Designing glass to engineer heart tissue. Creating hubs for hydrogen energy. Delivering cancer treatment to patients in rural areas. These innovations and more could result from a new program designed to support S&T researchers’ big ideas — with small amounts of seed funding.
In its first year, the Kummer Institute invested $500,000 in 17 S&T faculty-led research proposal development projects through the Kummer Ignition Grants for Research and Innovation program.
Ranging from $25,000 to $50,000 per project, these grants support researchers’ efforts to develop compelling proposals for multi-million-dollar grants from federal agencies, foundations and corporations. The program requires principal investigators to submit proposals for at least $500,000 to agencies such as the Department of Energy, National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health.
“Our researchers are searching for solutions to the challenges that face our society, from extending lives with better health care to creating cleaner energy to avert a climate crisis,” says Dr. Kamal Khayat, interim vice chancellor for research and innovation. “S&T researchers appreciate the funding from the Kummer Institute and we anticipate that the investment will pay off many times over in terms of research funding and societal impact.”
As one example, Dr. Yue-wern Huang estimates that his team’s research could ultimately benefit 360,000 newly diagnosed breast cancer patients per year. The team is developing two new drug delivery systems to treat triple-negative breast cancer — an aggressive type of breast cancer that is often difficult to treat.
“Not only does the targeted delivery enhance treatment efficacy, but it also significantly reduces off-target side effects,” says Huang, professor of biological sciences. “By reducing side effects, patients can recover their strength faster and stay on the prescribed treatment regimen for better outcomes.”
Another researcher is hoping that his team’s research will put out fires — quite literally. Dr. Guang Xu, associate professor of mining engineering, is using his Ignition Grant funding for preliminary research into the fire risks of electric vehicle batteries. He used some of his grant funding to host a battery-electric-vehicle fire safety workshop in June for electric vehicle manufacturers and drivers, fire safety experts, and university researchers.
“The chemical products used for making batteries are combustible and bring a new source of fire risks,” Xu says. “We want to develop preparation and mitigation standards to help electric vehicle users, firefighters and others know what to do.”