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Science Foundation grants drive research

July 19, 2007

Science Foundation Arizona has made about $2 million in investments to help eight Arizona-based research programs further develop existing research to the point of technology commercialization as part of its 2007 Small Business Catalytic program.

The eight proposals chosen by the expert review panel from 44 submissions include four by ASU faculty members. They are:

• Qiang Hu, a professor in the Department of Applied Biological Sciences, will receive $313,000 to further develop research to increase the productivity and reduce production costs of Astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant for humans and color additive in foods such as meat and fish. The success of this project could lead to the development of a unique manufacturing plant in Arizona that will expand a $350 million annual market to $1.2 billion within the next 10 years.

• John Kouvetakis, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, will receive $270,000 to find an improved, cost-effective and sustainable method for producing high-brightness and energy-efficient lighting and solar applications. The technology will use a buffer layer system invented at ASU to structurally match silicon wafers with nitride-based materials to produce renewable energy systems.

• Wayne Frasch, a professor in the School of Life Sciences, will receive $280,000 to introduce a molecular detection technology that rapidly tests and diagnoses pathogens such as anthrax, E. coli, cancer, forensics, sexually transmitted diseases, avian flu and hospital-acquired infections. The ultra-rapid identification technology has the potential to transform the detection and diagnostics industry.

• Trevor Thornton, the director of ASU’s Center for Solid State Electronics Research, will receive $215,000 to introduce a new, cost-effective option for companies that require high-voltage, high-speed integrated circuits. Honeywell will be a partner with ASU on the project.

The purpose of the program, which focuses on making “seed” investments in innovation that could have high-impact commercial outcomes, is to create a catalyst for technology development, company formation and high-tech job creation in Arizona.

“The research funded by our Small Business Catalytic program has great commercialization potential, a key component in Arizona’s efforts to grow an economy rooted in knowledge and innovation,” says William Harris, president and chief executive officer of Science Foundation Arizona. “These projects will bring new patents to Arizona researchers with the ultimate goal of forming spin-off companies that create new jobs for Arizonans.”

The selected proposals are wide-ranging, including research in medical technologies, information technologies and renewable energy, among other areas. To be successful for funding, the proposals had to demonstrate positive impacts to the local institutions and the state. Additionally, all businesses grown from seed funding are required to remain in the state.

The Small Business Catalyst grants represent part of the initial investment strategy from the foundation, which intends to help build a world-class science, engineering and medical research infrastructure in Arizona by investing in highly innovative research and education programs.