Saturday, July 19, 2003

Grants partner
UH teachers with
island technology firms

Three University of Hawaii scientists have received grants to work with Hawaii technology companies on research and development projects.

They are the first Accelerated Research Commercialization grants awarded by University Connections, a UH program founded to help connect entrepreneurs in the university with those outside.

Recipients are:

Thomas Hemscheidt, of the Department of Chemistry, $47,000 to work with Hawaii Biotech Inc., to identify bioterrorism drug candidates from plants and marine algae. About 640 natural product extracts will be tested for ability to neutralize anthrax and botulism toxins, possibly leading to treatments for people exposed.

Michael Antal Jr., of the Natural Energy Institute, $62,884 to work with Pacific Carbon and Graphite LLC to develop a catalytic afterburner for a flash carbonization unit. Flash carbonization is technology patented by UH to produce charcoal from biomass, with applications in the metal industry, food industry and agriculture.

Keith Horton, of the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, $36,553 to work with Innovative Technical Solutions Inc. (doing business as NovaSol) to develop a lightweight prototype sensor, FLYSPEC, to measure different gases. The portable sensor would replace a bulky unit moved around by vehicle, with potential use in measuring volcanic gasses at sites around the world and emissions monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Accelerated Research Commercialization program "demonstrates the university's commitment to work with local companies to diversify our economy," said UH-Manoa Chancellor Peter Englert. "Even in these tough economic times, it's important for us to apply some of our scarce resources to help expand our economy in the future."

The program meets some needs of the local technology industry, said David Watumull, chief executive of Hawaii Biotechnology Inc., noting it gives his company access to top UH scientists to explore therapeutics for bioterrorism.

UH Connections Director Keith Mattson said the program had more good ideas than it could fund, and more companies and UH scientists are needed to explore partnerships. "There's so much latent potential for economic development."


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