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The 2nd Annual UTC Fly for Researchers Faculty Pitch Competition will be held from 3:30-5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19, in the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, located in the Mapp Building (410 E. Eighth St.). Click here to register for the event.
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Seeking answers to medical questions was the focus for the Top Three winners of the 2022 Fly for Researchers Faculty Pitch Competition at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
In the competition, Dr. Hamdy Ibrahim, assistant professor in mechanical engineering, won the $20,000 first prize; Dr. David Giles, associate professor in biology, won the $10,000 second prize; and Dr. Erkan Kaplanoglu, associate professor of mechatronics, won the $5,000 third-place prize.
Each has taken steps toward completing their projects, including new collaborators for the research and filing grants for more funds to continue the work.
“While some of these might be less visible to the community, they are equally important to the growing portfolio of commercialization innovation that we are building at UTC,” said Dr. Joanne Romagni, UTC vice chancellor for research and dean of the Graduate School. “UTC research plays a significant role in the community.”
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Hamdy Ibrahim is developing an implant made from a metal alloy that stabilizes broken bones and then is absorbed by the bone once its work is done.
Metals now used—usually titanium or stainless steel—stay in the body for the life of the patient. In some cases, the body attacks the metal as a foreign object, causing infection and pain. In these cases, the implants must be removed surgically.
Working closely with the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, Ibrahim has conducted pilot studies, seeking the most efficient alloys and testing the implants on animals.
He said that data from those studies hopefully will lead to clinical trials on humans. The information already in hand has led to new research collaborations and partnerships.
A grant proposal was submitted to the U.S. Department of Defense and, while they didn’t win the grant, the department has expressed interest in the implants, Ibrahim said.
“We got very positive feedback,” he said.
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David Giles is trying to trick dangerous bacteria into killing themselves.
He has been experimenting with cholera, trying to modify antibiotics that the deadly bacteria will absorb.
He’s currently mixing multiple antibiotics with fatty acids that pathogenic bacteria usually ingest without a problem.
“It’s something that they want, but it’s changing them such that they’re more susceptible to antibody treatment,” explained Giles.
Once the proper mixture of ingredients is found, the pathogen won’t recognize the antibiotic because it’s hidden inside other substances. Giles calls it the “Trojan horse” method.
“We’re surveying all the antibiotics that we can to try to find if there’s what we call a ‘magic cocktail’ of these.”
A major challenge worldwide is finding ways to fight bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and cause such diseases as pneumonia, meningitis and wound infections. Many are found in healthcare settings, he said.
”We need more weapons in our arsenal to attack these bacteria of medical importance,” Giles said. “So we must develop or discover new antibiotics or find new ways to make them vulnerable or kill them.”
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Prosthetics are the specialty of Erkan Kaplanoglu, associate professor of mechatronics and director of the Biomechatronic and Assistive Technology Lab. He is developing a device intended to stop essential tremors in the hand.
Unlike tremors in Parkinson’s disease, which are constant, essential tremors only happen when someone reaches for an item such as a bottle, screwdriver or glass.
Working with researchers from Marmara University in Istanbul, Turkey, Kaplanoglu has made two prototypes of a Smart Essential Tremor Stopper device that fits around the wrist and extends over the top of the hand.
The devices are shaped differently, but each uses magnets as the primary method of suppressing essential tremors, doesn’t limit movement and only operates when tremors occur.
He said the prototypes are being finetuned. The next step will be to test them on full-size robotic hands and then move them to patients at Erlanger Hospital.
Funded in part by the University of Tennessee Research Foundation, Kaplanoglu recently has been featured in the foundation’s “Inventor Spotlight” write-up.
So far, the project has gathered about $40,000 in grants. Kaplanoglu hopes to receive more money from the National Institutes of Health to support undergraduate research on the device.
While the device is directed at essential tremors at this point, it may be adapted for stroke victims or those who have Parkinson’s disease, Kaplanoglu said.
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UTC Fly for Researchers Faculty Pitch Competition 2023
At the upcoming 2nd Annual Fly for Researchers competition on April 19, five finalists will give five-minute presentations followed by up to eight minutes of Q&A from the judges. A panel of local business executives and entrepreneurs will serve as judges for the competition.
Similar to last year, the competition spotlights ideas that have the potential to be commercialized or licensed. A total of $35,000 in internal grants will be awarded—$20,000 for 1st place, $10,000 for 2nd place and $5,000 for 3rd place—and winners will be able to use the money to accelerate the success of their ideas, innovations and commercialization objectives.
In addition, audience members can vote for their choice of the best innovation, with the leading vote recipient winning a $1,000 grant to accelerate commercialization progress. The Audience Choice grant is sponsored by Thomas Lyons, the Clarence E. Harris Chair of Excellence in Entrepreneurship in the Rollins College of Business.
- An innovative method to ease the burdens and costs of construction when using prefabricated sections to build a full-scale house, shortening the process into days instead of weeks.
- Students Andrew Eubanks and Connor Mackey; Dr. Sungwoo Yang, assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Chemical Engineering
Modular and Pneumatically Actuated Balance Platform
- A self-contained, machine-operated platform that uses a wearable device to measure the muscular control of patients with balancing and walking problems due to chronic low back pain or sports-related concussions. Data from the platform can be used to treat the physical issues.
- Dr. Erkan Kaplanoglu, associate professor in the Department of Engineering Management and Technology; Dr. Max Jordon, assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy; Dr. Jeremy Bruce, orthopedic surgeon at Erlanger Hospital; Dr. Ahad Nasab, professor and head of the Department of Engineering Management and Technology
Drone-based Artificial Intelligence System to Detect and Assess Damaged Solar Panels
- A drone-based Artificial Intelligence system will detect and assess damaged solar panels — cracks, corrosion, dust clouds, etc. — to ensure performance and longevity.
- Dr. Abdul Ofoli, UC Foundation associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering; Dr. Vahid Disfani, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering
Audio Quality eXtreme
- A method of adjusting digital audio that improves sound quality, especially with hearing aids, creating a more natural experience for those who wear them.
- Graduate student Joshua Tyler; Dr. Donald Reising, UC Foundation associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering
Clear Insulator For Energy Efficient Windows
- Development of a gel that will be lower in cost, easier to apply and still as energy-efficient when compared to current methods of retrofitting single-paned windows.
- Dr. Sungwoo Yang, assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Chemical Engineering
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Fly for Researchers Judges
- Kristina Montague, managing partner of The JumpFund
- Rebekah Sharpe, founding partner of Transparency Health
- Tasia Malakasis, CEO of CO.LAB