SPROUT program distributes $50,000 in grants for innovative research

The program attracted a group of applicants with a diverse range of lab-based innovations

The 2015 Brandeis SPROUT Program recently completed a successful fifth year. Funded by the Office of the Provost and the Office of Technology Licensing (OTL), SPROUT promotes entrepreneurship in science and technology amongst the Brandeis community. A total of $50,000 was dispersed amongst the most promising innovations.

This year, SPROUT attracted a group of applicants with a diverse range of lab-based innovations. Finalists were invited to the inaugural weekend bootcamp for “crash course coaching.” Panelists and mentors experienced in business, science, marketing, and entrepreneurship coached applicants on their proposals.

“Bootcamp was highly beneficial. We learned to shift our focus toward making our proposal more potentially profitable, flexible, and ergonomic,” said Nate Miska, bootcamp participant and award recipient.

SPROUT also attracted a number of Brandeis alumni to mentor, present, and/or judge. Eric Furfine, chief scientific officer at Eleven Biotherapeutics and Brandeis Biochemistry Alumni (PhD, 1988), has been involved in the SPROUT Program for the last 5 years as the chair of the judging panel and mentor.

“I think it is exciting that Brandeis continues to drive the research at the university into potential practical applications and stimulates students, postdocs, and faculty to expand their thinking in this area,”said Furfine on his continuous involvement. Furfine also noted the consistent improvement of the applications over the years.

SPROUT concluded in May with final presentations before a panel of judges comprised of independent, outside advisors from biotech and pharmaceutical industries, and investment companies.  Seven teams were awarded funding, owing to the high degree of innovation, commercial significance and future potential of the proposals.

Neuroscience graduate students Tim Lauer and Nate Miska,with Foster Research Labs Director Rebecca Chafel Miska were awarded a $4,000 grant to construct a new rodent housing module that could help researchers more efficiently analyze mammalian behavior.

“I really enjoyed talking with and learning from the judges and OTL staff,” said Lauer. “Also, the hands on nature of the program and openness of mentors and other participants made the process more efficient and more fun.”

Other winners include:

Research into effectively generating antibodies against the HIV virus led by Associate Professor Isaac Krauss and graduate student Sebastian Temme received a $10,000 grant.

Research into enzyme USP9x led by Professor Lizbeth Hedstrom with research scientist Ann Lawson and graduate student Yuntao Shin received a $5,000 grant.

The lab of Professor Emeritus KC Hayes, which recently found special diet fibers that prevented the clinical signs of type 2 diabetes, received a $15,000 award for further research.

A team led by neuroscience graduate student Yasmin Escobedo Lozoya from the lab of Professor Sacha Nelson received $5,000 to make modifications to a brain slicer. Lozoya's team includes Brandeis Machine Shop operator Francisco Mello and electrical engineer Matt McNeely.

The research team led by Professor Daniel Oprian with graduate students Benjamin Morehouse and William Schiff and undergraduate Karan Malik was awarded $9,000 for research into using bacterial cells to generate the anticancer drug paclitaxel.

Professor Bing Xu and graduate students Xuewen Du and Jie Zhou were awarded $2,000 for research into phosphatase responsive magnetic nanoparticles for selective cancer cell capture and cancer detection.

Along with Rebecca Menapace, associate provost and executive director of the Office of Technology Licensing at Brandeis, the panel of judges included William T. Desmarais, Ph.D.’02, director on Eli Lilly and Company’s Global External R&D team; Ann DeWitt, senior director of investments, Sanofi-Genzyme BioVentures; Meredith Fisher, director at Bracebridge Capital, LLC;  Eric Furfine, chief scientific officer at Eleven Biotherapeutics; Melissa Hunter-Ensor, partner, Saul Ewing LLP; Tom Ittelson, principal, Mercury Group; and Irena Ivanovska, director, Celdara Medical. 

More information on SPROUT, including information about the panel of judges and previous grant winners, can be found on the program's website.

Categories: Research, Science and Technology, Student Life

Return to the BrandeisNOW homepage