Neha Arora, postdoctoral researcher at Patel College of Global Sustainability, was able to push the boundaries of her research on algae growth with help from the Florida High Tech Corridor’s Matching Grant Research Program (MGRP).
Arora was just one of 60 researchers to be part of the program this year, and it allowed her to partner with a company to help develop a bioreactor in USF’s own botanical gardens.
The program enables selected researchers to extend the scope and limits of their projects through partnerships and funding, thereby helping to advance important discoveries the university is working on.
Florida High Tech Corridor’s MGRP prioritizes funding for projects that provide university students with high-level, hands-on research experiences that generate new intellectual property or technology. It assists researchers from UCF, UF and USF.
The program provides matching grants for all types of research, from Alzheimer’s disease research to technological breakthroughs, and USF can contribute up to $ 150,000 for each project.
Arora said the program provided a first seed grant ffrom the private sector (Culture Biosystems) of $ 31,257. It also received an equal amount as consideration from the Florida High Tech Corridor Program so that it can partner with Culture Biosystems, a technology developer with an advanced cultivation platform that enables the large-scale production of algae for use in the production of biofuels, aviation fuels, animal feed, protein and nutraceuticals.
His research is to build a cost-effective horizontal bioreactor, which will essentially grow algae in an artificial, temperature-controlled environment. The research team wanted to see if cost-effective designs are as good as expensive designs by comparing the amount of algae produced by each design as well as the quality of the algae.
“We had to develop automated and modular photobioreactors that were cost effective, not only in terms of building the structure, but also in terms of water and energy consumption,” she said.
“We installed this at the USF Botanical Gardens, and it’s 140 liters, so we mine it and grow the biomass of marine algae. The biomass we collect is intended for the aquaculture industry that we [partnered with], and they feed it to the fish and see the effect on growth and nutrient quality.
She said her next steps are to apply for another grant to expand their research on algae biomass.
“We have applied for a Phase II grant that gives us the opportunity to expand this to larger systems so that we can start producing a small amount of algal biomass at a cost-effective price, and we are waiting to hear the results somehow. leaves around July or August. . “
Along with Arora, Priyanka Bhatt, whose research focuses on the development of nanoformulations of Ayurvedic medicinal plants, was also selected for the matching grant program. She said her goal was to develop therapeutic treatment options that were effective enough while reducing the side effects of chronic disease.
She is currently pursuing her postdoc as assistant professor in the laboratory of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Vijaykumar Sutariya, and they are working on ocular drug delivery on novel nanotransporter strategies to combat age-related macular degeneration.
Bhatt said he heard that the MGRP was very competitive and that she and her team went through a very long process to be selected. Although she was not sure how much money the team received, she said she was very grateful that the grant was able to support their research.
“Health research services will invest money, and the Florida High Tech Corridor will match that money, and it will be used for this research project,” Bhatt said.
“They also generate some of the employment for students and post-docs like me. At the same time, they’re helping small businesses grow, patent their new technology, and move into the commercialization of the new technology, so that’s been very helpful. ”
Bhatt said her next steps include making a formulation such as a nanoformulation that can increase patient compliance and provide comfort, which she hopes to achieve with her research.
Kristie Labib, an undergraduate student at Joseph Walton’s Laboratory on Pharmaceutical and Therapeutic Methods for Relieving Tinnitus Symptoms, said that although she was not made aware of the grant amount as an undergraduate researcher , the program opened doors for him because of his ability to support his involvement in the project.
“Research is one of my passions,” she says. “My grandmother was passionate about research in Egypt, it was her career, and my mother also loved research. It was very nice to realize that my passion is research and that it worked in our family.
With Cognosetta, a company that is exploring different drugs for all kinds of hearing problems, Labib and the rest of the team are focused on exploring and finding a cure for tinnitus.
“The project we were working on with Cognosetta is looking at a potential ion channel opener that could essentially suppress tinnitus symptoms,” Labib said.
“We were looking at hearing sensitivity and trying to see if we can increase hearing sensitivity and if that can lead to the suppression of tinnitus symptoms, because tinnitus occurs when hearing sensitivity decreases.”
Labib said she is very grateful to USF and the Florida High Tech Corridor for his journey in research, as this ultimately prompted her to pursue him in medical school as well.
“I’m going to USF for medical school next month, which is incredibly exciting,” she said. “The USF as a whole was amazing, but the research really inspired me to pursue research in medical school, so the fact that I can do that here at USF is amazing, and I feel like that they sort of end what they started me with and I’m excited to see what I can do here.
With many years of experience, Bhatt said she enjoys the MGRP for finally giving him the opportunity to learn a lot from his research and to take an interest in his work.
“I would like to thank the Florida High Tech Corridor Matching Grants Research Program, as I have had the opportunity to work as a postdoctoral fellow and have been a postdoctoral fellow for three and a half years, and have learned a lot from them. things, ”she said.
“They make sure you are focused on your goal and have a deep interest in your research, so I am delighted to be a part of this project.”