Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiatives Enabled by AB 2664 Funding Show Impact

Abhijit Chaudhari, an associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Radiology, has received a DIAL grant to help commercialize a software plugin for medical imaging that can perform texture analysis and integrate seamlessly with OsiriX, one of the most widely-used medical image viewers in the world.

Abhijit Chaudhari, an associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Radiology, has received a DIAL grant to help commercialize a software plugin for medical imaging that can perform texture analysis and integrate seamlessly with OsiriX, one of the most widely-used medical image viewers in the world

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A one-time $2.2 million investment from the State of California under Assembly Bill 2664 is propelling new and expanded innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives at the University of California, Davis, through enhancements to its related infrastructure, resources and business training programs.

The programs represent a coordinated and collaborative effort among several campus entities including the Office of Research, Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Student Startup Center, Biomedical Engineering, Office of the Provost, Office of Graduate Studies and Internship and Career Center.

Almost two years into the initiatives, new and expanded programs have directly enabled 19 startups, accelerated 47 companies, led to 37 products, delivered 1,900 hours of mentoring and trained over 950 aspiring entrepreneurs.

Notable new and expanded programs

Proof-of-concept grants developed and managed by Venture Catalyst in the Office of Research: Launched the second cycle of the both the Data, Informatics and Application Launch (DIAL™) Grants, which provide targeted funding for software and data informatics projects with commercial potential, and the STAIR-Plus™ Grant program that provides additional support to Science Translation and Innovative Research (STAIR™) Grant recipients who have successfully achieved project milestones and are poised for commercial impact pending specific additional targeted results. Since the launch of the DIAL and STAIR-Plus programs, 12 grants and a total of $218,586 have been awarded to campus innovators to advance their projects toward commercialization.

Distributed Research Incubation and Venture Engine (DRIVE™) Network: Expanded research and development capabilities for entrepreneurs and startups within the Venture Catalyst DRIVE Network of incubators and the campus Translating Engineering Advances to Medicine (TEAM) Lab prototyping facility, including the deployment of 39 pieces of equipment and instrumentation. The newly available equipment has helped to catalyze Inventopia’s move to a new facility last year, a new partnership with The Urban Hive, and an expanded partnership with HM.CLAUSE at the UC Davis-HM.CLAUSE Life Science Innovation Center.

Discounted Access to Research Translation Services (DARTS™) Program: Provided startups participating in Venture Catalyst’s Smart Toolkit for Accelerated Research Translation (START™) program access to state-of-the-art services and equipment at partner UC Davis core research facilities at competitive rates designed to address the capital constraints of startups. A complementary program was also launched for participants in the DRIVE network with access to credits to be used at DARTS core facilities.

Cross campus collaborative engagement

Venture Catalyst has been working in close collaboration with university partners in a wide range of coordinated efforts throughout campus. These activities include input on program design and candidate selection in the Advanced Student Career Enablement and Development (ADVANCE) business training and internship programs with implementations through the Leaders for the Future and the Entrepreneurship Quest: Undergraduate Internship Program (EQUIP) in collaboration with Graduate Studies, the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Internship and Career Center.

In addition, Venture Catalyst has engaged with judging of the Little Bang! poster competitions organized by the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, participated in the planning committee for the Aggie Innovation and Startup Symposium in a cross-campus collaboration led by the Office of the Provost, and supported the Creator Challenge Series and Prototyping Labs and Startup Mentorship Accelerator (PLASMA) program participants with early-stage startup resources to help form and grow successful companies and technologies.

Media Contacts

AJ Cheline, Office of Research, (530) 752-1101, [email protected]


UC Davis STAIR and DIAL Grant Recipients Developing Breakthrough Innovations

Anne Britt, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Plant Biology, is developing a novel method of rapid and efficient gene editing in tomato.

Anne Britt, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Plant Biology, is developing a novel method of rapid and efficient gene editing in tomato. (José Luis Villegas/UC Davis photo)

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DAVIS, Calif. — Innovators at the University of California, Davis, are receiving financial support to advance their research and technologies toward commercialization.

Managed by Venture Catalyst, the Science Translation and Innovative Research (STAIR™) and the Data, Informatics & Application Launch (DIAL™) grant programs are designed to provide funding to support translational science and innovative research performed by UC Davis researchers. The goal of the programs is to demonstrate early proof-of-concept and commercial potential or feasibility for technologies being developed with the intent of commercial translation.

Six of the eight total 2017–18 award recipients are advancing innovative projects in health that address unmet needs. The additional two grant recipients are developing innovations in agriculture and poultry safety.

“The STAIR Grant Program highlights the cross-disciplinary investigative strengths of UC Davis and how our innovative researchers are harnessing life science research and the convergence of health, agriculture and engineering technologies to make a translational impact in the areas of human health, nutrition and food safety,” said Dushyant Pathak, associate vice chancellor of research and executive director of Venture Catalyst at UC Davis.

