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NMSU's Launch program funds two major research projects

A new program at New Mexico State University's Arrowhead Center that aims to take near-to-market technologies being developed on campus and help speed their way to the public has picked its first projects to fund.


Called Launch, the program helps NMSU researchers from any college to license their innovations or even start their own businesses in order to stimulate economic development in the region.

"Launch provides an opportunity for NMSU's award-winning researchers to collaborate with a diverse team of professionals at the earliest stages of development," said Jason Koenig, technology licensing associate at the Arrowhead Center. "These collaborative efforts will dramatically increase the likelihood that the discoveries realize their potential in the marketplace."

A panel of judges, including representatives from venture capital firms, New Mexico Angels and the New Mexico Economic Development Department, were recruited to gauge the commercial potential of the submitted projects. Judges reviewed the applications, listened to the presentations and held question-and-answer sessions to determine the winners.

One of the first Launch awards went to a team comprised of Jeffrey Arterburn, professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Charles "Brad" Shuster, associate professor of biology; and Kevin Houston, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

Initially, the research team will be conducting various experiments on the different classes of the product HPY-Fluoralogues, followed by studies and comparisons. HPY-Fluoralogues are fluorescent biological imaging agents, or probes, for biochemical and cellular investigations, paving the way for studies that increase understanding of biological processes, as well as helping to identify new drugs for the treatment of disease. Working with the Arrowhead Center, the team will continue to explore the numerous market options for the various classes of dyes associated with HPY-Fluoralogues, initiate discussions with investment groups that have expressed strong interest, and conduct an early patent literature search. Once that work is completed, the team will have the needed information to file a utility patent application based on claims defining the invention.

The other Launch award went to a team consisting of Geoffrey Smith, professor of biology; and Shuquang Deng, professor of chemical engineering.

The market for hydrogen is growing worldwide. Among the advantages of using hydrogen is that it only produces water and heat. However, the actual production processes, like hydrogen from natural gas, produces carbon dioxide. New and cleaner ways to produce large amounts of hydrogen are necessary. The researchers' work will involve optimizing conditions to produce a hydrogen biopolymer in quantities sufficient for purification and chemical characterization. With the Arrowhead Center, the team will continue its market research to identify, and travel to, specific hydrogen-producing refineries and discuss client needs. Additionally, the team will begin working on a business model and exploring licensing and investment options.

Each team will receive $25,000 in cash, along with in-kind services to research, market, develop and commercialize their discoveries.