsor: Tyler Ray, Ray Research Group, Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering and Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM), UH Mānoa
- Project: Body Composition Assessment Technology
Fellow: Jonathan Bennett, UH Mānoa postdoctoral researcher
Details: The technology leverages highly effective obesity models to improve access and use particularly in low-middle-income and rural environments to increase awareness and early detection and intervention of body composition risk factors for obesity.
Faculty sponsor: John Shepherd, UH Cancer Center, UH Mānoa
- Project: eDNA Filtration System
Fellow: Danielle Bartz, UH Mānoa PhD candidate
Details: The eDNA Filtration System allows for the simultaneous filtration of seawater in preparation for environmental DNA (eDNA) analyses to better address ecological questions in aquatic communities.
Faculty sponsor: Timothy Grabowski, Marine Biology Graduate Program, UH Mānoa; Marine Science Department, UH Hilo; and Hawaiʻi Cooperative Fishery Research Unit
- Project: Desalination Technology
Fellow: Suman Chhetri, UH Mānoa postdoctoral researcher
Details: Desalination Technology uses solar thermal conversion to help solve freshwater shortage issues and replace existing energy-intensive processes with sustainable, green technologies for water purification.
Faculty sponsor: Woochul Lee, Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering, UH Mānoa
- Project: Novel Metagenomic Sequencing Technology
Fellow: Min Ki (Carl) Jeon, UH Mānoa PhD candidate
Details: This new technology will help rapidly characterize influenza diversity and dynamics in wastewater to better inform flu vaccine development.
Faculty sponsor: Tao Yan, Water Resources Research Center, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering, UH Mānoa
- Project: Expression Vector System
Fellow: Ludwig Mayerlen, UH Mānoa PhD candidate
Details: The system uses an improved insect cell line to develop a fully customizable product that can be used for the expression of almost any protein and provide high-yield production of vaccine antigens.
Faculty sponsor: Axel Lehrer, Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology, JABSOM, UH Mānoa
- Project: Programmable Genome Insertion Tool
Fellow: Christopher Tran, UH Mānoa PhD candidate
Details:This tool is designed to actively and accurately incorporate DNA into the genome of somatic cells at specific locations to develop clinical therapies that use insertional vectors to treat genetic disease.
Faculty sponsor: Jesse Owens, Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, JABSOM, UH Mānoa
“Our mission for Patents2Products is to educate and empower young talent to develop the necessary skills to ripen and shepherd groundbreaking technologies to the marketplace, and explore new pathways to become STEM leaders of emerging industries of our future,” said Rebecca H. Chung, Patents2Products program lead and OIC associate director, innovation programs. “This exciting opportunity will provide fellows with transdisciplinary training to engage in cross-functional research that will build greater innovation capacity and opportunities.”
OIC will begin recruiting for next year’s cohort in fall 2023. An information session for interested faculty sponsors and applicants will be hosted on November 15, 2023. For updates and more information about the Patents2Products program, visit research.hawaii.edu/patents2products or email firstname.lastname@example.org.