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UC Davis Venture Catalyst Expands Program to Accelerate Technology Commercialization with STAIR-Plus Grants — Announces Recipients

John Voss STAIR Plus recipient

To support campus innovators in advancing their cutting-edge technologies towards commercialization, Venture Catalyst –within the Technology Management and Corporate Relations division of the UC Davis Office of Research – has offered Science Translation and Innovative Research (STAIRTM) Grants for the last four years. The unique STAIR Grant program provides funding and support to help innovators demonstrate proof-of-concept and commercial feasibility for their technologies. To date, a total of $897,000 has been awarded to 19 faculty members as part of this program.

This year, Venture Catalyst announced the addition of the STAIR-Plus™ Grant program, intended to offer additional support to STAIR Grant recipients who have successfully achieved their projected commercialization milestones and are poised for commercial impact pending completion of specific targeted activities. Each recipient receives up to $20,000 in funding to be deployed over a one year period. Funding for the STAIR-Plus program was made possible by the State of California’s Assembly Bill 2664, which was passed in late 2016.

2017 STAIR-Plus Grant Recipients


Gino Cortopassi, professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences

Transition to patentable New Chemical Entity Shc inhibitors for Fatty Liver Disease

Cortopassi and his team have identified several compounds that inhibit Shc, a signaling protein that regulates the body’s response to insulin and resistance to pediatric nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. With assistance from the STAIR grant, the team conducted medicinal chemistry optimization to narrow dozens of functional parent molecules down to several of the most productive candidates. The STAIR-Plus Grant will allow the team to conduct additional screening and test the two most potent inhibitors in-vivo in an animal model.


Tony Simon, professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Translation of Neurotherapeutic Video Games to Virtual Reality

Simon has invented a “neurotherapeutic” video game designed to help improve the cognitive abilities of children with one of several genetic disorders, the healthy aging and patients with many forms of Traumatic Brain Injury or Stroke. The STAIR Grant enabled Simon and his team to build prototypes utilizing desktop computers and game consoles which were used to conduct tests to provide evidence of clinical benefit. Simon plans to use funding from the STAIR-Plus Grant to develop, with his game design partner, a second generation prototype utilizing a virtual reality platform and to conduct preliminary tests for usability and efficacy potential.

John Voss, professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine

A novel nitroxide-based agent to produce contrast enhancement

for amyloid beta peptide detection by MRI

Voss’s team is developing technology based on a small molecule with potential for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease. The compound is innovative for its paramagnetic properties, which affect MRI intensities correlating to an early and prominent marker for Alzheimer’s. Unlike available imaging methods, this approach would be less expensive, enable greater patient access and eliminate radiation exposure for the patient. Voss utilized the STAIR Grant to conduct in vivo tests to demonstrate effectiveness and to synthesize nine novel small molecules. Voss plans to use the STAIR-Plus Grant to conduct additional optimization leading to the selection of a lead candidate. He also plans to use high resolution imaging to better correlate the contrast signal with identifiable brain structures.

Each application was reviewed by the STAIR-Plus Grant Review Committee, which included Office of Research staff and external industry reviewers with specific domain expertise. The Review Committee considered the technical merit, commercial potential, outcomes from previous STAIR Grant milestones, and alignment of budget with projected activities for each project.

”I’m thrilled that the California legislature’s investment in innovation and entrepreneurship at the university is enabling us to extend the bridge between cutting-edge research and its potential for transformative human impact,” said Dushyant Pathak, associate vice chancellor of Research and executive director of Venture Catalyst. ”These funds, in addition to the prior investment by the university through our STAIR grants, are accelerating the commercialization of new technologies from UC Davis.”

An important component of the STAIR-Plus program is the engagement of award recipients with additional entrepreneurial and technology commercialization support and resources through a unique collaboration between Venture Catalyst and the Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UC Davis. Award recipients will participate in a cohort-based series of innovation and commercialization clinics designed to develop the skills and networks needed to explore and expand the commercial potential and resulting societal impact of their ideas.

These highly customized business clinics will include engagement with industry experts and mentors to supplement the workshops, which will be focused on commercialization elements including market and business model validation and coaching for effective business communication.

“We’re honored to help such talented innovators from across our campus to commercialize their work and ensure that the benefits of their research move from the lab and out into the world,” said Cleveland Justis, the institute’s executive director.

AB 2664 Spurs Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Assembly Bill 2664, also referred to as the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Expansion bill, was authored by Assembly member Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, and signed last fall by Governor Jerry Brown. AB 2664 is designed to propel new innovation and entrepreneurship efforts across the University of California through investments in infrastructure, incubators and entrepreneurship education programs. The $22 million investment was dispersed equally to each of the ten UC campuses at the beginning of 2017. Venture Catalyst is the program lead at UC Davis and is implementing a variety of innovation and entrepreneurship expansion activities in conjunction with partners on campus, including the Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, the Engineering Student Startup Center, the Office of the Provost, Graduate Studies and the Internship and Career Center, as well as external community partners.

Media Contacts

AJ Cheline (530)219-8739


STAIR grant program
• “Digital neurotherapeutic” game in development at the UC Davis MIND Institute