Five Auburn faculty teams competing for $100,000 in LAUNCH funding; finals go live via Zoom March 24

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In research and development, there is a place known as the Valley of Death—it’s the gap between applied research and viable products. To help bridge this gap so that powerful, useful research can make an impact on the market and improve quality of life, Auburn University’s Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development hosts an annual LAUNCH competition.

The university will hold the 2021 final round March 24 for five faculty teams competing for a share of $100,000 in total funding. Due to constraints resulting from COVID-19, the event will take place in a hybrid in-person and Zoom format, blending in-person pitches to judges, but with the audience present for both the pitches and the award ceremony via Zoom.

“LAUNCH recognizes faculty with good ideas and then provides both funding and business expertise to help put those good ideas to work in ways that benefit the state and regional economy,” said Cary Chandler, director of business development and startups in Auburn’s Office of Innovation Advancement and Commercialization and senior director of the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation.

“Successful LAUNCH faculty are identified through a multistage process that culminates in a pitch competition.”

Finalists and their projects include:

  • Kathy Lawrence, professor in the College of Agriculture’s Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, and John McInroy, research associate, who are creating a novel group of bacterial strains with the properties that could be useful in enhancing survival of agricultural crops threatened by both drought and/or salt-water intrusion;

  • Lindsey Starkey, assistant professor, and Byron Blagburn, professor, both in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Pathobiology, who have developed a breath test for diagnosing heartworm disease in dogs;

  • Qinghua “Peter” He, associate professor, Jin Wang, professor, and their team in the Samuel College of Engineering’s Department of Chemical Engineering, who have developed a bioconversion platform that can convert agricultural waste, like manure, into valuable biomass which could be used to produce a range of useful bioproducts—from bioplastic to animal feed;

  • Burak Aksoy, assistant research professor, and Zhihua Jiang, assistant professor, also from the Department of Chemical Engineering, who have created a paper-based, intelligent, spoilage detector in meat and seafood packaging; and

  • Amit Morey, assistant professor in the College of Agriculture’s Department of Poultry Science, who has a developed a unique, in-line poultry chiller designed to increase food safety and reduce water usage in poultry processing facilities.

Final pitches will be made beginning at 9 a.m. and may be watched via Zoom using this link: The awards ceremony begins at 4 p.m. and may be watched via Zoom using this link:

“LAUNCH award winners and participants are examples of Auburn’s world-renowned faculty delivering solutions to pressing regional, national and global challenges,” Chandler said.

More information about how Auburn supports experts through LAUNCH is available on the LAUNCH website.

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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, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation 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.