Phillip M. Lintilhac, Ph.D.,Associate Professor of Plant Biology

New Methods in Plant Reproductive Biology

The object of the project is to build a new technology for commercial and experimental plant breeding that enables researchers to manipulate entry into the reproductive cycle of plants. The method involves the encapsulation of individual living plant protoplasts (wall-less plant cells) into polymer beads using Droplet Microfluidics.

Osama F. Harraz - Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Pharmacology

and Mark T. Nelson, Ph.D., Chairperson and Professor of Pharmacology

Methods for treating conditions characterized by reduced cerebral blood flow

The project aims to optimize methods for treating conditions characterized by reduced cerebral blood flow (CBF). In particular, our goal is to identify/synthesize a therapeutic agent that increases the levels of phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (ΡIΡ2) in the brain microvasculature. Administration of such therapeutic agent should promote cerebral blood flow in subjects suffering from blood flow impairments.


David J. Schneider, MD, Professor of Medicine

  Platelet FcγRIIa: A Novel Precision Medicine Tool

Dr. Schneider won a SPARK-VT award to develop the biomarker, platelet expression of FcγRIIa, to be used as an effective precision medicine tool to guide individualized therapy. Currently available tools such as clinical risk scores and platelet function testing have not enabled clinicians to effectively individualize therapy.  We have found that high platelet expression of FcγRIIa (≥ 11,000/platelet) is associated with a greater risk (odds ratio > 4) of myocardial infarction (MI), stroke, and death.  We propose that platelet expression of FcyRIIawill effectively identify patients at higher and lower risk of MI, stroke and death and thereby enableclinicians to employ an individualized precision medicine strategy designed toreduce both cardiovascular events and bleeding events.

Dev Majumdar, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Immunological Repertoire Sequencing for High-Throughput Antibody Discovery

Pre-Spark funding was awarded for the Majumdar lab to work to develop a method to map and measure the repertoire of B cells that are binding to antigens from SARS-COV2.

Severin Schneebeli, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Organic, Polymers, and Computational Chemistry

An Accessible Nano-Sensing Platform to Enhance Vermont Quality Food Production and Distribution

Pre-SPARK award to further develop chemically tunable nanocages, which are advancing into accessible chemical sensors, to detect various analytes important for agriculture and the environment.

Rory Waterman, Ph.D., Professor and Associate Dean — Inorganic, Organometallic, and Catalysis

Simple and Inexpensive Manufacture of Primary Phosphines

Pre-SPARKfunding awarded to allow the Waterman lab to directly assess the market for our primary phosphines, determine actual manufacturing costs, and allow for multiple processes.


Prema Menon, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine

  • The Ventalect
  • The Ventalect allows ICU patients with acute respiratory failure on mechanical ventilation to communicate, even though they are unable to talk. The device is based on the experiences of patients, family members, and clinicians. A tablet enabled with Menon’s algorithm and two-button controller could serve the estimated 800,000 patients in the U.S. who are awake and need to be able to participate in their own treatment decision-making.

Tian Xia, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Electrical and Biomedical Engineering

Dryver Huston, Ph.D., Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Huston and Xia beside a prototypeAugmented Reality System for Ground-Penetrating Radar

The team has won two previous SPARK-VT awards for the technology, which can peer up to 12 feet underground to detect buried infrastructure at a construction site, giving developers and planners a tool that could vastly speed the permit approval process. The new award will be used to further develop the augmented reality portion of the project, which converts in real time a variety of inputs — including radar scans — into high-quality images of underground objects that a non-specialist on- or off-site can read and understand. The technology earned a Smart 50 Award from U.S. Ignite and was featured at the National Smart Cities Conference in 2018.


Randall Headrick, Ph.D., Professor of Physics

Microslot Writer

The Microslot Writer is a tool that can apply a liquid solution containing molecules that act as semiconductors to a flat surface. When the liquid evaporates, the semiconductors are left behind as a thin film of large-grain crystals. The process is a simpler, cheaper and more efficient way of printing semiconductors than traditional methods. Headrick will use the SPARK-VT award to create a prototype Microslot Writer specially geared to producing solar panels. He plans to work with industry partners, including Omega Optical in Brattleboro Vt., to develop the technology. The thin film solar market is a multi-billion market.


