UNC ROI Research Opportunities Initiative

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Awards

Designing Organic Electronics

Carbon-based materials inspire the next generation of electronics

Carbon-based materials
  • NC Carbon Materials Initiative: Materials Design, Processing, and Manufacturing
  • $2,829,994
  • July 2014 - June 2017

Project summary:

Professor Ade and colleagues Carbon electronics may offer new opportunities to address energy, defense, and manufacturing challenges. Traditional silicon-based materials are rapidly approaching their fundamental limits in terms of miniaturization and capacity. The work of Professor Ade and his colleagues will focus on carbon materials characterization and manufacturing. Investigators envision fundamental science advances that will open the door to revolutionary computing approaches, truly renewable energy sources, and self-sustaining systems such as self-powered greenhouses and integrated solar cell/algae growth ponds.

Highlights:

  • Silicon-based materials have reached their theoretical limits; we need a new material to address growing technology needs.
  • Ade and his team will develop new carbon materials and build specialized instrumentation to characterize the materials.
  • Unique collaborative effort will bring together expert researchers and highly specialized instrumentation to bring NC to the forefront of this field.
  • NCSU
  • UNC-Ch
  • NCCU
  • Energy
  • Defense, Military & Security
  • Advanced Manufacturing

Building Big Data

Cloud-based computing infrastructure comes to NC

Tablet User
  • North Carolina Data Science and Business Analytics Initiative: Using Analytics for Risk Mitigation
  • $2,168,379
  • July 2014 - June 2017

Project Summary:

Mirsad Hadzikadic Data science innovations are essential to solving some of the nation’s most significant science, education, and workforce challenges. Investigators propose to develop strategic research hubs of excellence that will position North Carolina as the national leader in fundamental and applied research in data science. The project will involve setting up a sustainable cloud-based infrastructure to enable big data collaborations, partnerships, and research initiatives that will bring together investigators from academia and industry, initially focusing on the problem of risk mitigation. These research activities have the potential to promote a sustainable big data science research and talent pipeline for North Carolina.

Highlights:

  • Develop strategic hubs of excellence to position NC as the national leader in fundamental and applied data science.
  • Set up state-wide cloud-based infrastructure by expanding NC State’s Virtual Computing Laboratory (VCL).
  • Expand access to the Data Observatory (RENCI and Odum Institute at UNC-CH) to allow state-wide access to large data sets.
  • UNCC's SOPHI data analytics hub will be used for storage, delivery, & retrieval of data.
  • Partner with industry to focus on risk mitigation.
  • UNCC
  • UNC-Ch
  • NCSU
  • RENCI
  • Data Science

Engineering Advanced Medical Treatments

Novel therapeutics emerge from an engineering approach to treating cancer and heart disease

Cell
  • Pharmacoengineering: Integrating Engineering with Pharmaceutical Sciences to Improve Delivery of Therapeutics
  • $1,830,000
  • July 2015 - June 2018

Project Summary:

Investigators at UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State will lead pioneering efforts in the new field of pharmacoengineering – the marriage of pharmaceutical science with state-of-the-art engineering. They will collaborate to develop novel solutions to difficult challenges in bringing therapeutic drug-delivery technologies to patients. Partnering scientists will focus on 1) the immune response to engineered nanomaterials to understand how the human body reacts to man-made materials intended for clinical use; and 2) developing genetically engineered non-embryonic stem cells for treating brain cancer and for heart regeneration.

Highlights:

  • Understand immune response to engineered nanomaterials (e.g. pre-existing human antibodies to PEG can reduce efficacy of drugs formulated with PEG).
  • Engineer biomolecular “homing” molecules to deliver drugs to precise disease locations (e.g., deliver chemotherapeutics to cancer cells).
  • Develop adult-derived stem cell therapies for treating glioblastoma (brain cancer): specially designed stem cells migrate to cancer cells and release chemotherapeutic drugs.
  • Engineer adult-derived stem cells that localize to heart tissue, break down scar tissue from heart attack, and regenerate healthy heart tissue.
  • Host international Pharmacoengineering conference and set up NC as home base for this new field.
  • Frances Ligler, D.Phil., D.Sc., Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering, NC State University
  • fsligler@ncsu.edu
  • Website
  • UNC-Ch
  • NCSU
  • Pharmacoengineering

Harvesting Clean Energy

New technology produces clean energy from the interactions between fresh and salt water

