Category: News


3 Hopkins Faculty Members Awarded $270,000 in Thalheimer Funding

3 Hopkins Faculty Members Awarded $270,000 in Thalheimer Funding


Louis B. Thalheimer

In July, three Johns Hopkins faculty members received awards totaling more than a quarter million dollars from the Louis B. Thalheimer Fund for Translational Research.

The $270,000 in seed funding distributed by Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures (JHTV) will support the recipients as they produce the proof-of-concept, prototype and commercial feasibility studies that will enable them to move their discoveries and innovations out of the laboratory and into the marketplace.

In addition to funding, each of the Thalheimer Award recipients receives a mentor. These mentors help the innovators determine available opportunities in the marketplace and develop industry and investor connections. Each mentor is part of FastForward’s network of mentors-in-residence.

Dr. David Efron

Dr. David Efron received $100,000 in Thalheimer funding to facilitate the development of Depictation, an interactive surgical depiction for the electronic medical record.

Due to the digitization of medical records, surgeons have lost the opportunity to sketch and store anatomical changes from complex surgeries. Depictation has the potential to enable surgeons to add the visual nuances that stem from surgery into these records with its drag-and-drop, 3-D visualization tool. Dr. Efron’s technology is a collaboration that spans the Johns Hopkins’ Department of Surgery, Carey Business School and Art as Applied to Medicine program.

Dr. Justin Sacks

Dr. Justin Sacks received $100,000 in Thalheimer funding to support the development of the Mercury Patch, a technology based on a collaboration with Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design students that could solve the common patient issue of pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores.

Because bedridden patients develop pressure ulcers in as little as two hours, caretakers continuously reposition patients and apply breathable foam and gauze bandages to vulnerable areas. The Mercury Patch would add pressure sensors and Bluetooth technology to these bandages, enabling them to wirelessly transmit pressure information to nursing stations, smartphones and other devices. This data would provide insights into when to move patients and whether the repositioning relieves pressure.

Dr. Ralph Etienne-Cummings

The funding received by Dr. Ralph Etienne-Cummings marks the first time a Thalheimer award has been provided for a pure engineering project. Dr. Etienne-Cummings received $70,000 for the development of a pixel-wise reconfigurable exposure image sensor for automotive advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and consumer cameras.

Dr. Etienne-Cummings’ technology aims to improve upon existing camera sensors by providing a more accurate depiction of a device’s surroundings. This innovation could improve the performance of driverless cars, military drones and cell phone cameras.

Increasing interest

Now in its third year, the Louis B. Thalheimer Fund for Translational Research has seen a significant uptick in interest from Johns Hopkins faculty members. During fiscal year 2016, JHTV received six applications. That number increased to eight the following year and reached 20 this year.

A $5.4 million gift from Louis Thalheimer, a school of medicine trustee, created the fund that bears his name. Each year, researchers receiving a Thalheimer award will receive funding from $25,000 to $100,000. The funds are distributed as the researchers reach milestones over a period of nine to 12 months.

“Thalheimer funding provides Johns Hopkins faculty with a critical resource that enables them to more quickly commercialize innovation and bring its benefits to the world,” says Nina Urban, associate director of FastForward. “We are extremely grateful for Mr. Thalheimer’s gift and are thrilled that more and more of our faculty are looking to take advantage of the opportunity he has provided.”

Since its inception, the fund has supported Johns Hopkins faculty members with $670,000, including the $270,000 awarded this year. The first Thalheimer awards were distributed in January 2016 to Hai-Quan Mao, Ahmet Hoke and Francoise Marvel. The second Thalheimer cohort of John Laterra and Krishnaj Gourab received funding in July 2016.

2016 awards

Ahmet Hoke, professor of neurology and neuroscience, received $59,991 to study potential drugs—some novel—that could prevent chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), a disease affecting almost 8 percent of the U.S. population and a common side effect of many chemotherapeutic drugs.

