USC Stevens Institute for Innovation Funds Seven Breakthrough USC Innovations
February 23, 2011
By Ian Murphy
Universal test for cancer detection, groundbreaking new therapies, and a music-based social networking game are among the innovations that could soon spin-out from USC
Wednesday, February 23, 2011 (Los Angeles, CA) – The University of Southern California’s Stevens Institute for Innovation, a university-wide resource that helps USC innovators make maximum impact beyond traditional academic means, today announced it will award $439,000 in gap funding for seven breakthrough USC innovations that have a high potential to spin out within a year or two.
“USC has a long history of innovation and continues to be a rich source for new technologies, companies and jobs,” said Krisztina ‘Z’ Holly, Vice Provost for Innovation at USC and Executive Director of the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation. “Ideas Empowered matches the most exciting and game-changing ideas at USC together with well targeted funding and top level mentoring in order to advance high impact research to the next stage of development and investment.”
The USC Stevens Institute invited more than thirty members of the LA business and entrepreneurial community to review the different proposals and mentor the USC research teams participating in the program. The research teams also participated in idea feasibility analysis and pitch presentation workshops, received guidance on issues ranging from intellectual property to regulatory affairs, and were supported by MBA students coordinated through the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.
“The mentoring we received through the Ideas Empowered program took our proposal to a whole new level,” said Professor Ellis Meng of the Viterbi School of Engineering. “My team is now ready to tackle future funding processes and pave the way for adoption of our idea in the market.”
The Ideas Empowered program is funded, in part, by an influential board of charter members, including James C. Blair, General Partner at Domain Associates; Ken Klein, USC Trustee and President of Wind River; David Lane, General Partner at ONSET Ventures; Andy Rappaport from the Rappaport Family Foundation and a General Partner at August Capital; and Mark Stevens, USC Trustee and General Partner at Sequoia Capital.
46 faculty and student-comprised teams applied to the program when it was announced in the summer of 2010. The field was later narrowed to a small group of finalists and the following will receive funding:
Minimally-invasive universal cancer detection method
Alan Epstein: Keck School of Medicine of USC
Dr. Epstein and his team are developing a new clinical test to detect cancer by measuring Myeloid Suppressor Cells (MSC) in the blood using unique biomarkers displayed in these cells. Using this test, clinicians could measure MSC levels in patients undergoing routine hospital tests to screen for any form of cancer, monitor tumor response to therapy, and detect the spread or reoccurrence of the disease.
Cred.fm – The game you play by sharing the music you love
Chris Swain: USC School of Cinematic Arts
Prof. Swain’s team has developed a music-based social networking game that generates a daily personalized playlist of recommendations from other players (and from the system) that keeps the user on the pulse of music they care about. Cred.fm is a free-to-play game with optional virtual goods that players may purchase.
Light-weight low-cost movement tracking for personalized exercise coaching post-stroke
Maja Mataric: USC Viterbi School of Engineering
Research shows that life-long recovery is possible for most individuals post-stroke, but the supervision and motivation to perform proper exercises is usually lacking. Prof. Mataric and her team are developing light-weight wireless wearable sensors that will make it possible for stroke survivors to undergo rehabilitation in their homes. The system being developed is affordable, comfortable, and convenient so users enjoy exercise while observing significantly improved physical ability.
Novel agents for hair growth and skin care
Michael Kahn: Keck School of Medicine of USC
Dr. Kahn’s team has developed an application that modulates endogenous skin stem cells, which can be applied to treat serious medical issues as well as cosmetic concerns. These agents could have a significant economic impact in both the health care/topical pharmaceuticals industry and the cosmetics industry.
Non-invasive therapy with the potential to cure chronic and recurrent bacterial diseases
Steven Goodman: The Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC
Cumulatively, treatment of chronic or recurrent bacterial infections cost $120 billion a year and includes middle ear infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, urinary tract infections, sinusitis, and many oral diseases. Prof. Goodman and his team are developing a non-invasive therapy that has the potential to cure chronic or recurrent bacterial infections. The team is currently focusing on periodontal (gum) disease as their target.
Tear-based diagnostics for autoimmune eye disease
Sarah Hamm-Alvarez: USC School of Pharmacy
Sjögren’s syndrome (SjS - pronounced as “show-grins”), occurs when the body's immune system attacks the moisture-producing glands in the body. Four million Americans are affected by this chronic autoimmune disease and there are no simple tests for early identification of afflicted patients, which would enable more aggressive treatments. Dr. Hamm-Alvarez and her team are developing low cost tear-based diagnostic test to predict SjS.
High performance fluid synchrony drug micropumps: Delivery of the right dose at the right time
Ellis Meng: USC Viterbi School of Engineering
Chronic medical conditions are primarily managed by drug therapy and the mode of delivery greatly influences therapeutic efficacy. Prof. Meng’s micro technology-enabled platform performs advanced drug delivery not possible with any other current approach; it can deliver a diverse assortment of drugs at the right dose, to the right tissue, and at the right time over the entire course of treatment.
For more information about the Ideas Empowered program visit
About the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation
The USC Stevens Institute for Innovation (www.stevens.usc.edu) is a university-wide resource in the Office of the Provost at the University of Southern California that helps identify, nurture, protect, and transfer to the market the most exciting innovations from USC. It also provides a central connection for industry seeking cutting-edge innovations in which to invest. As part of this role, the USC Stevens Institute manages the university’s intellectual property portfolio stemming from its $560M annual research program. Furthermore, the USC Stevens Institute develops the innovator as well as innovations, through educational programs, community-building events, and showcase opportunities.