$20M Frankel innovation initiative set to kick off third round of funding

Author | Kelly Malcom

Fast Forward Medical Innovation (FFMI), a unit of the University of Michigan Medical School Office of Research, is launching the third round of the Frankel Innovation Initiative, a $20 million gift from the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation to support the research and development of life-saving therapies at Michigan Medicine, in collaboration with other institutions. The call for Letters of Intent opens Monday, April 4.

The Frankel Innovation Initiative is designed to build on best practices of the standout programs developed at U-M and other top institutions, and capitalizes on U-M’s extensive biomedical research enterprise. The $20 million gift is used to fund four to seven projects annually, with each project receiving between $250,000 - $500,000. Projects are eligible for up to three years of funding.

“This tremendous gift from Stuart and Maxine Frankel is already making a difference in helping advance innovative research at the University of Michigan,” says Steven L. Kunkel, Ph.D., Executive Vice Dean for Research in the Medical School and Chief Scientific Officer for Michigan Medicine. “The fund provides a fast path to patient impact by making it possible for innovators at all stages of a research project to receive the support they need to develop and commercialize novel solutions that will make a difference in people’s lives.” 

To date, the Frankel Innovation Initiative has awarded a combined $6.3 million to six projects. The winning projects over the first two funding cycles are:

  • Device to filter blood and treat sepsis and/or multiorgan failure in children (2nd year of funding) - David Humes, M.D. (U-M) and Stuart Goldstein, M.D., FAAP, FNKF (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center)
  • Cell therapy for premature ovarian insufficiency (1st year of funding) – Ariella Shikanov, Ph.D. (U-M) and Molly Moravek, M.D., M.P.H., MSCI (U-M)
  • Device to help stroke patients  (1st year of funding) – Aditya S. Pandey, M.D. (U-M) and Albert Shih, Ph.D. (U-M)
  • System to keep donor organs alive outside the body (2nd year of funding) - Alvaro Rojas Pena, M.D. (U-M) and Robert Bartlett, M.D. (U-M)
  • Prosthetic hand that uses signals from the brain to move and sense (2nd year of funding) – Paul Cederna, M.D. (U-M) and Cynthia Chestek, Ph.D. (U-M)
  • Device to help predict preterm birth (2nd year of funding) – Molly Stout, M.D., MSCI (U-M), Methodius Tuuli, M.D., M.P.H., and M.B.A. (Indiana University), and Peinan Zhao, Ph.D. (Washington University in St. Louis)

To receive funding, the researchers presented their proposals to the Frankels and a Scientific Advisory Committee of world-renowned scientists and technology development professionals external to U-M.

“Funding from the Frankel Innovation Initiative has allowed our team to further expand our research and more quickly move the project towards commercialization,” says Paul Cederna, M.D., Robert Oneal Professor of Plastic Surgery, Chief of the Section of Plastic Surgery, and Professor of Biomedical Engineering. “We are working on a nerve-controlled prosthesis that uses an implantable device to translate commands from the brain to the prosthetic hand in real time. This device will work for both upper and lower limb prosthesis. With the support of the Frankel Innovation Initiative, we are closer than ever to being able to help over 1.7 million people with limb loss in the United States, and tens of millions of people worldwide.”

The Frankel Innovation Initiative is administered by Fast Forward Medical Innovation, a group at Michigan Medicine that has the proven expertise and unique resources to work with faculty to bring together biomedical innovation and entrepreneurship and achieve life-saving results.

FFMI offers resources and support to world-class biomedical researchers at the university and across the state. This unit at U-M provides groundbreaking funding programs, dynamic educational offerings, and deep industry connections that help biomedical researchers and health care professionals navigate the road to successful innovation and commercialization, with the ultimate goal of positively impacting human health. For more information about FFMI, click here.

Media Contact Public Relations

Department of Communication at Michigan Medicine

[email protected]


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