From cancer-killing medications to the world’s most famous sports drink, Florida universities have a rich history of technology development, with new innovations transferring to market every year. Recent developments include:
DreamDegree puts UCF technology toward new mobile platform
David Metcalf, a senior researcher at the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Simulation and Training, has helped create technology that will be used in a new online-learning platform coming to mobile devices.
Metcalf’s innovations are an integral part of the new mobile platform scheduled to be released in January by DreamDegree, a private company that offers free college-level courses online. Metcalf’s research allows the mobile courses to be adaptive, allowing users to progress at their own pace based on their answers and mastery of the material. DreamDegree’s parent company, Significant Technology, LLC, sought out Metcalf as a co-founder to help design the mobile-learning strategy. Metcalf has been a leader in the field of online learning for more than 20 years. The company sponsored his research on the project.
“Dr. Metcalf’s research and technology have made higher education more flexible, affordable and effective for DreamDegree students,” said DreamDegree founder Michael K. Clifford. “And for the many whose life’s ambition was put on hold by living too far from campus, a challenging work schedule, or lack of money, he’s helping open doors that had long been shut.”
Sharklet Technologies uses UF discovery to prevent infections
Tapping the discoveries of a University of Florida materials science and engineering researcher Tony Brennan, UF biotechnology spin-off Sharklet Technologies sells what it calls “engineered surfaces” that, laboratory tests show, ward off not only staph and E-coli, but also MRSA infections, which are notoriously dangerous and difficult-to-address.
The Alachua County-based company’s products discourage bacteria from colonizing surfaces in hospitals and medical devices using a microscopic pattern modeled on the skin of the ocean’s most notorious predators.
Sharklet’s product line now includes a Foley catheter, an intraocular lens and adhesively backed film that can be converted into bacteria-inhibiting surface coverings for use in places such as hospitals and public restrooms.
Life Enabling Technologies uses USF technology to provide independence for individuals in wheelchairs
Life Enabling Technologies, Inc. is a Tampa Bay startup and veteran-owned company that provides innovative, patented accessories for disabled individuals confined to wheelchairs. The company, led by founder Stuart Pinnock, has licensed two products from the University of South Florida that are designed to provide easier accessibility to tools and items for wheelchair users. The first, a patented folding armrest tray, is a pivoting table that pulls out of the power wheelchair armrest and provides a tray table with a built-in insert that can prop up such devices as tablets, smartphones and reading material and stows under the armrest when not in use. The company also licensed a patent pending backpack retriever that provides easy access to belongings usually stored at the back of the wheelchair and retrieves these items with a flip of a switch by bringing them to either the right or left side of the chair. Both technologies were developed in the USF College of Engineering by a team led by Stephen Sundarrao, associate director of the USF Center for Rehabilitation Engineering and Technology and a faculty member in the USF Department of Mechanical Engineering. The company’s products are manufactured locally, in Oldsmar, Florida.
Speaking with Lisa Montelione, Tampa City Councilwoman, on the series “Innovation Fixation”, Pinnock said the products are “meant to give people in wheelchairs more independence and empower them to have more capacity to live normal daily lives and to do things that they want to do and need to do but could not do previously.”
Life Enabling Technologies competed in the final round of the 2015 Access to Capital Business Pitch Competition and won the “People’s Choice Award” and the “Vision” award.
Autism Navigator uses FSU talent and research to improve the treatment and diagnoses of autism
Building on decades of research, FSU College of Medicine Distinguished Research Professor Amy Wetherby and College of Communications and Information Professor Juliann J. Woods are changing the way the world looks at autism, and more importantly, how people diagnose and treat it.
Their research into the role of early diagnosis of autism led to the creation of the company Autism Navigator, which offers a collection of web-based tools and courses to bridge the gap between scientific research and community practice. The courses help train primary care physicians to look for early signs of autism in children as young as 12 to 18 months. Diagnosing and intervening earlier in an autistic child’s life can lead to better health outcomes as they mature.
The courses and tools are used in seven states and Canada, but the company has been fielding requests from around the world.
“We’re thrilled with the growth trajectory and prospects for the future and the process of integrating translations and cultural adaptations into different languages and have had exciting conversations with folks in different parts of the world who recognize the value of this research,” said Autism Navigator CEO Bill Lickson.
The company is designed similarly to Newman’s Own in that all profits go back into research and building free tools for families with an autistic child.