Jason Botten, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine and Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

We propose the development of a potent neutralizing antibody therapy against the Sin Nombre virus (SNV). Because greater than 95% of North American hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome (HCPS) cases are caused by SNV, our therapy has the potential to be a first-line therapeutic and/or prophylactic for the treatment or prevention of HCPS in the United States and Canada.

Peter Spector, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Cardiovascular Medicine

CoreMap’s mission is to commercialize an ultra-high resolution electrode array and Electrophysiology (EP) mapping system to guide curative ablation of chronic atrial fibrillation (AF). CoreMap is currently developing both the electrodes and the mapping system to enable physicians to see AF with greater clarity.

Daniel Weiss, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary Medicine

We have pioneered the development of a lung-specific extracellular matrix (ECM), notably ECM hydrogels derived from specific anatomic portions of the lung. Our novel approaches for region-specific tissue ECM and ECM hydrogels will enable us to eventually bio-print lung with correct local composition.


Jason Botten, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine and Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

The goal of this project is to create the first therapeutic for treating a life-threatening disease caused by hantaviruses. This therapy has the potential to be a first-line antiviral for the treatment or prevention of hantavirus disease in the Americas. Climate change has brought rodent populations into closer contact with humans, increasing the risk of infection with hantavirus. HCPS is responsible for killing roughly 40 percent of afflicted patients.

Darren Hitt, Ph.D., Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Ryan McDevitt, Ph.D.’14, Co-founder & Lead R&D Engineer, Benchmark Space Systems
Patrick Lee, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering

The goal of this project is to develop a cost-effective propulsion system for small satellites that will enable them to make small adjustments to their position and orientation in orbit. A major technical challenge facing constellations of small satellites is the ability to maintain relative orientation. This microthruster project addresses this issue and is a $1 billion market opportunity within the rapidly emerging $6 billion small satellite market.


Isabelle Desjardins, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for UVM Medical Center; Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Robert Althoff, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychological Science
Sanchit Maruti, M.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
William Cats‐Baril, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Business

Can a tool accessed via tablet or mobile phone help health professionals screen for suicide risk? Called Systematic Expert Risk Assessment for Suicide (SERAS TM), this tool asks patients a series of questions to determine near-term suicide risk, replicating the thinking of an experienced psychiatrist using a novel neural network-based algorithm. With suicide ranking among the top four leading causes of death in individuals between the ages of 10 and 54, the tool stands to help combat a serious public health problem. The team plans to use SPARK-VT funds to establish a scientific advisory board, apply for additional Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding, and conduct several clinical trials in locations outside of Vermont.

Andrew Kaplan, M.D., Orthopedic Surgeon
Daniel Pflaster, President, Pflaster Consulting

Orthopedic surgeons are often faced with a complicated, multi-step process when suturing bone to bone or soft tissue to bone. This medical device simplifies the procedure to one step, eliminating potential complications and saving valuable time for the surgical team. With baby boomers remaining active as they age, and a growing trend toward minimally invasive procedures, the device stands to tap into a large soft tissue surgery market. The team plans to use SPARK-VT funding to develop a functional prototype, conduct a usability study, and finalize design and packaging. 

Dryver Huston, Ph.D., Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Stephen Farrington, P.E., Founder of Transcend Engineering

Healthcare workers suffer a shockingly high number of back and neck injuries from lifting and moving patients, the direct and indirect costs of which exceed $8 billion a year. This project will advance the development a soft robotic device with a creative method of extension that can gently insert needed support elements beneath an at-rest patient. The team will use the SPARK-VT funding to translate a laboratory proof-of-concept to a commercializable prototype, and to develop a formal understanding of the device’s mechanics.

Darren Hitt, Ph.D., Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Ryan McDevitt, Ph.D.’14, Co-founder & Lead R&D Engineer, Benchmark Space Systems

Ongoing advances in micro-scale manufacturing techniques have led to the development of a new generation of miniaturized satellites. Among the technical challenges remaining for small satellites is the development of miniaturized propulsion systems, which NASA has identified as a key enabling technology for future missions. In this project, we are creating a high-performance thruster for small satellites that would allow them to transfer into new orbits (or de-orbit at end-of-life).


