Four faculty members from the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering have received grants for their research through the Cohen Translational Engineering Fund.

The fund, made possible by a generous commitment from Neil Cohen ’83 and his wife, Sherry, serves as a catalyst for translating cutting-edge research to practice by providing faculty with critical early funding. The grant is designed to help researchers move their work out of the laboratory, including the development of patents, obtaining materials and supplies and building prototypes.

Since its inception five years ago, the Cohen Fund has granted nearly $700,000 for 20 projects.

“We’re pleased to once again help Whiting School of Engineering researchers advance their work,” said Neil Cohen. “Johns Hopkins is the premier research university for science, medical and engineering fields. The pipeline of opportunities and proposals submitted to the fund quarter after quarter continues to grow in number and quality. I am confident that, in the near future, we will see breakthroughs and technological innovations that have ‘crossed the chasm’ from research to practical application that can be used in the real world.”

Cohen was a non-voting observer as an outside panel of independent researchers and investors, innovation executives and venture investors heard presentations from the seven applicants in December at FastForward R. House.

“The applicants and grantees were representative of the diverse research interests and technical strengths of the faculty of the Whiting School of Engineering,” said Benjamin Gibson, manager of John Hopkins Technology Ventures’ Commercialization Strategy Group. “The Cohen Fund Advisory Board meeting represents an excellent opportunity to bring together WSE faculty with experienced business professionals to showcase this strength and provide valuable feedback regarding the commercialization of their technologies.”

The winners will meet with JHTV staff at the end of the project and work on a one-page marketing summary for their work.


Principal investigator: Soumyadipta Acharya, assistant research professor of biomedical engineering and graduate program director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design

The pitch: VectorWeb, a surveillance system of cloud-connected smart mosquito traps that remotely and automatically identify field-collected mosquito specimens

More than a half-million people die each year from mosquito-borne diseases, and billions of dollars are spent annually on mosquito surveillance and control. Tracking mosquito populations is critical to designing effective control strategies, but current methods are slow and expensive, requiring mosquito traps to be manually set and their contents later manually counted and identified. VecTech’s smart-imaging attachment for commercial mosquito traps allows public health systems to collect surveillance data faster through novel image classification algorithms. The project has received grant funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development Combating Zika and Future Threats Grand Challenges, and from the International Vector Control Consortium. The Cohen Fund Award will go toward an international field study in India and an early international pilot study in Brazil. VecTech has one patent filed through Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures.

3D Printing of Advanced Materials and Alloys

Principal investigator: Kevin Hemker, Alonzo G. Decker Chair in Mechanical Engineering

The pitch: mass production of materials with remarkable properties

Using a previous Cohen Fund grant, Hemker developed a metal MEMS (micro-electric-mechanical systems) material with three times the strength of high-strength steel, thermal expansion akin to Gorilla Glass, high electrical conductivity and dimensional stability. With the latest Cohen Fund grant, Hemker will work with researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory to create the materials with a 3D printer, meaning the materials could be produced in bulk. The lightweight and functional products built from the materials could be used in the aerospace, automotive, biomedical and medical device industries, as well as for fasteners and tooling. Hemker is collaborating currently with APL on a NASA-funded project to produce lightweight brackets. The Cohen funding will allow him to expand his collaborations with APL and to demonstrate the feasibility of 3D printing this novel new material.

Development of Glycoengineered Biotherapeutic Proteins

Principal investigator: Kevin Yarema, associate professor of biomedical engineering (in collaboration with Jamie Spangler, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and chemical and biomolecular engineering)

The pitch: a novel way to improve the glycosylation of “biologics”

Commercialization of “biologics,” which are primarily therapeutic proteins, depends on biomanufacturing processes that enhance the biological activity, pharmacological properties and safety of these drugs. The Yarema group has developed “high flux” sugar analogs using glycoengineering strategies that promise to improve many biotherapeutic proteins; early development of this technology, which has been patented by JHTV, has been funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and the Maryland Innovation Initiative. The Cohen Fund grant was jointly awarded to the Yarema group and the Spangler lab to create a novel glycoengineered monoclonal antibody designed to treat cancer. The project aims to generate enough data to patent either this antibody or one of two other test proteins to form a foundation for clinical translation and commercialization.

The application window for the next round of Cohen Fund grants is open from Feb. 15 through March 15. Applicants’ projects must be formally disclosed to Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures and not the subject of any preexisting exclusive license, non-exclusive licenses or options. Click here to apply.