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BTA Collaborative Grant Program (CGP)

Initial Results of First-Round Funding December 2006

The Biomedical Technology Alliance selected 11 collaborative teams to receive nearly $1 million in Collaborative Grant Program funding for innovative research with commercial potential. Collectively, these projects address over $140 billion in commercial markets.

Funded projects and the participating institutions:

  • Cysteine Prodrugs in the Treatment of Schizophrenia: Principal Investigator, David Baker, Marquette University; participating with Robert Risinger, Medical College of Wisconsin and James Cook, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Methods to Identify Chemotherapeutic Lead Inhibitors for Protein Palmitoyltransferases (PATs): Principal Investigator, Robert Deschenes, Medical College of Wisconsin; participating with Vipin Paliwal, Milwaukee School of Engineering
  • Dithio Probes for Imaging Oxidative Stress and Screening Drug Targets: Principal Investigator, Daniel Sem, Marquette University; participating with Marilyn P. Merker, Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Novel Technologies for Spinal Regeneration and Assessment of Motor Function: Principal Investigator, Maya Sieber-Blum, the Medical College of Wisconsin; participating with Brian D. Schmit, Marquette University
  • Molecular Approach to Reduce Hyperglycemia in Diabetes: Principal Investigator, Niloofar Tabatabai of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; participating with Samuel Blumenthal of the Medical College of Wisconsin
  • New Technologies for Real Time Tumor Tracking in Radiation Therapy for Lung Cancer: Principal Investigator, Jun Zhang, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; participating with X. Allen Li, Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Calcineurin as a Therapeutic Target for Age-Related Cognitive Deficits: Principal Investigator, James Moyer, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; participating with John Mantsch, Marquette University
  • Effect of Near-Infrared Light Treatment in Muscle Function and Metabolism in Diabetes Mellitus: Principal Investigator, Ann Snyder, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; participating with Robert Fitts, Marquette University and Harry Whelan, Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Spatially-Oriented Electronic Medical Records for Dentistry: Principal Investigator, Min Wu, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; participating with Lisa Koenig, Marquette University
  • Identify Cardioprotective Pharmaceutical Leads by a Combinational Use of Yeast, Drosophila and Rat Model Systems: Principal Investigator, Chaoyang Zeng, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; participating with Yang Shi, Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Quantification of Molecular Probe Uptake in Acute Myocardial Infarction: Principal Investigator, Ming Zhao, Medical College of Wisconsin; participating with Said Audi, Marquette University

Procedural Overview
February 6, 2006

Background. The mission of the BTA Collaborative Grant Program (CGP) is to build collaborative relationships that increase academic research capacity in Southeastern Wisconsin and develop research applications with the potential to contribute to economic growth. Funds for the CGP have been made available by the research institutions of Southeastern Wisconsin and the State of Wisconsin on the basis of a 50-50 match.

The State of Wisconsin recently approved a commitment of $500,000 to the CGP, which will be matched by our research institutions for a total current fund of $1,000,000. There is a bill in the state legislature, supported by Governor Doyle, to expand state funding of the program by $2 million bringing the fund to $5 million with institutional match.

Why Fund Early Collaborations? More and more, NIH and other federal funding programs are supporting interdisciplinary and inter-institutional research teams, since those teams are proving to be better in producing the kind of scientific results that lead to innovations that serve society. However, researchers must first establish proven interdisciplinary teams and have preliminary data that demonstrate the merit of their proposals to access federal funds. The BTA collaborative grant program will assist collaborative research teams in getting started, enabling them to write winning grants from federal sources, and ultimately develop successful commercial products.

Funding Sources. As illustrated below, the State of Wisconsin will prospectively commit a total of $2.5 million, and these funds will be matched by funds from the academic institutions of Southeastern Wisconsin, creating a total initiation fund of $5 million. These funds will be used to solicit biomedical technology project proposals that include investigators from at least two Southeastern Wisconsin research institutions. The rules for matching funds from the research institutions shall be modeled after the rules for matching funds used by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Initial Funding for BTA Collaborative Grant Program

Funds Utilization. All funds will be utilized for research projects led by researchers from Southeastern Wisconsin research institutions. Project proposals will not be accepted from any companies or for-profit businesses. However, to the extent that the private sector could participate or invest in research projects to enhance their usefulness, industry contributions will be an important consideration in the award selection process.

Project Selection. Proposals will be reviewed and selected by a joint committee of 12 individuals, representing scientists from the participating research institutions and outside industry professionals, including venture capitalists, corporate leaders, state agency representatives, entrepreneurs, or technology experts. Grants for individual projects (as represented by researchers from multiple institutions) would be awarded between $25,000 and $250,000. Although it is envisioned that there would be a range of projects in various stages that would be funded, it would be left to the selection committee to select those projects that best grow the collaborative research infrastructure of Southeastern Wisconsin. The selection committee is only obliged to fund those projects deemed exceptional. Funding of projects will occur so long as funds are available.

Timing. The deadlines for the first solicitation of research project proposals are listed below:

  • March 24, 2006 – First solicitation of project proposals due
  • April 14, 2006 – First solicitation project awardees chosen and announced
  • To Be Determined – Second solicitation of project proposals due

Future solicitations of project proposals will be determined based on availability of funds.

Project Budgets. Project proposals will include an overall project budget and individual budgets for project costs allocated to each of the participating academic institutions. No more that 75% of the total cost can be allocated to one academic institution. Indirect costs (e.g. facilities operations and administrative costs) should not exceed 20% of the total project budget.

Accounting for Funds. For each approved project, the research institutions will establish a unique BTA-designated account into which project funds will be deposited. The identity of the lead investigator from each institution will drive designation of the account for grants management purposes. Each institution will apply its existing administrative and financial management standards to track and report the award’s financial activity. Accounts will be administered and managed as fixed price awards. At the beginning of each project, funds will be distributed to these accounts. Each institution will be required to report account activity to the grant selection committee upon request. UWM will manage and administer an account that contains funds from the State of Wisconsin. UWM will administer and distribute State funds based on the direction of the grant selection committee.

Matching Funds. With every research project, project costs are divided and allocated among two or more research institutions, per the budget. The funds to cover the costs for each research institution will be: 50% from State funds and 50% from institutional funds. No research institution is obliged to provide these matching funds until a project is selected for funding that involves investigators from that institution. When a project is selected for funding, each research institution is only obliged to provide matching funds for the portion of the costs of the project that are allocated to that institution.

Commercialization of New Discoveries. Intellectual property developed under these collaborations shall be managed by common (accepted) practices among academic and non-profit entities. Ownership of inventions will be dictated by inventorship, which is a matter of U.S. patent law. The parties understand the need to effectively manage intellectual property arising out of the collaboration. This management will reduce legal costs and maximize the scope of protection obtained for new inventions. Accordingly, the institutions will develop an efficient procedure for evaluating any intellectual property arising out of the collaboration, including a process for quickly determining inventorship on patent applications. The lead institution for commercialization of intellectual property arising out of a work plan will be selected by mutual agreement of the respective technology transfer offices. This decision will be based on where the science is taking place (i.e. where PI resides), the number of inventors and other factors. Should the parties not be able to agree on who will take the lead in managing the invention, the choice of lead institution will be decided by mutual agreement of a committee composed of a senior representative from each institution.

Internal Development of Early-stage Innovations. The preferred route for commercialization will be to license new technology to a new or existing company as soon as practical. However, new technology often requires additional investments in applied research and development before it has sufficient value to be an attractive license. For example, a new therapeutic agent might require preclinical testing (testing in an animal model of disease) or toxicological evaluation before it could be commercialized. The National Institutes of Health and foundations do not regularly fund this type of developmental work. Therefore, to prevent promising, but unproven, technology from languishing or never being commercially developed, the BTA collaborative grant program may apply some portion of the total funds in later grant cycles to this purpose. These development funds will not be used in lieu of outside investment of the technology, but only in instances where outside investment is premature.

Keeping It in Wisconsin. A major goal of the BTA is to contribute to the economic development of the biomedical industry in Wisconsin. The collaborative grant program is designed to promote innovation within research institutions in Southeastern Wisconsin, and researchers are encouraged to seek partnerships with new or existing Wisconsin-based companies whenever feasible.

If you have further questions about the collaborative grant program, please e-mail us at

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