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Published on November 9th, 2021 📆 | 6883 Views ⚑

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Three OSU teams win federal technology commercialization grants

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Media Contact:
Harrison Hill | Research Communications Specialist | 405-744-5827 | [email protected]

Three research teams at Oklahoma State University have won National Science Foundation
Partnerships for Innovation Technology Translation grants (NSF PFI-TT) — worth $250,000
each. 

  • Dr. Kitty Cardwell, Dr. Andres Espindola and team — MiFi: Next-generation pathogen
    detection tool
  • Dr. Stephanie Link — Dissemity: Research writing software
  • Dr. Raj Singh — Nanodiamond Process Technology Development for Thermal Management
    of Power Electronics

Daniel Will, executive director for Cowboy Innovation’s Brightest Orange Ventures,
said the funding windfall is the result of researchers’ groundbreaking projects and
the support of their colleges and OSU’s Cowboy Innovations (CI).

“These grants are awarded for translational research and technology development,”
Will said. “Cowboy Innovations helps identify and apply for commercial grant funding
that matches OSU technologies at particular development stages. 

“These grants can come from many places, such as the National Science Foundation’s
PFI grants, but may also be the Oklahoma Center for Advancement of Science and Technology’s
or various federal agencies.”

Russell Hopper, senior licensing associate for Cowboy Innovations, said the CI team
exists “to support OSU innovators with any grant that involves intellectual property
protection, marketing, and licensing.”

One example is Cardwell’s NSF PFI-TT grant, which is going to a partnership involving
OSU; University of California, Riverside; and the Wonderful Fruit company — which
markets Cuties brand tangerines, among other things.

The team is focused on speeding up development and production processes for new citrus
varieties.

“To move new citrus germplasm, i.e. new varieties, into the U.S., it has to go through
years of testing to prove freedom from about 30 citrus diseases,” Cardwell said. 

Their technology — called MiFi, short for Microbe Finder — will do just that. 

“Wonderful Fruit would really like for that process to be faster and more efficient,”
Cardwell said. “Oklahoma State and the Institute of Biosecurity and Microbial Forensics
have developed a next-generation diagnostic technology that will allow the Citrus
Clonal Protection Program at UC Riverside to test for all pathogens at once in the
same citrus sample.”

This NSF grant will support developing and testing MiFi pathogen detection probes
for all of the citrus pathogens, Cardwell said. 

“Cowboy Innovations, through its Brightest Orange Ventures, helped MiFi with funds
to develop the first software as a service platform into a scalable, cloud-based solution,
so that as the customer base grows, the platform will, too,” Cardwell said. “The Cowboy
Innovations guys helped as we developed the proposal with market analysis and budgeting.
They have also supported MiFi through intellectual property protection and advising.

“Additionally, the grant will allow for upgrades to the MiFi graphic user interface
that the researchers use to create and validate the MiFi pathogen-specific probes,
and payment for full-time technicians to do the development at OSU and UC Riverside.”

The group also plans to share this technology with other citrus producing countries,
all of which have their own testing needs.

“These commercial grants serve as an important funding source to help translate early
stage OSU technology from the bench to prototype that may later become licensable
to an existing company and/or become investible through a startup company,” Will said.
“Cowboy Innovations also supplies letters of support regarding its diligence in protecting
the OSU intellectual property involved and later marketing it, and also its interest
in later investing in the technology and the team involved with the technology.

For Dr. Stephanie Link, this grant is funding an exploration into using artificial
intelligence and natural language processing for an intelligent tutoring system —
Dissemity
— focused on disseminating research with clarity, Link said. The technology provides writing resources for publications, specifically peer-reviewed journal articles and
grant abstracts, Link said. 

“Cowboy Innovations provided me with my first-ever training in formulating a business
model and visualizing my research as commercially viable,” she said.

Besides training, Cowboy Innovations also provides recommendations to OSU teams and
their technologies that are a good fit for NSF PFI grants and encourages their application,
Will said. 

The NSF funds all types of basic research and technology development with the hope
of seeing commercial outcomes emerge from that research. Part of that funding is NSG
programs and grants such as the NSF PFI, which provide translational funding that
lead to commercial products and services, Hopper said.

“Cowboy Innovations’ mission is to provide seamless connections between OSU and industry
that accelerate innovative solutions to market and provide collaborative engagements
spanning the region, state and world,” Hopper said.

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