Water
  • Salinity Gradient Energy: An Inexhaustible Clean Energy Resource for North Carolina
  • $997,966
  • July 2015 - June 2018

Project Summary:

Orlando CoronellDouglas F. CallThe natural salinity gradients along the North Carolina coast are an untapped yet significant energy resource. This project will advance a cutting-edge technology that can harness these gradients for electricity generation, energy storage, and wastewater treatment. The team, which includes multiple UNC universities, local start-up companies, consultants, and coastal utilities, will conduct a comprehensive technical, economic, and environmental assessment of this technology and its impact on North Carolina. The findings will help expand North Carolina's clean energy sector, attract industrial investment, and provide foundational research for future funding opportunities in coastal energy technology development.

Highlights:

  • Use reverse electrodialysis to generate clean electricity using chemical differences between salt water and fresh water.
  • Technology allows for energy storage during off-peak hours.
  • Same technology can be used for wastewater treatment; technology is modular and can grow with a city’s population.
  • This technology is poised to be a major player in clean energy worldwide (already being investigated in the Netherlands).
  • Conduct economic and environmental assessments as technology is being developed.
  • Douglas F. Call, PhD, Assistant Professor of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, NC State University
  • dfcall@ncsu.edu
  • Website
  • Orlando Coronell, PhD, Assistant Professor of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, UNC-CH
  • coronell@unc.edu
  • Website
  • UNC-Ch
  • NCSU
  • Coastal Studies Institute
  • ECU
  • Energy
  • Coastal & Marine Sciences

Ensuring Safe Seafood

A diagnostic test rapidly detects harmful contaminants

Shucked Oyster
  • Revolutionizing and Commercializing Rapid Molecular Diagnostics for Viral and Bacterial Pathogen Quantification in Marine Waters and Seafood
  • $684,805
  • July 2014 - June 2017

Project summary:

Rachel NobleIn the coming decade, three major industries (clinical diagnostics, water quality, and food security) will be revolutionized by rapid “molecular diagnostics,” or the ability to quickly and definitively identify contaminants. Armed with this nearly real-time information, public health officials and medical professionals can better prevent and stop outbreaks of disease. This research project aims to develop validated, user-friendly diagnostic kits for rapid (less than 2 hours compared to current time of 24 hours) determination of dangerous bacteria and viruses that can be present in marine water and seafood. It will position North Carolina as a leader in the economically valuable marine waters, shellfish, and aquaculture sectors.

Highlights:

  • Eating contaminated seafood or swimming in contaminated seawater can pose major health risks including severe illness or death.
  • Noble and her team will find a unique molecular fingerprint for each harmful pathogen. The fingerprint can be rapidly detected in contaminated seafood and water.
  • Investigators will develop diagnostic kits that can rapidly test seafood and seawater for disease-causing pathogens.
  • This work has clear commercial potential and could increase the speed of food and water testing by more than tenfold, allowing for earlier detection and alert systems.
  • University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences
  • UNCC
  • Coastal & Marine Sciences

Producing High-Volume Vaccines

An algae-based method promises to speed the production of therapeutics and vaccines

Virus
  • Bioengineering Microalgae for Large-Scale Production of Therapeutic Antibodies Against Ebola, West Nile Virus, and Rabies
  • $600,000
  • July 2014 - June 2017

Project Summary:

TinChung LeungThe deadly Ebola virus could potentially affect more than a million patients in 2015. The experimental drug ZMapp has been effective in saving patients who were critically ill, yet it is in short supply, and the production process takes several months to generate even small amounts of the drug. To fill this gap, researchers at NCCU, UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State will use a microalgae system to generate anti-Ebola antibodies rapidly and cost-effectively. As unicellular plants, algae can be cultured continuously to produce therapeutic proteins. Using bioengineered microalgae will speed up the biomanufacturing process of therapeutic antibodies against Ebola and other diseases.

Highlights:

  • Treatment for Ebola is currently generated in tobacco plants through a time-consuming and laborious process.
  • Leung and his team propose to generate the therapeutic using bioengineered microalgae, allowing the therapeutic to be manufactured much more quickly.
  • Technology could be used for creating vaccines for Ebola and other viruses like West Nile and rabies.
  • TinChung Leung, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biology at North Carolina Central University
  • tleung@nccu.edu
  • Website
  • NCCU
  • North Carolina Research Campus
  • NCSU
  • UNC-Ch
  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Pharmacoengineering