Chancellor Malatras Announces Grants to Three SUNY Campuses to Fund Groundbreaking Technologies to Treat Serious Illnesses and Protect Our Environment

March 26, 2021

Nearly $200K in Seed Funding From SUNY Technology Accelerator Fund (TAF) to Research New Technologies with Implications for Treating Parkinson's Disease and Glaucoma, Protecting Groundwater, and Pinpointing Environmental Hazards

Funding Eliminates Significant Financial Barriers for Faculty Inventors and Scientists, Helps Turn Research Into Market-Ready Technology


Albany, NY –
State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras today announced the distribution of grants to three SUNY campuses to fund ongoing, potentially groundbreaking research on technologies with the capacity to treat serious illnesses and protect our environment. Nearly $200,000 in seed funding from the SUNY Technology Accelerator Fund (TAF) will go to four projects with possibly resounding implications for treating Parkinson's Disease and Glaucoma, protecting groundwater, and locating approximately three million hazardous oil wells.

Funded by SUNY, TAF helps faculty inventors and scientists turn their research into market-ready technologies, targeting critical research and development milestones—such as feasibility studies, prototyping and testing—which demonstrate that an idea or innovation has commercial potential. The goal is to increase their attractiveness to potential investors. TAF funding is awarded through a competitive process that weighs several factors, including the availability of intellectual property protection, marketability, commercial potential, feasibility, and breadth of impact. 

"SUNY is doing nation-leading research and seed funding from SUNY's Technology Accelerator Fund closes a crucial funding gap on the path to commercializing potentially game-changing scientific discoveries, giving SUNY's brilliant researchers the money they need to continue working toward licensee or venture capital support," said Chancellor Malatras. "The four selected projects have wide-ranging implications for treating Parkinson's Disease and Glaucoma, protecting groundwater, and pinpointing environmentally hazardous gas and oil wells. This is important, truly impactful work that we are proud to invest in—understanding its vast potential to improve our communities and lives. I want to offer my sincere congratulations and thanks to the researchers and scientists who were awarded funding and who continue to make SUNY a leader in cutting edge research and development."  

Jeff M. Cheek, President of the SUNY Research Foundation, said, "The SUNY research community is honored to recognize and support our TAF awardees. SUNY is home to some of the world's most transformational inventions and funding from TAF helps to accelerate the development of breakthrough discoveries. Across critical areas of research spanning aging, clean energy, resilient communities and biotechnology, these faculty inventors and their teams are advancing research with commercial potential to change and improve lives. Congratulations to all."

SUNY Board Trustee Courtney Burke said, "SUNY has no shortage of researchers who possess a drive to better society and sometimes all it takes is seed funding to bring their projects to life. Through TAF, the innovative faculty awarded today can move forward on their impressive work to save our lives through healthcare advancements and protecting our environment. We are proud to support these efforts, and know that the result will leave a positive impact on our globe and humanity for generations to come."

Funding Recipients:

  • New Therapy for Parkinson's Disease: Binghamton University researchers Christopher Bishop and Fredric Manfredsson are developing a new therapy to provide relief to people with Parkinson's disease who experience a harmful side effect that occurs as a result of chronic drug therapy. Their innovative approach repurposes an FDA-approved drug previously developed for depression to prevent the emergence of L-DOPA-induced dyskinesia. Award Amount: $50,000. Learn more.
  • Gene Therapy for Glaucoma: A new gene therapy approach developed by SUNY Downstate Empire Innovation Program Professor John Danias acts on specific molecular targets in the eye to reduce intraocular pressure for long-term, sustained treatment of glaucoma. This solution produces fewer side effects than current therapeutics (eye drops, oral medications, surgery) and addresses problems of patient compliance. Award Amount: $50,000. Learn more.
  • Nitrogen Sensor for Advanced Septic Systems: Nitrogen pollution from septic tanks has been identified as the single largest contributor to deteriorating groundwater quality on Long Island. Stony Brook University researcher Qingzhi Zhu created a high accuracy, low-maintenance sensor that will help manufacturers, homeowners, and local and state governments know that these systems are performing as intended to protect valuable water resources. Award Amount: $50,000. Learn more.
  • System for Locating Orphaned Gas and Oil Wells: An estimated three million abandoned oil and gas wells present environmental hazards across the United States. Binghamton University geophysics researchers Timothy de Smet and Alex Nikulin devised a safe and efficient way to locate these abandoned wells. Their unique system uses drones to detect magnetic anomalies in the metal casings of abandoned oil and gas wells, pinpointing their location. Award Amount: $40,000. Learn more

John Danias, SUNY Downstate Empire Innovation Program Professor and TAF Award Recipient, said, "The investment by SUNY is important as it provides critical funding for focusing the development effort and supporting proof of concept experiments needed prior to full scale pre-clinical efficacy and toxicity studies. It will help bring our innovation to the marketplace by speeding up the process and potentially convincing other parties to invest in the technology."  

Qingzhi Zhu, Stony Brook University Associate Professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and TAF Award Recipient, said, "Our nitrogen sensor, supported by the Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook University, is the only sensor that is engineered to meet residential and municipal wastewater market requirements with high accuracy and low cost. The sensor can operate remotely and unattended in wastewater for several months and has great potential to be commercialized. The TAF fund will enable us to improve our current sensor prototype to a commercial readiness level, advancing our nitrogen sensor from laboratory to marketplace. We’re extremely grateful for this support."

Christopher Bishop, Director of Binghamton University's Undergraduate Integrative Neuroscience Program and TAF Award Recipient, said, "I am grateful to SUNY for this award, which will provide key funding to investigate and translate an exciting new therapy for Parkinson's disease that could help minimize its debilitating symptoms and treatment-related side effects."

Timothy de Smet, Binghamton University Geophysics Researcher and TAF Award Recipient, said, "My collaborator, Alex Nikulin, and I are excited to receive this award," said de Smet. "Abandoned gas and oil wells are a serious environmental problem, and this funding will allow us to further investigate a technology that could help locate and address this ongoing issue."

About the SUNY Research Foundation

The SUNY Research Foundation (RF) is the largest comprehensive university-connected research foundation in the country and supports a vibrant research ecosystem that cultivates innovation and entrepreneurship across multiple key areas including Artificial Intelligence, Clean Energy, Biotechnology, Longevity, Substance Addiction, Nextgen Quantum Computing, Environmental Health, and Resiliency. 

Driving social impact, enhancing human wellbeing and stimulating economic growth, the RF provides SUNY's 30 state-operated campuses with an infrastructure of people, technology, and processes that enables faculty to write and submit grant proposals to agencies, foundations, and companies; establish contracts and manage funding awarded to run campus-based research projects; protect and commercialize intellectual property created within those projects; and establish enduring partnerships that shape the future.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. As of Fall 2019, more than 415,500 students were enrolled in a degree-granting program at a SUNY campus. In total, SUNY serves about 1.3 million students in credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide exceeded $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2019, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit suny.edu.


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