Spring 2022 Spark Fund Awardees

Bouve/ChE University Distinguished Professor Mansoor Amiji, ChE Assistant Professor Sara Hashmi, ECE Professor Purnima Ratilal-Makris, and MIE Assistant Professor Mohsen Moghaddam are recipients of the Spring 2022 Spark Fund Awards. The awards provide support to commercially valuable inventions (from any field) from university researchers in earlier stages of development. The goal of the award is to advance a technology or suite of technologies from academia towards commercialization.

Mansoor Amiji – Oral RNA Tx -Solutions for Oral RNA Delivery

With the overwhelming success of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, there is an increased interest in the development of nucleic acid delivery technologies for therapeutics and vaccines. Oral administration is the most convenient and patient-friendly route of drug and vaccine administration in the body. The multi-compartmental polymeric (MCP) formulations provide a platform for oral administration of nucleic acid molecules, such as mRNA, into the body. This work will enable MCP formulations to be developed for specific target therapeutic or vaccination areas and to commercialize the technology through effective partnerships.

Sara M. Hashmi – High throughput microfluidic tensiometry/elastometry

While Hashmi mainly investigates how material softness determines complex fluid flow, in this project, we turn this idea on its head: we measure flow to quantify both droplet surface tension and particle softness. Our in-situ, in-line technology will help increase stability and high-throughput efficiency in a variety of microfluidic platforms that use droplet and particle encapsulation for drug discovery, pharmaceutical development, and other applications. We will work with advisors from the microfluidics industry to ensure maximum impact of our innovation.

Purnima Makris – Passive Ocean Acoustic Waveguide Remote Sensing of Marine Ecosystems

Underwater linear towed coherent hydrophone arrays are multifaceted and extremely versatile leading to a multitude of applications requiring ocean environmental awareness, including commercial and recreational, academic research and conservation, as well as maritime security. This hydrophone array technology developed at NU has large sensing frequency range from ~10 Hz (fin whale calls) to ~ 50,000 Hz (dolphin clicks), with lower frequencies capable of sensing wide areas ~100 km in diameter from array. The compact version of the array will contain 96 or 128 hydrophones compared to the full array system built in Prof. Ratilal-Makris’ lab comprising of 160 elements. This will lead to a version of the array that can be readily moved by personnel without the use of machinery.

Mohsen Moghaddam – AI Technologies for Need Finding, Concept Evaluation, and Generative Design

This Spark Fund project envisions an end-to-end AI-powered SaaS platform integrated in the value chain from assessing user needs through design generation and evaluation of novel concepts. This will allow designers to ‘fine tune’ desired attributes and innovativeness level, making it appealing to a wide range of industry verticals, from consumer products to software design. As co-founders of a startup Advanced Design Augmentation (ADA) Technologies, LLC, the PIs strive to foster designer-AI co-creation and innovation centered on empathy with users and bias mitigation, to bridge the gap between user need discovery, social impact, and design. The team is actively developing a first generation of the platform to be tested with initial industry partners in Fall 2022.

Related Faculty: Mansoor Amiji, Sara M. Hashmi, Purnima Ratilal-Makris, Mohsen Moghaddam

Related Departments:Chemical Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering