Malaria treatments and e-noses win top prizes at Technology Breakthrough Competition

(from the Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology)

The cost of treating malaria and cancer could go down as much as 90% or more within five years, according to winners of the UC Berkeley Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology’s 2005 Technology Breakthrough Competition. The team of Berkeley scientists won $10,000 plus opportunities for mentorship for their method of metabolically engineering yeast with vastly improved capacity for isoprenoid production. Isoprenoids (or terpenes) are naturally occurring compounds used in the anti-cancer drug taxol, the anti-malarial drug artemisinin, and other medications. The yeast can be used as a reliable, lowcost substitute for plant genes currently used in these drugs.

Runners up in the Breakthrough Competition received $5,000 for technology that can simplify and reduce the cost of manufacturing “electronic noses.” The 2005 Technology Breakthrough Competition is an annual event that spotlights Berkeley’s emerging technologies.

The Technology Breakthrough Competition was launched by UC Berkeley’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (CET) to showcase high-impact science research and discoveries with the potential to be commercialized within the next five years. In addition to competing for cash prizes, contestants are invited to work with CET’s Venture Lab, Executives in Residence, and other CET industry partnerships to further their projects’ development and commercialization.

The 2005 Technology Breakthrough Competition Winners:
Grand Prize and Science Breakthrough Award ($10,000): Metabolic Engineering of Yeast, developed by James Kirby, postdoctoral scholar, Keasling Research Group and Eric Paradise, graduate student, Chemical Engineering. This engineered yeast strain emulates plant genes for use in cancer and malarial drugs, potentially reducing the cost of life-saving medications by 90% or more.

Information Technology Breakthrough Award ($5,000): “Low-Cost Electronic Noses,” technology that can sniff out anything from contraband to spoiled milk. Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences graduate students Josephine Chang, Brian Mattis, and Steve Molesa, with Professor Vivek Subramanian, developed a way to make gas sensors using printing technology, at a price 10 to 200 times lower than current methods, making electronic noses affordable for commercial use.

The Director’s Award ($1,000):
"MultiView: Spatially Faithful Group Video Conference," by Dr. John Canny and David Nguyen. Designed to improve collaboration and communication among teams working in geographically distant locations, this multiple-perspective display provides each participant his or her own unique and correct perspective for realistic video conferences by simultaneously showing different video streams to different participants.

The Greatest Social Impact Award ($1,000)
: "UV Tube: A Novel & Inexpensive Tool for the Provision of Clean Water," developed by Energy and Resources graduate students Forest Kaser, Micah Lang, and Fermin Reygadas. Currently 1.1 billion people in the world need clean water, and 2.4 billion people lack proper sanitation. Part of the problem is price: UV disinfection units cost between $300 and $1,000 and can require specialized replacement parts. This team’s UV tubes are constructed from common, low-cost
materials and cost as little as $70. They use ultraviolet (UV-C) light to inactivate waterborne bacteria, viruses and protozoa.

 Read entire press release at CET

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