State Fund Backs University of Virginia Research with Commercial Potential

March 31, 2008 — Two University of Virginia faculty members were among recipients of funding from the Commonwealth Technology Research Fund, designed to accelerate research and commercialization activities across the state.

John C. Herr, director of U.Va.'s Center for Research in Contraceptive and Reproductive Health, is the principal investigator on a project titled "Precision and Clinical Testing of SpermCheck® Immunochromatographic Devices," which is being conducted in partnership with ContraVac Inc. The goal of the project is to gain regulatory approval for three SpermCheck® immunochromatographic devices for home testing of male fertility.

The Commonwealth Technology Research Fund award of $194,700 is for a 15-month project. Earlier this year, Herr received FDA approval for SpermCheck Vasectomy, a home test that confirms men's post-vasectomy sterility.

Stuart Wolf, director of U.Va.'s Institute for Nanoscale and Quantum Scientific and Technological Advanced Research (nanoSTAR), received $425,542 from the Commonwealth Technology Research Fund for a two-year project that aims to demonstrate working prototypes of spintronic switches and to build the basis for the establishment of a world-leading research center at U.Va. in future nanoelectronic technologies.

Wolf's project, "Towards Establishment of an Industry-State-Federal National Center in Nano Electronics: Quantum Dot Spintronic Systems," is in partnership with Micron Technology and the Nanoelectronics Research Initiative.

The state grants are administered by the Center for Innovative Technology. According to Virginia Secretary of Technology Aneesh P. Chopra, chair of the fund's Grant Allocation Committee, the goal of the fund is to leverage public funds to "kickstart technology innovations that are aligned with our key areas of interests — life sciences, energy and technology."

In announcing the rewards, the Center for Innovative Technology indicated that the Commonwealth Technology Research Fund was established "to attract public and private research funding to institutions of higher education, and to increase technology-driven economic development in Virginia by focusing on research with great commercialization potential."

The awards are made on the recommendation of a nine-member allocation panel. This year, six projects were presented awards totaling $1.8 million from the state fund and $2.1 million in matching grants from private, university and other funds.