Ploss, Donia and Berry labs receive Intellectual Property Accelerator Funds

Written by
Office of the Dean for Research, Catherine Zandonella, Princeton University
Jan. 25, 2018

View of sky outside Icahn building


Three Molecular Biology faculty members submitted technologies that were selected to receive funding through Princeton University’s Intellectual Property Accelerator Fund. The fund provides resources targeted at moving the research forward to the point where the innovations are ready for development by entities outside the University, such as startup companies, investors or government agencies. Each year, projects are selected by a committee that includes peer researchers as well as representatives from the venture capital community. Each project will receive up to $100,000 to be spent on additional proof-of-concept research or developing working prototypes.


Machine-learning algorithms that mimic how the brain works

Michael Berry II, associate professor of molecular biology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute

Building on new research into the nature of computations in the brain, Michael Berry and his team are developing algorithms that can learn and process information for use in applications as diverse as recognizing objects in videos, parsing spoken language and predicting risk of a cyberattack.

The researchers plan to compare these biologically based algorithms to actual neural recordings to uncover similarities and differences in how the algorithms compare to human performance.

By matching key aspects of how real networks in the brain perform learning, the researchers hope to improve the learning capabilities of machines.


New drugs to stop hepatitis B and E virus infection

Alexander Ploss, assistant professor of molecular biology

New therapies under development at Princeton could stop the spread of hepatitis B and E viruses, which infect the liver and cause numerous cases of liver failure and cancer each year.

Alexander Ploss and his team developed new screening systems to identify small molecules that are effective in stopping viral infection.

The efficacy of candidate compounds will be further assessed in experimental platforms for these challenging viruses, which were pioneered by the Ploss lab. These include primary liver cell cultures and mice growing partially human livers that are susceptible to human hepatitis viruses and thus useful for testing new treatments.


Microbiome-based strategies for treating inflammatory bowel diseases

Mohamed Abou Donia, assistant professor of molecular biology

A new strategy aims to enlist the bacteria living in our intestines to fight inflammatory bowel diseases.

Mohamed Abou Donia and his team have systematically evaluated the human microbiome’s ability to produce small molecules, which can be increase or decrease inflammation and can kill other bacteria. These small molecules could prove to be effective medicines for treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

After identifying promising small molecules, the team will test them for therapeutic activity in cells and in mice with bowel diseases with the goal of identifying new treatments for these conditions.