Auburn University researchers recognized for innovative ideas

Published: April 04, 2019
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Three Auburn University research teams have been recognized for innovative ideas that could impact not only the economy of the state and region, but its health as well. The Office of the Vice President for Research on March 27 presented faculty experts with funds from the LAUNCH Innovation Grant Program in an effort to help move their ideas from the lab to the marketplace.

“The LAUNCH program helps bring some of Auburn’s most promising research innovations to the marketplace, for the public good,” said James Weyhenmeyer, Auburn vice president for research.

“We encourage our faculty, staff and students to be entrepreneurial. Delivering research-based solutions to our stakeholders is part of Auburn’s land-grant tradition—delivering those solutions through commercialization creates jobs, grows the state’s economy and improves quality of life,” said Cary Chandler, director of business development and startups for Auburn’s Office of Innovation, Advancement and Commercialization.

This year’s recipients include:

  • Feng Li, assistant professor, Department of Drug Discovery and Development, Harrison School of Pharmacy, for “SMILE Plus: A Nanoparticle Drug Formulation for Cancer Therapy,” a novel drug formulation to enable a new use of an approved drug against late-stage, drug-resistant cancers for which there is currently no treatment.

  • Elizabeth Lipke, the Mary and John H. Sanders Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, as well as Yuan Tian, a doctoral candidate also in Chemical Engineering, for “Flexible microfluidic platform for rapid production of uniform cell-laden hydrogel microtissues,” a device which can encapsulate human cells to better mimic their natural environment, allowing for more efficient early screening of drug candidates.

  • Professors Sue Hudson Duran and Julie Gard Schnuelle and associate professor Tom Passler from the Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine; Soren Rodning, extension veterinarian and associate professor, Department of Animal Sciences, College of Agriculture; as well as Misty Edmondson, associate state veterinarian, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries; and Jennifer Koziol, a clinical assistant professor from Purdue University, were recognized for “Treatment of Bovine T. foetus with an Extended Release Topical Formulation,” a novel formulation of an approved drug to create the first treatment for an infectious reproductive disease in cattle that reduces birth rates.

Each team will receive a cash award from a pool of $150,000 toward commercialization of their work.

“We are very excited to receive this award,” Lipke said. “Our system for producing tissue microspheres has the potential to advance a wide range of fields, including drug discovery, therapeutic cell production, bioprinting and veterinary and human regenerative medicine. This funding will enable us to take important steps in bringing this technology from the lab to industries that can use it.”

LAUNCH is an endowed fund conceived by the Auburn University Research and Economic Development Advisory Board as a mechanism to bridge the gap between innovative research and the marketplace. Milestone-based awards are given to winning teams who complete a competitive process involving a two-stage evaluation of proposals by internal and external parties, followed by a live presentation before judges and the public. The fund was created in 2015 with the goal of creating an endowment of $10 million that will generate approximately $400,000 annually for research grants. Until the endowment is fully funded, the Office of the Vice President for Research provides the awards.

LAUNCH recipients have the opportunity to meet with experts in entrepreneurship from Auburn’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business as well as members of the Office of Innovation Advancement and Commercialization to assist in developing plans and assembling resources to move scientific achievement into commercial success.

Researchers may also be partnered with Auburn MBA students as well as alumni and friends with related experience whose expertise will assist in advancing the projects.

More information about LAUNCH is available online at

(Written by Leslie Parsons, Auburn University)

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.