Announcing the Winners of the 12th Annual Sprout Awards | Newsletter articles | News and Blog | Brandeis Innovation


Announcing the Winners of the 12th Annual Sprout Awards

The 12th annual Brandeis Sprout Awards were announced today. The program provides match funding from a pool of $100,000 to translational research conducted at Brandeis that has commercial potential. The program continues to have a strong representation of biotechnology and sustainable inventions.

This year’s Sprout teams are tackling a range of scientific and social challenges through groundbreaking science. They understand:

“This year’s Sprout cohort is really tackling some big questions,” said Rebecca Menapace, assistant vice president for innovation. “They’re also incredibly diverse in terms of their disciplinary background, which is a real strength.”

The Sprout Prizes are just one way the University supports entrepreneurship and translational research. Other programs include the Provost Research Award, the NSF I-Corps program, and Spark, for non-laboratory research. These programs are a key part of Brandeis’ commitment to fostering a culture of entrepreneurship, creativity and risk-taking.

“The Sprout Awards are a great example of how the University is creating an environment that supports and rewards cross-disciplinary collaboration,” Menapace said. “It’s really gratifying to see the program continue to grow and thrive.”

Meet the Sprout teams and learn about their groundbreaking research:

Assessing Emotion Regulation Capacity Through a Wearable Mental Health Care System

CP: Jennifer Gutsell
Tong Lin, Robert Sekuler, Yidong Qiu

Mood disorders and their treatments have been extensively researched using neurophysiological methods such as (electroencephalography) and fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging). However, laboratory settings do not replicate everyday experiences. Laboratory research is also limited in sample diversity. For example, it is difficult to recruit low-income homebound seniors into laboratories.

Using mobile EEG neural signals in combination with machine learning (such as EEG-based emotion classification) to assess emotions can provide reliable data on mood and mood dysregulation , paving the way for effective remote therapy for mood disorders. This invention aims to implement a multi-sensory system in a mobile healthcare application that assesses and tracks the emotion regulation ability of users.

Optically Controlled Reusable Nanoporous Material for Water Purification

water purification

CP: Grace Han
Xiang Li, Sungwon Cho

According to a 2007 World Health Organization (WHO) report, 1.1 billion people do not have access to a clean drinking water supply; 88% of the 4 billion annual cases of diarrheal disease are attributed to unsafe water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene, while 1.8 million people die each year from diarrheal disease. In addition, the treatment of oil spills and organic solvent pollution is an important issue for environmental science and technology.

This project is a wastewater treatment device that can complement conventional pollutant adsorption methods for industrial and domestic applications by using advanced nanoporous materials capable of adsorbing organic pollutants and releasing them upon irradiation. bright. It makes wastewater treatment easier, more flexible and more profitable.

CapGun Genomics

Sterile insect technique

IP: Paul Garrity
Willem Laursen, Rachel Busby

The Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) is a powerful, cost effective and environmentally friendly strategy to control and even eradicate invasive species, crop pests and disease vectors. In SIT, sterile males are released into the environment to seek out and mate with wild females of the same species. A major bottleneck in the implementation of SIT is the difficulty of generating large numbers of sterile males (currently done using the irradiation method) that are otherwise competitive for mating. Genetic engineering can specifically inactivate genes necessary for fertility, leaving otherwise healthy and competitive animals for mating. However, the identification and propagation of mutant strains on a large scale remains challenging, especially for sterile phenotypes. To address this limitation, this project is a simple and generalizable strategy to create and identify sterile individuals on a large scale. The lab has already successfully created identifiable sterile male and female individuals (among fruit flies and mosquitoes) capable of inducing mating refractory in their wild counterparts and plans to further develop the tool.

Leveraging phosphatase synergy for tissue-specific p38 inhibition

    tissue inhibition and inactivation

IP: Niels Bradshaw
Emily Stadnicki, Prem Ramasamy

p38 MAP Kinase regulates inflammation and is a major target for drug development for diseases such as autoimmune diseases, myocardial ischemia and cancer. Existing p38 inhibitors have failed clinically due to targeted toxicity, indicating that tissue- and process-specific p38 inhibitors are needed. Previous efforts have focused on identifying inhibitors that are specific to particular targets downstream of p38 or to particular activation mechanisms upstream. Here, we take an alternative approach, taking advantage of the native p38 inactivation mechanism by protein phosphatases. This project exploits the synergy between pharmacological inhibition of p38 and inactivation by tissue- or condition-specific phosphatases to identify beneficial p38 inhibitors to potentially treat a myriad of diseases.

Expansion of cytochrome p450 inhibitors


IP: Thomas Pochapsky
Nathan Wong, Liam Flynn, Eric Jiang

This invention adds to the catalog of highly specific inhibitors developed for cytochromes P450 in the Popchapsky laboratory by pursuing novel target CYPs that have clinical significance. By synthesizing inhibitors to significant targets for certain cancer-related targets, the team aims to develop new drugs with reduced side effects.

Engagement Analytics for Online Classes

Online Classes

IP: Benjamin Gomes-Casseres, Pito Salas
Klodeta Janaqi, Jason Fan, Daniel Hariyanto, Yousuf Khan, Nikhil Nama, Rezarta Myrtollari, Amanda Quaranto-Schulte

Teachers are constantly looking for ways to better interact with their students. We try different pedagogies learned through experimentation and from colleagues. But it’s hard to know what works and what doesn’t. With e-learning, this concern takes on a new dimension. There are new possibilities for distraction and it is more difficult for teachers to read in the classroom. Engagement is critical because it affects learning success, persistence and completion of studies, and student (and graduate) satisfaction. Better measurement and analysis of engagement can provide early warnings to advisors, help with student retention, and improve the quality of online courses. Our technology offers a new level of reliable, objective and detailed information on student engagement and participation in synchronous online courses. This information helps teachers engage students more equitably and effectively, and gives students actionable insights into their performance.


plastic waste recycling

IP: Douglas Theobald
Michael Sennett, Cris Sharma

Biotech companies have proposed processing plastic waste using enzymes to degrade PET plastic into its constituent PET monomers, rather than mechanical recycling – into PET pellets or flakes. PET monomers have a higher market value than pellets or flakes; Unfortunately, current enzymes are unable to degrade solid, highly crystalline PET without expensive pretreatment, which is half the cost of biochemical recycling. Nature has developed enzymes to break down a wide variety of materials, including PET. Although the enzyme is sufficient for nature, it is not suitable for industrial applications. Taking inspiration from nature, this technology predicts alternative enzymes to those found in nature, allowing better degradation of plastics in the waste stream.

Sprout participants receive entrepreneurship training, industry links where appropriate, extensive support from the Technology Licensing Office, including patent and commercialization assistance, and connections to other innovators on the Brandeis campus.


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