Francoise Marvel, an internal medicine resident at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, received $44,000 to develop the Johns Hopkins HEALTH-E App to accompany patient prescriptions.

Hai-Quan Mao, Whiting School Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, received $100,000 for the development of a soft tissue alternative to benefit cancer and trauma patients and others cosmetically.

2017 awards

Dr. Krishnaj Gourab, an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, received $95,549 for ReHAP, a software that aims to triage patients for therapy.

Dr. John Laterra—a professor of neurology, oncology and neuroscience and a co-director of the Brain Cancer Program at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center—received $100,000 for the development of a therapeutic for the treatment of primary and metastatic cancer.

Eligibility for Thalheimer funding is restricted to Johns Hopkins faculty members who have formally disclosed a technology to JHTV and have been assigned a case number. Additionally, the applicant’s invention must not be subject to any pre-existing exclusive licenses, non-exclusive licenses or options.

Application information and scoring criteria is available here. Email applications to Hannah Jannarone ( The next application period will open in March 2018, and a request for application (RFA) will be distributed in early January 2018.

Click here to see the 2018 Thalheimer Fund request for applications. Deadline is March 15, 2018!



An Unlikely Company Inspired JHTV’s New Technology Search Engine

An Unlikely Company Inspired JHTV’s New Technology Search Engine

Ever purchase something from Zappos? If so, you may find Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures’ technology publisher site familiar.

The inspiration to improve users’ technology search experiences with an e-commerce-style search engine came to Pete Vrettakos, an associate director at JHTV, after buying shoes from Zappos. Not only did the site display the items that matched his search precisely, it showcased items outside of the specific search parameters that matched his tastes and interests. This type of search, Vrettakos thought, would wholly improve the experiences of users looking at Johns Hopkins’ technology portfolio.

“JHTV wants to ensure that the people who engage us have the best possible experience,” Vrettakos says. “Taking inspiration from Zappos, a company well-known for its customer service and business success, seemed like a logical step. We want to make it simple and easy to find the relevant technologies we are developing.”

The enhanced search engine powered by Algolia, a company which specializes in building search engines for mobile applications and websites, provides users more accurate results, the ability to easily refine and export results, and notifications when new technologies in a particular interest area are added.

“When you search for shoes on Zappos, you learn more about shoes than you thought you needed to know, making it a better search experience,” Vrettakos says. “We’re not aware of any other technology transfer office with a guided e-commerce style search functionality for its tech portfolio.

“The intuitive format guides searchers to the information they want and, in some cases, to information they didn’t know they wanted.”

Vrettakos credited several JHTV colleagues—business analyst Kellin Krick, marketing and communications manager Hanju Lee and IT manager Alan Mullenax—and Tim Hollobon from Inteum, a software provider for technology transfer offices, for moving his idea from concept to reality.

“We hope this intuitive and guided searchability of Johns Hopkins’ technology portfolio will drive an increase in traffic to our website as more people come to search for technologies,” Vrettakos says. “Ultimately, this may make it more likely that many of the amazing inventions generated here are licensed which will facilitate the institution’s greater mission of bringing the benefits of discovery to the world.”

The revamped search functionality is only the latest effort by JHTV to improve customer service. In March 2016, the Technology Transfer team launched the 2-2-2 program to increase responsiveness and transparency for those submitting an invention disclosure. This program ensures that inventors receive a response within two days, have a meeting scheduled within two weeks and will have a written decision within two months.

“At all levels, from inventor response to online technology asset searching to transactional tempo, JHTV is building greater efficiency into our commercialization experience,” says Neil Veloso, JHTV’s executive director of technology transfer. “By no means are these one-off efforts. We will continue to identify opportunities that will enable us to become even more streamlined and better serve those with whom we work.”

In April 2017, immediately before the opening of the FastForward 1812 innovation hub, JHTV also launched its new website with simplified navigation intended to help its primary audiences: inventors, industry collaborators/investors, and startups. The redesigned site intends to allow users to find the information they need when they need it.

Try JHTV’s technology search for yourself here!


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