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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 7, 2001

Ryan Awards $4.2 Million in Tech Challenge Grants

CHICAGO -- Governor George H. Ryan today awarded $4,248,492 in state Technology Challenge Grants to eighteen businesses, universities and research centers that are on the cutting edge of 21st Century technology.

"The projects that are being funded through these grants span a wide range of potential commercial uses in fields such as medicine, manufacturing, energy and transportation," said Ryan. "Our investment in these people and these projects is one way to ensure that Illinois remains one of the nation's leaders in research and innovation."

This year's recipients stretch from Evanston to Carbondale and include previous grant winners Influx, Inc. and Bio-Imaging, Inc. Other grantees include MediChem Life Sciences, Inc. which is working with a naturally occurring anti- melanoma agent, and Argonne National Laboratory which is developing environmentally friendly solvents for industrial applications.

The first commercialization project out of the Beckmann Institute at the University of Illinois is also being recognized. Vision Technology, Inc. is working with a non-frontal imaging camera that provides panoramic images over a 360-degree view.

The Technology Challenge Grants are designed to fund science and technology projects, partnerships between universities and industry, high-tech commercialization projects, transfer projects and infrastructure improvements. The program is administered through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs (DCCA).

"As a result of the Governor's strong commitment to supporting technology research in Illinois, we were able to double the number of projects funded through the Technology Challenge grant program this year," said DCCA Director Pam McDonough. "The payoff for our investment in these research efforts will ultimately be the commercial application of products and innovations which will benefit the business community and the general public."

A list of the grant winners is attached.

Litholink Corporation (Chicago)
Funding Amount: $250,000
Project: Investigate the potential diagnostic and therapeutic applications of the six naturally occurring and well-characterized urinary protein inhibitors of crystal formation with respect to neprolithiasis (kidney stone disease).

SloWave Inc. (Chicago)
Funding Amount: $199,642
Project: SloWave's first commercial target will be a novel class of sleep-enhancing compounds that, unlike currently available hypnotics, stimulate the deepest and most restorative component of sleep, often referred to as 'slow-wave sleep.' The goal is to synthesize and develop a proprietary new drug selected from a family of proprietary drug candidates that bind to or modulate the activity of the gammahydroxybutyrate (GHB) receptor system.

BioTechPlex Corporation (Chicago)
Funding Amount: $346,661
Project: Demonstrate BioTechPlex's capability of utilizing the following novel technologies - frequency modulation life-time fluorescence, acousto-optical scanning, genetically manipulated cell lines, and custom combinatory mathematics to generate drug-induced high level information on the dynamics of cellular mechanisms in biological systems. This information will be used to form 'fingerprints' against which new drug candidates can be recognized.

Influx, Inc. (Chicago)
Funding Amount: $150,000
Project: There is an urgent therapeutic need for antimicrobial agents effective against Gram positive infections including Staphylococcus, Enterococcus and Streptococcus. There is a pressing need for an effective therapy that is truly bactericidal, that is, it kills the infection. Influx will use these Tech Challenge funds to continue chemical synthesis of 'analogs,' or variations, of the lead compounds to develop maximum efficacy and minimum toxicity. Specifically, the lead compounds will be optimized for in vivo studies.

Vision Technology, Inc. (Champaign)
Funding Amount: $292,287
Project: Intended to fill a major technology gap through the development and commercialization of the omnifocus non-frontal imaging camera that was introduced by Dr. Narendra Ahuja and his group at the University of Illinois, that provides a sharp focused panoramic image and range estimates over 360-degree views.

Santec Systems, Inc. (Wheeling)
Funding Amount: $195,624
Project: Improve its unique acousto-optic (AO) sensor that has allowed SSI to develop acoustography, a new ultrasonic imaging approach. This approach is a departure from conventional ultrasonic imaging and has significant commercial potential in numerous markets including nondestructive testing, medical ultrasound and military.

Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago)
Funding Amount: $200,000
Project: Continue to work to promote technology transfer of results and capabilities to Illinois companies. The IIT research center (IITRI) will support these efforts through a subcontract providing personnel and use of the IITRI Manufacturing Laboratory facilities in Chicago. Note - This recommendation is for the second year of a three-year project which began with an FY'00 Technology Challenge Grant.

Superior Graphite Co. (Chicago)
Funding Amount: $296,303
Project: Develop an economical method for producing nano-crystalline ceramic parts from nano-sized powders. Electroconsolidation is a proprietary process that has been developed by the Superior Graphite Co. to consolidate powder performs of complex shape very economically. In this project, the feasibility of using Electroconsolidation will be explored with respect to three key areas of technical opportunity: o Production of very pure nano-crystalline ceramic components; o Production of ceramic composites from nano-crystalline powders; o Joining of conventional ceramics with nano-crystalline powders.

Bio-Imaging Research, Inc. (Lincolnshire)
Funding Amount: $98,000
Project: BIR will complete the construction of an x-ray computed tomography service bureau which will allow access to CT scanning services to local and national customers for research, reverse engineering, forensics, quality assurance, nondestructive testing and materials evaluation on a per day, per hour, or per scan basis. The service bureau will give CT x-ray imaging services to a wide range of companies and organizations who cannot afford CT equipment of their own.

Northwestern University Advance Coating Technology Group (Evanston)
Funding Amount: $139,979
Project: Improve the vacuum technology-based infrastructure in Illinois by introducing PVD coating technology to small and medium sized companies that currently serve existing heavy industry such as the agricultural machinery industry.

Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne)
Funding Amount: $150,000
Project: To bridge the gap between initial technical success and commercial success for the development of bio-based "green" solvents, such as ethyl lactate from corn and methyl soyate from soybeans, for industrial solvent applications.

Southern Illinois University (Carbondale)
Funding Amount: $147,776
Project: The Materials Technology Center (MTC) at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) proposes to develop the new generation materials and devices based on emerging nanotechnologies. This project will focus on strategies to elicit dynamic responses from silica-based materials and nanodevices that are prepared using the sol-gel process.

MediChem Life Sciences, Inc. (Lemont)
Funding Amount: $350,000
Project: An extract from the stem bark of Ziziphus mauritiana Lam (Rhamnaceae) has displayed selective cytotoxicity against cultured human melanoma cells. Betulinic acid (BA) was isolated as the active anti-tumor agent. It is the goal of this program to develop a scaleable method for the preparation of BA.

Containerless Research, Inc. (Evanston)
Funding Amount: $435,000
Project: CRI recently demonstrated, in an NSF-supported SBIR project, that its proprietary thin film metrology technology meets the technical requirements of the semiconductor industry. This is a timely development because the industry is just entering a new phase in process control that applies "integrated" metrology to increase the precision of fabrication operations. The proposed research project will take this technology from its current partially developed stage to a fully developed sensor instrument ready for integration into semiconductor process metrology equipment.

Southern Illinois University (Carbondale)
Funding Amount: $147,220
Project: Encourage technology transfer in the areas of intelligent transportation systems. This will be accomplished by focusing on short-term specific projects:

  • Remote sensing and wireless communication from bridges and airplanes to central locations;
  • Multi-body dynamics through simulation and virtual prototyping

Neuroscience Toolworks, Inc. (Evanston)
Funding Amount: $550,000
Project: The Sonar Heatbeam Dolorimeter (HBD) is a novel medical device used for assessing chronic pain patients and sensory nerve injury, either central or peripheral. It represents a seminal improvement over available methods and will assist in pain diagnosis and therapy. The presently proposed Challenge Grant funding will enable Neuroscience Toolworks to bring the project to a successful commercial introduction.

University of Illinois (Chicago)
Funding Amount: $150,000
Project: Expand the centralized capabilities of UIC's MAL (Microfabrication Applications Laboratory) into nanofabrication.

TechSavants, Inc. (Naperville)
Funding Amount: $150,000
Project: Develop a downhole technology to enhance the production of natural gas storage wells and enhance the potential of natural gas reservoirs, using sound energy to remove mineral deposits on the well casings and storage formations.


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