Wayne State University's MTRAC Program Invests $494,000 to Accelerate Innovation in Biomedical Technologies

MEDC LogoDETROIT - Aimed at stimulating the growth of biomedical technologies developed by Wayne State University (WSU) research teams, the WSU Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization program (MTRAC) has awarded nearly $500,000 to five technologies with high commercial potential. In partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation's (MEDC) Entrepreneurship & Innovation initiative, award recipients receive access to funding, mentoring, and market and business development support through the MTRAC program.

"The technologies from our research teams have demonstrated the capabilities to fill unmet needs in healthcare, biomaterials and healthcare information technology," said Joan Dunbar, Ph.D., associate vice president of technology commercialization at Wayne State University. "With programs such as MTRAC, our university researchers are proving to be key assets to the Michigan economy as they display the talent and innovative solutions needed to further advance innovative technology solutions across the healthcare market."

Projects receiving up to $100,000 in funding include:

  • "Imaging Agent for Early Monitoring of Immune Activation," Heather M. Gibson, Ph.D., assistant professor of oncology, School of Medicine and Karmanos Cancer Institute, and Nerissa T. Viola, Ph.D., assistant professor of oncology, School of Medicine and Karmanos Cancer Institute. This project aims to develop a novel, non-invasive immunopositron emission tomography (immunoPET) tracer to monitor cancer patients' response to immunotherapy drugs. Anticipated total: $99,502.
  • "Lipid Nanoparticles of Potent Antibiotics for Reversal of Drug Resistance of Superbug Infections," Arun Iyer, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. This project will develop, test and validate liposome encapsulation for overcoming drug resistance in drugs used for treating the superbug infection, MRSA. Anticipated total: $100,000.
  • "Biological Engineered Blood Vessels Strengthened with Skin Matrix," Mai T. Lam, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering, College of Engineering. The project aims to develop a new biological graft using a patient's own cells that will replace those damaged by disease. Anticipated total: $94,346.
  • "Smart Insulin Technology," Zhiqiang Cao, Ph.D., associate professor of chemical engineering, College of Engineering. This project aims to prove the feasibility of using a novel smart insulin to correct diabetes. Anticipated total: $100,000.
  • "Raman Probe for Neurosurgery," Gregory Auner, Ph.D., professor of surgery and biomedical engineering, School of Medicine and College of Engineering, and Michelle Brusatori, associate research professor of surgery and biomedical engineering, School of Medicine and College of Engineering. The project aims to develop and test surgical Raman spectroscopy probes for use in brain surgery to provide real-time identification of residual tumor cells, a valuable benefit as missing the removal of tumor cells can result in recurrence. Anticipated total: $100,000.

Awards are granted to recipients through a competitive selection process beginning with the potential for product commercialization and the incorporation of advanced technology to address a clinical need. Through WSU's MTRAC program, teams achieve critical milestones that remove potential research risks that arise on the path to commercial advancement with licensing, additional funding and prototype development. After recipients are granted funding, supported by oversight committee — made up of industry professionals, technology transfer experts and members of the venture capital community — serve as program mentors to oversee and advise on the progression of each project.

To date, the WSU MTRAC program has received 53 proposals, funded 13 technologies, resulting in the creation of three startups, 10 jobs, 2 licenses to industry and nearly $5 million in follow-on funding.

"We are committed to the growth and diversification of the entrepreneurial ecosystem across the state, and through collaboration with our universities, industry and venture capital professionals, we have created a pipeline of translational research support, industry engagement, and technological advancement," said Denise Graves, university relations director at the MEDC. "Engaging in the early stages of university technologies reinforces our commitment to advancing Michigan's economy and spurring innovative product commercialization."

MEDC's Entrepreneurship & Innovation initiative establishes Michigan as the place to create and grow a business by providing high-tech start-up companies with access to a variety of critical resources, such as funding and expert counsel, from ideation to maturation. For more on MEDC Entrepreneurship & Innovation, visit https://www.michiganbusiness.org/services/entrepreneurial-opportunity/.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state's marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan's economy. For more information on the MEDC and our initiatives, visit www.MichiganBusiness.org. For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at www.michigan.org. Join the conversation on: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.


Wayne State University is one of the nation's pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit http://www.research.wayne.edu.

Contact info

Julie O'Connor

Director, Research Communications
Phone: 313-577-8845
Email: julie.oconnor@wayne.edu