The first six projects funded by the new Blazer Bridge Fund (BBF) include, among others, potential new therapies for viral infections, designed protein nanopores, AI-based solutions for lung function assessments and a social app for teachers.

The BBF, launched in spring 2023 by the Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (HIIE) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), is intended to identify and assist in the development of promising ideas, discoveries, innovations and/or technologies from UAB faculty and staff that have commercial potential. 

The six projects selected for the first funding round are:

  • Antibiotic-eluting sinus stents, invented by Do-Yeon Cho, M.D., Bradford Woodworth, M.D., and Dong-Jin Lim, Ph.D., all from the Department of Otolaryngology.
  • Designed protein nanopores, invented by Michael Niederweis, Ph.D., and Mikhail Pavlenok, Ph.D., of the Department of Microbiology.
  • Immunotherapeutic targeting of FCRL6, invented by Randall Davis, M.D., of the Division of Hematology and Oncology.
  • Spiromatics: An AI-based Lung Function Solutions Suite, invented by Surya Bhatt, M.D., and Sandeep Bodduluri, Ph.D., of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, and Arie Nakhmani, Ph.D.,Blazer Bridge Fund logo of the School of Engineering.
  • TeaCha, a social app for teachers, invented by Lori Edmonds, Ph.D., of the School of Education.
  • Treatment methods for viral infections, invented by G.M. Anantharamaiah, Ph.D., of the Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care and Kevin Harrod, Ph.D., of the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine.

The BBF brought in 48 applications for the first-ever round of funding. Those 48 applications represented 90 inventors across 34 UAB departments and/or schools. 

“Obviously, UAB boasts a tremendous medical school and very strong departments in the life sciences, so we expected – and received – many excellent proposals from those fields,” said HIIE Director of Licensing and New Ventures Karthik Gopalakrishnan, Ph.D. “We were also thrilled to receive applications from across many campus departments and are happy to award grants to inventors from the School of Medicine, School of Education and the School of Engineering.”
Gopalakrishnan said that interdepartmental collaboration is one of the goals of the BBF, and he believes that the spirit of sharing knowledge across fields is alive and well at UAB.

“We’re seeing inventors working with their peers across departments and even sometimes across schools,” he said, specifically pointing to the Spiromatics proposal. “These concerted efforts can only lead to stronger intellectual property discoveries, which will stand a better chance of making real-world impact.”  

HIIE Executive Director Kathy Nugent, Ph.D., said her team is already gearing up for the next round of BBF funding, expected to be announced later this year or in early 2024.

“We were very pleased with the quality of applications we received for this first round of funding from the Blazer Bridge Fund, and we expect to continue to see strong proposals in response to our next round of funding,” she said. “We are proud to be able to provide funding support and help encourage UAB innovation.”