Research Leading to Low-Cost Drug Manufacturing and E-Noses Wins UC Berkeley Technology Breakthrough Competition; Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology Awards Over $20,000 Plus Venture Lab Assistance

BERKELEY, Calif.--()--Nov. 30, 2005--The cost of treating malaria and cancer could go down as much as 90% or more within five years, according to winners of the UC Berkeley Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology's 2005 Technology Breakthrough Competition. The team of Berkeley scientists won $10,000 plus opportunities for mentorship for their method of metabolically engineering yeast with vastly improved capacity for isoprenoid production. Isoprenoids (or terpenes) are naturally occurring compounds used in the anti-cancer drug taxol, the anti-malarial drug artemisinin, and other medications. The yeast can be used as a reliable, low-cost substitute for plant genes currently used in these drugs.

Runners up in the Breakthrough Competition received $5,000 for technology that can simplify and reduce the cost of manufacturing "electronic noses." The 2005 Technology Breakthrough Competition is an annual event that spotlights Berkeley's emerging technologies.

The Technology Breakthrough Competition was launched by UC Berkeley's Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (CET) to showcase high-impact science research and discoveries with the potential to be commercialized within the next five years. In addition to competing for cash prizes, contestants are invited to work with CET's Venture Lab, Executives in Residence, and other CET industry partnerships to further their projects' development and commercialization.

The 2005 Technology Breakthrough Competition Winners:

Grand Prize and Science Breakthrough Award ($10,000): "Metabolic Engineering of Yeast," developed by James Kirby, postdoctoral scholar, Keasling Research Group and Eric Paradise, graduate student, Chemical Engineering. This engineered yeast strain emulates plant genes for use in cancer and malarial drugs, potentially reducing the cost of life-saving medications by 90% or more.

Information Technology Breakthrough Award ($5,000): "Low-Cost Electronic Noses," technology that can sniff out anything from contraband to spoiled milk. Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences graduate students Josephine Chang, Brian Mattis, and Steve Molesa, with Professor Vivek Subramanian, developed a way to make gas sensors using printing technology, at a price 10 to 200 times lower than current methods, making electronic noses affordable for commercial use.

The Director's Award ($1,000): "MultiView: Spatially Faithful Group Video Conference," by Dr. John Canny and David Nguyen. Designed to improve collaboration and communication among teams working in geographically distant locations, this multiple-perspective display provides each participant his or her own unique and correct perspective for realistic video conferences by simultaneously showing different video streams to different participants.

The Greatest Social Impact Award ($1,000): "UV Tube: A Novel & Inexpensive Tool for the Provision of Clean Water," developed by Energy and Resources graduate students Forest Kaser, Micah Lang, and Fermin Reygadas. Currently 1.1 billion people in the world need clean water, and 2.4 billion people lack proper sanitation. Part of the problem is price: UV disinfection units cost between $300 and $1,000 and can require specialized replacement parts. This team's UV tubes are constructed from common, low-cost materials and cost as little as $70. They use ultraviolet (UV-C) light to inactivate waterborne bacteria, viruses and protozoa.

"This was a difficult competition to judge, as we received 41 very strong entries," said Ikhlaq Sidhu, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology. "Many of the applicants' projects have the potential to make significant contributions to the world."

Finalists in the Technology Breakthrough Competition Award received $750 as well as the opportunity to work with CET's Venture Lab. The finalists were:

Low-Cost Polymer Displays Printed on Flexible Substrates: Technology for creating ink-jet printed displays on flexible plastic, developed by Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences graduate students Josephine Chang, Brian Mattis, and Steve Molesa, with principal investigator Professor Vivek Subramanian.

SMART Pad for CMP: An improved design for more accurate chemical mechanical planarization (CMP) polishing techniques for manufacturing integrated circuit boards, by mechanical engineering graduate students Sunghoon Lee, Alexander DeFeo, Athulan Vijayaraghavan, with Professor David Dornfeld.

Tissue-Engineered Nanofibrous, Stem-Cell-Embedded Vascular Grafts: An approach to tissue engineering that uses biodegradable nanofibrous scaffolds and stem cells to construct "smart" vascular grafts that may drastically improve heart patient success rates, by Bionengineering graduate student Craig Hashi and Assistant Professor Song Li.

Ultrahigh-Efficiency Opto-Thermo-Hydrodynamic Energy Conversion by Nanocrescent Particles in Water for a New Energy Source, developed by Jaeyoun Kim, postdoctoral scholar, Berkeley Sensor & Actuator Center (BSAC), Gang L. Liu, graduate student, Bioengineering and Luke Lee, associate professor, Bioengineering.

"Our goal for the Technology Breakthrough Competition is to recognize highly promising innovations early on in the process, well ahead of the business plan stage, and over time see them succeed as commercialized products," said CET Faculty Chair Jon Burgstone. "The Breakthrough Competition is an entry point to ongoing assistance through CET's Venture Lab."

Venture Lab Helps Commercialize Breakthrough Technologies

A significant component of Berkeley's entrepreneurial pipeline, Venture Lab (V-Lab) serves as a real-world learning laboratory that provides advocacy and education to aspiring entrepreneurs. V-Lab matches Berkeley scientists and engineers with "mentor capitalists": venture capitalists and business leaders who assess commercial viability, hone business models, give general feedback, and provide introductions to help with company launches and/or product licensing.

Venture Lab partners served as judges for the Technology Breakthrough Competition. Judges included Mark Albert, partner, Perkins Coie, LLP; Greg Clark, vice president, business development, Cooley Godward LLP; Michael Eckstut, VP of business operations, Conformia Software; Shomit Ghose, venture coach, Onset Ventures; Prashant Shah, partner, Hummer Winblad Partners; Jon Steuart, partner, Claremont Creek Ventures; Richard Twogood, CEO, TekLaunch, Inc.; and Glen Van Ligten, partner, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.

About CET

The Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology (CET) is a new academic program and industry partnership designed to educate the next generation of technical leaders on entrepreneurship in a changing, global economy. The CET emphasizes going beyond traditional engineering skills to include an understanding of business issues, such as knowing how recognize opportunities, assess viability, and work independently in international teams.

The CET is administered by the College of Engineering. While primarily serving undergraduate engineering and science students, it is available to all Berkeley undergraduates interested in entrepreneurship education. CET is affiliated with the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and collaborates closely with the Berkeley Management of Technology program, the Haas School of Business, and the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to provide interdisciplinary business and technical coursework.


Criswell Communications
Kim Criswell, 510-532-5510


Criswell Communications
Kim Criswell, 510-532-5510