Updated March 23 at 6:27pm

URI researcher gains NSF help to bring brain science advancement to market


(Updated, 6 p.m.)

KINGSTON – University of Rhode Island biomedical engineering professor Walt Besio has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to help him commercialize an advancement in brain signal electrodes.

The funds will be used by Besio to take advantage of a Stanford University program designed to help promising research move from the laboratory to market. Known as the Innovation Corps, the eight-week program began in October and requires Besio to attend classes on Stanford’s campus and meet every week with people who could help him develop his business plan.

The electrode is able to detect brain signals that are four times weaker than those that are used today in electroencephalograms for the diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders.

“This new accelerated business model will help me start a company from my technology and save people’s lives,” said Besio in a release. “That has always been my dream.”

Besio is one of 21 I-Corps grantees from across the country, and as part of the program, he was required to name a mentor and person to run the company after its creation. He chose Jim Petell, URI’s assistant vice president for research and intellectual property as his mentor, and Xiang Liu, a doctoral student who has been working with him since 2008, as the leader of the company down the road.

The researcher has maintained his teaching and research schedule through the I-Corps program, but sees the payoff when he is done with it by the middle of December.

“At the end of it all, if we’ve put the effort in, we’ll have a company and a product that will make it to market and [have] venture capitalists ready to give us funding,” Besio said. “That will be our reward.”

Besio was the recipient in 2010 of a nearly $200,000 grant from the R.I. Science and Technology Advisory Council to develop the electrode with collaborators Dr. John Gaitanis of Brown University and Michael Sullivan of Astro-Med Inc.


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