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UAlbany Students Awarded $100K to Commercialize RNA Technology

The RNA Institute's Student Venture Fund Challenges Teams of Science and Business Students to Bring RNA Inventions to Market

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 16, 2012) -- Underscoring the significant role universities play in fostering research, entrepreneurship and economic growth, the University at Albany's RNA Institute recently awarded two teams of science and business students $50,000 each in its inaugural Student Venture Fund program. Made possible through funding from Waltham, Mass-based Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc., the fund challenges students to develop commercially viable technologies for biomedical science and their applications to the biology of RNA.

Uniting graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from UAlbany's School of Business, College of Arts and Sciences and The RNA Institute, the venture fund participants develop inventions and submit proposals aimed at advancing both the technology and commercialization of RNA science. The winning teams will now demonstrate proof of principle and conduct a detailed market analysis for their invention, with additional in-kind support through School of Business cooperating firms.

The inventions and proposals, formulated through an entrepreneurship course designed by Professor Fred Buse that is offered by UAlbany's School of Business, were judged by a committee consisting of Thermo Fisher and The RNA Institute representatives. Course adjunct professors Robert Schwartz and Cory Martin also served as judges. Project evaluations are based upon scientific merit, market potential, and synergy with existing Thermo Fisher product lines.

RNA and business school students consult as teams in UAlbany's Student Venture Fund competition
Student teams from UAlbany's School of Business and The RNA Institute consult on inventions and proposals to advance both the technology and commercialization of RNA science in the Student Venture Fund.

Paul F. Agris, director of The RNA Institute, said Thermo Fisher's contribution provides resources for the Venture Fund students to develop novel technologies aimed at furthering the discovery of therapeutics, diagnostics, and forensics with application to RNA.

"Partnering with Thermo Fisher immerses UAlbany students in the development of intellectual property and business plans," said Agris. "These projects nurture both discovery and entrepreneurship in a cutting-edge scientific environment."

Agris added, "We are happy to say that UAlbany science department alumni that have their own successful technology companies or are now serving as vice presidents for research and development at major U.S. corporations set extraordinary examples for our students. These alumni are participating as ad hoc reviewers of the student proposals."

"This unique university-industry partnership links world-class life scientists and graduate business students, in order to accelerate the commercialization of basic research," said UAlbany School of Business Dean Don Siegel. "The partnership we have developed will allow us to achieve remarkable economic development outcomes in the realm of life sciences entrepreneurship, in terms of new firm and job creation, as well as product innovation and development."

Dr. Jon Karpilow from Thermo Fisher encouraged and enlightened the venture fund students in the entrepreneurship course by providing examples of successful Thermo Fisher product development projects.

"Universities play a critical role in economic development by preparing students for the workforce, fostering scientific discovery that translates into economic growth," said Craig Smith, V.P. Research and Development for Thermo Fisher’s Biosciences business. "The students put together well-conceived proposals which hold a very high potential for success and commercial applicability."

Doctoral student Abhijit Jadhav, a member of one of the winning teams, reflected on the unique, hands-on structure of the class. "The course not only reflected on how to build a successful business but showed us what it takes to be an entrepreneur," said Jadhav. "It has definitely helped me understand how to integrate scientific principles with commercial aspects of business. I am now better equipped to take on the challenge of real world problems."

This announcement comes on the heels of a $2 million RNA Institute Biomedical Translational Research grant award from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's "Open for Business" competition. The biotech translational research will help promote novel, collaborative research ideas for training and job opportunities in the biomedical sector of the Capital Region economy. Monies will be used to support capital equipment, create new jobs and provide high technology training opportunities.

Learn how you can participate in the RNA Student Venture Fund. For more UAlbany News, visit the News Center.

The RNA Institute

The RNA Institute, launched in June 2010 at the University at Albany, leverages a new paradigm for development and delivery of innovative medicines, vaccines and diagnostics. It brings together leading researchers from higher education and other institutions, and offers advanced facilities for RNA science and its applications. It provides the critical resources needed to advance innovation in technologies, and the development of drugs for the most serious and difficult to treat human diseases in the areas of infectious disease, including bacterial (MRSA) and viral (HIV), cancer, and neurodegenerative and neuromuscular disorders.