The Ecosystem for Biophotonics Innovation (EBI) will accelerate the commercialization of some key biomedical technologies that have been created in the Center for Biophotonics (CBST), a NSF Science and Technology Center. To create this ecosystem, CBST, the Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance (SARTA, a regional economic development organization), 3rd party investor companies, a foundation and a national lab will formalize their R&D, education and commercialization alliance. EBI's primary intellectual merit stems from the development of a unique alliance of committed partners that will work collaboratively to translate research-based technologies to the marketplace. CBST develops technologies in response to end-user needs, but the EBI will actually lead to commercial products. In addition, the integration of an entrepreneurial education and mentorship program in the EBI will increase the innovation skills of faculty, postdoctoral entrepreneurial fellows, graduate and undergraduate students, indeed all members of the ecosystem.

The activities of the EBI will advance the commercialization of CBST technologies while providing hands-on training and learning. The resulting products will correspondingly enhance scientific discovery, promote better understanding of biophysical phenomena, and will ultimately improve patient care. EBI will enhance the participation of under-represented groups (URG) in the process of innovation and commercialization since CBST especially focuses on engaging URG Community College and undergraduate interns in its programs. EBI will foster the creation of new instrumentation, collaborative networks and partnerships. The results of the EBI program will be published in academic research journals, on a dedicated website, and presented in other public forums. Finally, the EBI will benefit society by producing new scientific instrumentation, medical devices, as well as the infrastructure to promote innovation and educate burgeoning entrepreneurs.

Project Report

program at UC Davis as a framework to accelerate the commercialization of some key biomedical technologies that have been created in the Center for Biophotonics Science and Technology (CBST). During the lifetime of the award: We formalized an innovation ecosystem to accelerate the commercialization of academic research technology and capabilities into end-user validated biomedical technologies and devices. To do this, we forged or strengthened existing partnerships between CBST, SARTA, university expertise, regional product design and prototyping companies, and a suite of private companies and investors. We kick-started this ecosystem by accelerating the commercialization of five technologies developed by CBST in collaboration with end-users from medical and life science communities, via collaborative product development teams. We developed an education and mentorship program for scientist innovators, including entrepreneurial fellows (eFellows), to better equip them to become creative and competitive leaders in technology maturation and commercialization. We contributed to new economic growth and job creation by training students and postdoctoral researchers in the process of technology development and commercialization, making them more suitable for jobs in the biophotonics industry. In the long term, the EBI program will contribute to job growth and economic prosperity. To create this ecosystem and enable meaningful progress, we collaborated closely and on multiple levels with public and private entities, that matched NSF’s investment more than 1:1 with cash and in-kind contributions. Our EBI partners and third-party investors are: GE Healthcare Bio-Sciences (formerly Applied Precision Inc. or API), BD Biosciences, Fitzpatrick Fund, Keaton Raphael Memorial Foundation, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Novartis, Tahoe Institute for Rural Health Research, SARTA and its MedStart program, COMPASS Product Design, JDID Product Design and Development, Sacramento Angels, Velocity Venture Capital, Wavepoint Ventures, along with academic partners from California State University, Sacramento, UC Davis College of Engineering, Graduate School of Management, Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and the UC Davis Health System. Each organization has a representative on the EBI Board of Directors, Board chaired by the Dean of the Graduate School of Management, Dr. Steven Currall. EBI’s primary intellectual merit stems from the development and nurturing of a unique alliance of committed partners that worked collaboratively to translate research-based technologies to the marketplace. Furthermore, our scientists and eFellows accelerated technology commercialization in response to end-user needs, in collaboration with entrepreneurs and scientists from industry, as summarized below: Fast superresolution optical microscopy - The team developed and tested a second-generation superresolution optical microscope enabling 2D image reconstruction, phase contrast, and faster, more robust reconstruction. New labels and markers for cytometry – Developed and tested optical properties of novel metallic nanoparticles that emit different surfaced enhanced Raman scaterring (SERS) signals and evaluated their use as novel tags to label cells for flow cytometry. Label-free Raman spectroscopy system – Developed a new laser tweezers Raman spectroscopy design based on multifocal optical traps in order to increase the analytical throughput of single cell Raman spectroscopy, with applications in pediatric and adult cancer detection. Ultrashort pulse laser system – The team developed a spectroscopic monitor for tissue analysis and tested it on hard and soft tissue. Automatic blood pathology system – Developed a portable, automatic blood pathology system and method for point-of-care applications, which provide similar results compared with the currently available – large, expensive, requiring highly trained personnel - blood analyzers. The team is in process of spinning off a new company to commercialize the device. The EBI partners and investors were enthusiastic supporters of the education and mentorship program for scientist innovators who can bring university technology to the marketplace. Entrepreneurial fellows (eFellows) – graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and other junior scientists – attended an Entrepreneurship Academy, participated in webinars and seminar series on intellectual property and entrepreneurship, workshops on science communication and elevator pitch delivery, and networked with the medical technology community in the Sacramento area. Most importantly, eFellows experienced first hand multidisciplinary teamwork, by collaborating closely with colleagues from industry, entrepreneurs, and other innovation ecosystem players. At the time of this report, two eFellows received job offers from our industry partners, and another eFellow is a Business Development Fellow in a 1-year program at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. Basically, the EBI program effectively placed the eFellows on an accelerated professional development path. The broader impacts of EBI were manifested throughout the program. The EBI activities resulted in publications, conference presentations, patent applications, and new products, as well as collaborative networks and partnerships. Results were also disseminated at public forums and program meetings. Last but not least, we organized a highly successful and well-attended Innovation Ecosystems Symposium that engaged thought leader speakers, panelists, and diverse stakeholders in instructive conversations about success factors, challenges and opportunities of establishing and growing innovation ecosystems.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP)
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Barbara H. Kenny
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University of California Davis
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