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Fast Track Funding Benefits UMSL Optometry

Fast Track Funding Benefits Optometry Research

by: Office of Research Administration Newsletter   March 2016

The UM System piloted the Fast Track Funding Program in 2008 to "enhance the University's research discoveries by moving them further down the commercialization pipeline" resulted in numerous patent applications and license agreements, not to mention more than $1 million raised in research funding and investment capital. With that success, the program was extended and the Vice President for Research and Economic Development has committeed $500,000 for a fifth round of funding. 
UMSL faculty projects have been funded in each round (see chart below) with positive outcomes. Some examples include:
  • preliminary clinical data that helped lead to a license of the technologies behind a non-invasive blood glucose monitor (Dr. Zhi Xu, Chemistry); 
  • a pre-market prototype of an optometricdevice to quantitatively measure visual suppression in kids with amblyopia or "lazy eye" (Dr. Carl Bassi and Michael Howe, Chemistry, Wayne Garver, Physics); and
  • validation studies on a new technology to increase the efficacy of current antibiotics (Dr. George Gokel, Center for Nanoscience). 

Dr. Ed Jarka
Dr. Edward Jarka, Associate Clinical Professor, Optometry
Also, with $46,000 Fast Track funding, Dr. Ed Jarka, Associate Clinical Professor of Optometry, was able to develop both a 1st- and 2nd-generation prototype for his hand-held "Meibomian Gland Treatment Device." The MGTD provides a more efficient, less expensive method to treat meibomian gland dysfunction, the most common cause of evaporative dry eye, than devices currently on the market. "It is estimated that more than 70 million people are or will be affected by dry ocular symptoms," says Jarka.  
The University is filing a provisional patent application and seeking an industry partner to license and commercialize the device.  
The UM Office of Research and Economic Development will provide funding up to $50,000 per proposal to support prospects from each of the UM campuses. Tenured/tenure-track faculty and full-time ranked, non-tenure research faculty are invited to submit proposals. Funding under this program is to allow recipients to focus on development, testing, or prototype construction, and/or conduct specific market research. This evaluation may lead to industry collaboration, licensing, the formation of a new company, or the development of the technology for commercial application. Funds are not to be used for basic research, but to evaluate the commercial potential of existing research. 

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