Six UO awards to help build Oregon's economic pipeline

EUGENE, Ore. -- (Jan. 9, 2009) -- The University of Oregon expanded the pipeline for new Oregon businesses this week by awarding six grants totaling $191,849 to help six promising innovations make the first critical steps toward commercialization.

UO physicist Jolinda Smith makes devices in her workshop at the UO Lewis Center for Neuroimaging that help scientists push the limits of brain-imaging technology. A donor-funded grant is helping Smith and UO engineer Clifford Dax take the next step in commercializing a novel MRI coil.

The awards come from the UO's University Venture Development Fund, a tax-incentive program created in 2007 by the Oregon Legislature to help realize the commercial potential of research at state universities. So far, the UO has awarded a dozen grants totaling $449,857.

The gifts fund six projects:


  • $30,000 to advance work by chemistry professors Andy Berglund and Michael Haley that may lead to a drug for myotonic dystrophy, the most common adult form of muscular dystrophy.
  • $30,142 to biology professor Shawn Lockery of the UO Institute of Neuroscience to develop a microscopic fluid system that rapidly evaluates new drugs for combating parasitic worm infections such as river blindness in humans and animals. Anti-parasitic drugs kill worms in the body, reduce malnutrition and help prevent anemia.
  • $30,300 to make a prototype Web-based teacher interface for TeenMail, a customizable communication tool for students with special learning needs that is being developed by Stephen Fickas, professor of computer and information sciences, McKay Sohlberg, professor of communication disorders and sciences, and the UO College of Education.
  • $36,500 to build and test a prototype for a self-tracking photovoltaic shading device and light shelf for saving energy while producing clean energy to operate buildings, invented and designed by architecture professor Ihab Elzeyadi. Frank Vignola, director of the UO Solar Energy Monitoring Lab, will monitor the system.
  • $33,787 to build and test a prototype for a window-mounted feature that reduces human stress while saving energy costs, a project involving architecture professors Kevin Nute and G.Z. Brown and psychology professor emeritus Richard Marrocco.
  • $31,120 to test a novel magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) coil created by physicist Jolinda Smith of the UO Lewis Center for Neuroimaging and development engineer Clifford Dax of the UO Technical Sciences Administration.


"Translating basic research into marketable products and services is a challenging task that is inherently time-consuming, labor-intensive and technically demanding," said Don Gerhart, associate vice president for research and innovation. "By providing state tax credits in return for gifts to venture development funds at our state universities, the legislature is supporting research, innovation and entrepreneurship-focused education that will benefit Oregon's economy and society in general."

Since the program's launch in October 2007, the UO has raised about $800,000, approximately 25 percent of its $3.27 million authorized total. The UO already has begun repaying the state treasury for the tax credits thanks to licensing revenue from grant-supported ventures. The first payback was announced by the UO on Jan. 6.

To learn more about participating in the University Venture Development Fund program at the University of Oregon, email

Media Contact: Melody Ward Leslie, development communications, 541-346-2060,

Source: Don Upson, coordinator, UO Venture Development Fund, 541-913-3921,