GAP funding paves the way for research to move from lab to market

Four projects awarded funding from the Penn State Research Foundation

May 21, 2024

Editor’s note: A version of this article was first published on Penn State News. 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Four projects were recently awarded Penn State Commercialization GAP funding. The GAP Fund, formerly known as the Fund for Innovation, aims to accelerate the development of promising research across the University by closing the funding gaps between proof-of-concept research and readiness for commercialization.  

“We are thrilled to support such innovative research that can make the transition from lab to market, creating a wave of impact locally and globally,” said Andrew Read, senior vice president for research at Penn State and president of the Penn State Research Foundation that provides GAP grants. “We want to congratulate all of the winners and encourage our research community to take advantage of opportunities, such as the GAP Fund, to strengthen the impact of their research.” 

Out of 24 proposals, four projects were awarded grants, with one project receiving matching funds from the College of Medicine.   

Here are this year’s funded projects with summaries:  

“Recycling and Cullet Compatibility of LionGlass” — John Mauro, the Dorothy Pate Enright Professor of Materials Science and Engineering  

The global glass industry produces over 86 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. More than 90% of this carbon footprint results from the production of soda lime silicate glass. There is an unmet need to develop a new type of glass that can ultimately lead to sustainable glass. Mauro’s proposal addresses questions related to recycling LionGlass, as well as its compatibility as cullet, which is broken glass byproduct made during manufacturing that can be applied in the production of other products. The research questions are how to efficiently sort LionGlass versus more traditional soda lime silicate glass cullet in consumer recycling streams, and how to design a soda lime cullet-compatible version of LionGlass to ease glass manufacturers’ transition to LionGlass.  

“Safe and sustainable replacements for Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances (PFAS) coatings on textiles” — Jeffrey Catchmark, professor of agricultural and biological engineering and of bioethics  

Materials such as natural and synthetic textiles and fabrics used to make numerous everyday products such as clothing, carpets, furniture and other household, automotive and military products have been substantially improved using fluorine-containing fluorocarbon chemicals for their superhydrophilicity. However, these materials are nonbiodegradable and have a significant environmental polluting effect that represents a threat to human, animal and plant health.   

Catchmark proposed a treatment using sustainable, non-toxic, biodegradable hydrocarbon surfactants to replace fluorocarbons. The treatment, which he said employs chemistries safe enough to consume or be applied directly to the skin, has been successfully demonstrated on cotton and nylon and has created superhydrophobic surfaces that are also oil resistant. The treatment is also more cost effective than fluorocarbons.  

“Citrate-based Intracanalicular Implants for Treatment of Cataract Surgery Induced Inflammation” — Seth Pantanelli, professor of ophthalmology, and Yan Su, assistant research professor of biomedical engineering  

The high and increasing instance of cataract surgery, the most performed invasive ambulatory procedure in the United States with 3.7 million surgeries annually, necessitates effective methods of treating post-operative inflammation and microbial infection to ensure patient satisfaction.  

Pantanelli and Su’s proposal focused on an intracanalicular implant solution, an implant inserted into a small passageway in the eye, to mitigate the complications of post-cataract surgery. It concurrently releases anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative and anti-infectious agents for the four-week treatment window, fully degrading within eight weeks. This post-cataract surgery complication prevention and treatment received matching support from the College of Medicine’s Center for Medical Innovation.  

“Proof-of-Concept Development of Biocompatible and Biodegradable Synthetic Brochosomes” Tak Sing Wong, professor of mechanical engineering and of  biomedical engineering  

Titanium dioxide (TiO2) makes a pigment that imparts whiteness and opacity to a wide range of products, including cosmetics, paints, coatings, plastics, paper and inks. However, the use of TiO2 has been banned in Europe because it can cause DNA damage. This ban could lead to a global impact in a billion-dollar market.  

Wong has proposed the use of biodegradable and biocompatible polymers to synthesize synthetic brochosomes intricately structured microscopic granules secreted by leafhoppers and typically found on their body surface and, more rarely, eggs and how to engineer their optical scattering properties to create whitening agents that outperform titanium dioxide.  

“Bringing breakthrough technology from the lab to the market is essential to creating tangible societal impact and improving people's lives,” Wong said.  

The GAP funding program is overseen by the Office of Technology Management — which is responsible for managing, protecting and licensing the intellectual property of faculty, graduate students and staff at all Penn State locations. The Penn State Research Foundation provides most of the GAP grants. Grants of up to $75,000 per team, per year, can be requested, and additional funding may be issued on a case-by-case basis from areas such as the Office of Senior Vice President for Research. Colleges and external partners are invited to match and support projects. 

The program also goes beyond financial support. Principal investigators have opportunities to network with experienced mentors, advisers and industry partners who can provide guidance and expertise throughout the commercialization journey.  

“I am incredibly grateful to be practicing at an institution that has all of the resources required to get a new idea from bench to bedside,” said Pantanelli, who is also the vice chair of clinical research in the Department of Ophthalmology at Penn State Health. 

To learn more about the RFP process, visit the Penn State Research website. The next round of submissions will open in fall 2024 for 2025 funding. For questions, email or call the Office of Technology Management at 814-865-6277.


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