Bringing basic science to market

Brenda Russell Photo: Kathryn Marchetti

Brenda Russell founded Cell Habitats. UIC Photo Services

Seven startups that sprang from UIC research are included in a nationwide list featured in a report by the Science Coalition, a group representing the top 55 U.S. universities in research activity.

Named a White House “Champion for Change” earlier this year, physics professor Siva Sivananthan established EPIR Technologies to build on his research on technology that transforms light into electricity.

EPIR Technologies played an important role in the development of night-vision technology that helps the U.S. military protect against terrorism.

Sivananthan believes the same technology can make Illinois a major player in the development of solar energy. His basic research was supported by grants from the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

The College of Business Administration helps foster commercial success through its Technology Ventures course, which matches MBA students with UIC researchers developing technologies with commercial potential.

One of its successes is Texas-based OrthoAccel Technologies Inc. OrthoAccel began as a project between MBA students and Jeremy Mao, then director of UIC’s Tissue Engineering Laboratory, whose research led to a device that shortens orthodontic treatment.

Mobitrac, a startup founded by Ouri Wolfson, Richard and Loan Hill professor of computer science, produces advanced fleet management software based on Wolfson’s research on moving objects databases.

National Institutes of Health grants helped fund the science behind Cell Habitats, a biotech company that develops microdevices to mimic stem cell activity leading to regeneration of normal healthy tissue, said Brenda Russell, professor emerita of physiology and biophysics.

“They fool the heart into thinking there’s a new stem cell there,” Russell said.

“I would like to bring the science from basic research in our university lab all the way to be able to help patients repair their worn heart when they’re in heart failure. You need a company to commercialize that.”  

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