FSU internal investment program helps faculty move from lab to market

Improved ceramics manufacturing, breakthrough medical screening tests and a more convenient way to detect nuclear particles earned funding from the latest round of a Florida State University program that helps researchers bring their work to the marketplace.

FSU’s Office of the Vice President for Research awarded more than $167,000 to faculty members to continue research projects that could become commercial ventures as part of the Spring 2022 GAP Commercialization Investment Program. The university has awarded $3.5 million in funding and signed 20 license agreements for technologies developed through the program since its inception in 2006.

“By developing projects with commercial potential, FSU faculty can broaden the impact of their research,” said Interim Vice President for Research Mark Riley. “GAP offers researchers additional support as they partner with businesses and move their work into the marketplace.”

The funded projects are:

An environmentally friendly way to manufacture ceramic composites:
Ceramic composites are used in such high-performance applications as engine components and space vehicle re-entry, but their manufacturing takes lots of time and energy to make high-quality materials that are resistant to cracking. A proposal from Rebekah Sweat, an assistant professor in the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, will incorporate thin nanotubes in the materials to help to relieve stresses that can cause cracking from thermal shock during manufacturing. The research could speed up the production process and increase the service life of these parts.

A molecular test to determine patient response to steroids before therapy:
Steroids are used to treat a variety of medical issues, and millions of prescriptions are filled in the United States each year. Treatment can last for months or years, and it is unclear before treatment begins how well patients will respond. Akash Gunjan, an associate professor in the College of Medicine, has developed a screening test that uses RNA sequences to determine whether patients are likely to respond positively to a steroid regimen before they begin treatment.

New neutron detector technology:
Defense facilities, nuclear power plants and border crossings use neutron detectors to ensure safety around nuclear material. Current detectors include high-pressure gas tubes. They are heavy, cumbersome and expensive to use and transport.

Zhibin Yu, an associate professor in the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, has developed a new detector technology that uses a thin film to respond to neutrons. This compact, flexible and lightweight solution could be especially useful for portable neutron detectors. 

A diagnostic test for colorectal carcinoma:
Cancer killed around 10 million people in the world in 2020. In addition to the sickness and death caused by cancer, the disease creates an enormous economic burden. The key to eliminating its personal and financial costs lies in early detection, but standard measures of cells can’t show the potential for colon polyps to become cancerous.

Associate Professor of Biological Science Jonathan Dennis has identified a new way to test for this disease. His lab’s assay can show how sensitive a nucleosome is to a specific enzyme, which should offer an indication of the likelihood that a polyp will lead to cancer.

For more information about the GAP competition, visit the FSU Office of Commercialization.