A medical device to help stroke patients walk.

An app to use multiple phone numbers on a cellphone.

Computer games to teach children mindfulness.

Curriculum to help college athletes find a career path when their years in athletics are over.

Those are among 17 projects chosen for the launch of the new Discovery to Product, or D2P, program.

The partnership between UW-Madison and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, announced last November, is aimed at taking some of the most promising campus inventions and helping to speed their entry into the marketplace, boosting the economy and creating jobs.

Program director John Biondi said 172 proposals were submitted for the fast-track program. Forty already were incorporated, so they did not qualify and were passed on to other mentoring groups, he said.

The 17 proposals chosen come from a broad spectrum of the campus, from professors and students. Through the D2P program, they will team with experts who will guide them in refining their products, forming management teams, and determining a marketing strategy.

Most of the teams also will get “Igniter grants” as they reach certain milestones, from a $2.4 million state allocation for D2P, Biondi said. The goal: to get as many as possible on the market by June 2015.

Medical devices are heavy hitters

Medical technology makes up the largest number of projects, such as a less invasive way to follow up with men who have tested positive for prostate cancer, a new method of imaging bone tissue for cancer, and a better test for the effects of drug compounds on the heart.

“We’ve got some fairly sophisticated life science things, including a stem cell project that is somewhat revolutionary. It’s a method of dramatically reproducing not just stem cells but target cells — stem cells that have turned into target tissues,” for use by drug development companies, Biondi said.

Associate professor of kinesiology Kreg Gruben’s team has developed a robotic device to help stroke patients learn how to walk again. The product of 20 years of research, Gruben said it looks like an elliptical bike and focuses on two details involved in walking: the heel-to-toe foot movement and the brain’s control of hip and knee muscles.

“Stroke changes the relative amounts of which muscles we tend to use in such a way that it tends to make us fall over backwards,” Gruben said.

Another device is a digital otoscope for looking inside the ear. Ear infections are second only to the common cold in visits to the doctor, and with a standard otoscope, it’s very difficult to see the eardrum, said Jim Berbee, one of three Department of Emergency Medicine physicians who developed the new model.

About one-third the size of current devices, it consists of a small camera mounted on the end of a flexible tube with a strong light source, Berbee said.

“It gives a nice, clear view of the eardrum,” he said. “It uses a camera so tiny you almost can’t see it with the naked eye ... You can snake it right above ear wax.”

Berbee, department chairwoman Azita Hamedani and pediatric specialist Greg Rebella designed the otoscope.

Berbee tackled medicine after founding one of the successful, early, local IT companies, Berbee Information Networks Corp., which was sold to publicly traded CDW Corp., of Vernon Hills, Illinois, for $175 million in 2006.

Student-designed projects for color 3D printing and a cell phone app to handle multiple phone numbers are also among the D2P teams, as well as mindfulness games for children created by UW happiness expert Richard Davidson and curriculum to guide the future career paths of college athletes.

“There’s some neat stuff here on campus, and hopefully, we can do something with it,” Biondi said.


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