NEWS | August 10, 2016

New grants help move innovative ideas to new discoveries


Two physician scientists received seed funding from the UC Davis Office of Research’s Science Translation and Innovative Research (STAIR) program to help demonstrate proof-of-concept and commercial feasibility of their innovative technologies, which address unmet market needs.

Tony Simon tests video game designed to improve cognitive abilities. Tony Simon tests video game designed to improve cognitive abilities.

The competitive STAIR grant program, now in its third year, provides awards up to $50,000 for UC Davis scientists. The program is run by Venture Catalyst, a unit within the Office of Research’s Technology Management and Corporate Relations division.

Richard Levenson,professor and vice chair of pathology and laboratory medicine, and assistant project scientist Farzad Fereidouni have created an innovative new method for spectral imaging that drastically reduces the amount of data needed for analysis. The novel approach uses a conventional camera sensor fitted with either a filter wheel or beam-splitting optics.

Tony Simon, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, has invented a “neurotherapeutic” video game designed to help improve the cognitive abilities of children with genetic disorders such as chromosome 22q11.2 deletion, fragile X, Turner and Williams syndromes, among others.

In 2015 Levenson received funds to develop a prototype for a new type of microscopy instrument. Known as MUSE, or microscopy with ultraviolet surface excitation, the novel technology generates diagnostic-quality images of tissue samples in minutes using UV LED light, eliminating the need for the traditional time-consuming preparation of samples and glass slides.

renal artery
MUSE image of renal artery lets pathologists see features, such as elastin in the blood vessel wall (yellow), without requiring a special stain.

“The STAIR grant was pivotal in funding the opto-mechanical design of the prototypes, which we are assembling and will ship to collaborators,” he said. “Without STAIR funding, we would not have had the resources to move forward as quickly as we have.”

Two patents have been issued for the invention and a third application has been submitted and published. The team also has launched a startup company, MUSE Microscopy, Inc.

Other STAIR grant awardees include:

  • Gino Cortopassi, professor of molecular biosciences in the School of Veterinary Medicine, who is working on small molecule Shc inhibitors to combat pediatric NAFLD and diabetes
  • Kai Liu, a professor of physics in the College of Letters & Sciences, who is working on magnetic skyrmions for future nanoelectronics.

For more information about the grants, visit the UC Davis Office of Research website.