Rachael Oldinski, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Daniel Weiss, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine

Developed in collaboration with Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Rachael Oldinski, Ph.D., this project focuses on an innovative easy-to-use, non-toxic, lung sealant patch/band-aid that could be used for lung surgeries or other emergency sealant needs. Funds will aid them in testing the long-term durability and reliability of the innovative alginate material in animal models, before later moving on to humans.

Dryver Huston, Ph.D., Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Tian Xia, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering 

This proposal focuses on a new, low-cost ground penetrating radar (GPR) technology for highway infrastructure maintenance testing that promises deep cost savings compared to systems currently available. Funds will help the team to move the current prototype forward and identify a "scalable, low-cost manufacturing pathway" for a lightweight, vehicle-mounted system.

Patrick Lee, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Engineering
Ting Tan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Engineering

Conducted in collaboration with Assistant Professor of Engineering Ting Tan, Ph.D., and Professor of Mechanical Engineering Dryver Huston, Ph.D., this project focuses on the development of environment responsive microfibers to reinforce concrete structures. The market for concrete admixtures like this is estimated to be over $700 million, with a 2.5 percent growth rate.

Jon Ramsey, Ph.D., Research Associate in the Department of Biochemistry
Claire Verschraegen, M.D., Professor of Medicine

Developed with support from Professor Emeritus of Chemistry William Geiger, Ph.D., this proposal concerns a new family of compounds called cymanquines that disrupt autophagy, a process cancer cells use to develop drug resistance. The funds will be used to test a cymanquine compound in animal models of metastatic melanoma, as well as in other cancers.


Jason Bates, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine

Dr. Jason Bates, who is a professor of medicine and recently finished a four-year term as interim director of the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, brought with him a prototype of a "disposable impedance adaptor" created by a team of four UVM senior engineering students with a 3-D printer. The device will measure – in real time – the lung function of patients who are in the hospital on mechanical ventilation, with a goal to help more accurately monitor and diagnose their condition. He said SPARK-VT funding would support the development of a fully functioning prototype as well as the software to analyze the data.

Peter Bingham, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Neurological Sciences and Pediatrics

Dr. Peter Bingham, a professor in the departments of neurological science and pediatrics, presented his proposal with Christopher Hancock, Ph.D., a digital designer and technology developer. Their "breath-interactive mobile gaming software" incorporates a spirometer — a standard device used in pulmonary function tests — to allow children ages eight to 15 to use their breath to control screen events in the course of fun and colorful computer games. "Part of the problem for these children is being aware that they are symptomatic," Bingham told the panel, pointing out that his game would give these children an opportunity to better understand their own breathing patterns. With asthma the third leading cause of emergency room visits, the gaming software not only stands to improve quality of life, but cut down on health care costs.

Jeffrey Spees, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine

Dr. Jeffrey Spees, a UVM associate professor of medicine, presented his research on "Cell-Kro," a grafting agent composed of insulin and a peptide derived from Connective Tissue Growth Factor. Cell-Kro has been shown in rodent models to improve the adhesion, proliferation, survival, and migration of cardiac stem cells grafted to a heart injured from a heart attack. When cardiac stem cells are injected sub-epicardially with Cell-Kro as a "backpack," Spees told the panel he saw much-improved graft success. In general, the field of regenerative medicine has struggled to successfully graft cells from culture back to injured tissue. With additional research, including large animal studies and clinical trials, this may mean that patients who suffer a heart attack could use stem cell therapy to improve their cardiac function. Whereas hundreds of thousands of patients suffer heart attacks annually in the U.S., Spees also noted that he market for Cell-Kro is "rapidly expanding and global."


Markus Meyer, M.D.

Meyer is developing a fast and inexpensive way to test for heart function: A simple device to administer a small dose of nitrogen to a patient and time its flow through the body. After receiving SPARK-VT funding, Meyer completed follow-up studies on the heart function monitor, and created a startup company to support his venture. He also submitted an SBIR grant.

Renee Stapleton, M.D., Ph.D.
Benjamin Suratt, M.D.

Stapleton and Suratt are researching leptin — a protein hormone — as a therapy for Systematic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS). This syndrome includes sepsis and shock, and may result from trauma or infection. After receiving SPARK-VT funding, Suratt and Stapleton completed additional studies and submitted a patent application with help from UVM Innovations (the Office of Technology Commercialization). They also submitted several grant proposals, and are exploring possible industrial partners.