Research

UK Projects Receive NIH KYNETIC Product Development Awards

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 27, 2020) — The Kentucky Network for Innovation and Commercialization (KYNETIC), funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is excited to announce that five of the seven projects recently awarded $50,000 to bring their innovations toward product development are from the University of Kentucky.

These projects include:

  • Therapeutic for Alzheimer’s disease (Ronald Bruntz, Department of Biochemistry)
  • Therapeutic for liver disease (Scott Gordon, Saha Cardiovascular Research Center)
  • Bone biopsy device (Clay Larkin, Department of Internal Medicine)
  • Therapeutic to reduce cardiac inflammation following a heart attack (Vincent Venditto, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences)
  • Non-addictive therapeutic for pain (Fang Zheng, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences)

This is a fast-paced, product-focused grant designed for researchers to quickly determine the viability of their product. Each project has six months to make progress toward their milestones in order to be eligible for additional KYNETIC funding. A significant benefit of the program is that awardees work closely with KYNETIC project managers to stay on track, review outcomes and discuss future milestones. Further, an external review board (ERB) provides valuable feedback based on their experience as industry, investment and commercialization experts.

“Over the past two years our research, focused on creating a new and improved biopsy needle, has progressed tremendously. However, sometimes it felt like the progression was incremental," said Larkin, a medical student and principal investigator of one of the awards. "With the KYNETIC award, we are now able to leap forward. Since the award, it has been such a blessing to be able to focus on the science behind aspects of the design and engineering. With the first tranche of funding, we are prototyping designs and intend to complete functional analysis using cadaver and synthetic bone.”

Applicants attend training sessions and gain knowledge on a number of topics such as identification of an unmet clinical need, designing killer experiments and milestones, intellectual property, regulatory strategy, and commercialization pathways. Training sessions encourage applicants to not only think about their product, but also all the other components of commercialization that are required to get their product to market.

Linda Dwoskin, who is the contact PI for KYNETIC and has successfully commercialized a therapeutic, emphasized the importance of the training sessions.

“The scientific discovery is only the first step in the complex process of commercialization of a health care product," Dwoskin said. "KYNETIC provides academic innovators with the knowledge and skills to take their discoveries forward toward improving human health. The NIH recognizes that academic researchers need training and access to commercialization resources, including networking opportunities, feedback and technology guidance. KYNETIC provides these resources to our innovators. We want to see our investigators succeed in advancing their research and technology into the marketplace and the clinic."

The UK Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) provides intellectual property and licensing guidance and additional coaching to KYNETIC teams. Ian McClure, OTC executive director and a co-investigator for KYNETIC, emphasized the need for proof-of-concept funds and education.

“This type of support is critical to advance health innovations to market," McClure said. "The de-risking and validation process requires acute focus on customer need and market differentiation, and KYNETIC provides the funding and the education to project PIs to accomplish this challenge.”

KYNETIC is now accepting pre-applications for the second cycle. Application materials can be found here. Pre-applications are due Aug. 14 and should be sent to kynetic@uky.edu. For more information on the KYNETIC program, contact Kendra Stenzel, KYNETIC’s UK project manager, at kynetic@uky.edu.

The University of Kentucky, in partnership with the University of Louisville and the Kentucky Cabinet of Economic Development, established KYNETIC (Kentucky Network for Innovation and Commercialization) in the fall of 2019. KYNETIC is part of an elite NIH Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub (REACH) program aimed to take academic discoveries that improve patient care and position them for commercialization (learn more here).

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.