Wayne State startup awarded NSF Phase II award

January 30, 2017

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Wayne State University startup MSTM LLC recently received a $736,878 Phase II STTR from the National Science Foundation to further develop “Novel Ionization Process for Materials Characterization using Mass Spectrometry.”

The technology is based on a novel method that converts large and small, volatile and nonvolatile compounds to the gas-phase ions necessary for analysis using mass spectrometry without employing currently used lasers, high voltage or gas supplies. The method is broadly applicable for analysis of a wide variety of compounds directly from bodily fluids or tissue in medical diagnostics, as well as catalytic surfaces, drivers in new materials, and alternative energy supplies. The technology may supplement or even replace older ionization methods used in these applications.

Sarah Trimpin, professor of chemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and collaborator Charles McEwen, the Houghton Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, are the inventors of the technology, for which patents have been accepted. Trimpin and McEwen co-founded MSTM LLC to commercialize the technology with a license from Wayne State and University of the Sciences.  

The current SBIR grant will enable MSTM to implement the multifunctional platform on a variety of manufacturers’ instruments, automate the process to allow lower cost and faster analyses, and provide an automated surface analysis platform.

“Besides determining the best sample preparation methodologies and choice of solvents and matrices, we will develop innovative automated sample introduction technologies that eliminate the need for a conventional ‘ion source,’ while also reducing the pumping requirements that currently hinder development of small, low-cost portable mass spectrometers,” said Trimpin.

“These technologies not only allow for fast analysis of materials that have been difficult by current methods but also lower the costs while reducing the need for highly trained operators,” she added. “These advantages may help drive mass spectrometry into large and underserved markets such as medical diagnostics and portable instruments designed specifically for use in homeland security, bedside diagnostics or biothreat detection.”

“The interface between technology commercialization and the research enterprise within universities is critical to the translation and commercialization of novel technologies,” said Joan Dunbar, associate vice president for technology commercialization at Wayne State. “This is an excellent example of basic science, initially funded by NSF, generating innovative technologies that are now being translated into new products and services.”