November 10, 2020

MTRAC Innovation Hub for Advanced Computing  awards $270,000 to Wayne State University artificial intelligence projects 

Fuel innovation

The Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization Innovation Hub for Advanced Computing at Wayne State University recently awarded a combined $270,000 in funding to three transformative innovation research projects led by Wayne State researchers, including a School of Medicine associate professor. These projects aim to tackle deep technology opportunities in high-impact sectors, such as artificial intelligence machine learning, augmented reality and intelligent automation.

“Deep tech is tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges, with many such technologies from Michigan research institutions having the potential to make tremendous impact on economic development,” said Edward Kim, program director of MTRAC Innovation Hub for Advanced Computing. “We are thrilled to support the second cohort of research teams in the advanced computing technologies.”

The MTRAC Innovation Hub for Advanced Computing call for applications attracted competitive and innovative technology proposals from researchers around the state, with seven projects selected

Arash Javanbakht, M.D.

as finalists. The researchers presented their proposals to an oversight committee comprised of experienced technologists, entrepreneurs, industry partners and venture capitalists with a track record of commercializing and investing in frontier technologies. In addition to funding, the researchers will receive valuable mentorship support from the committee members as their projects progress toward commercialization.

The three Wayne State projects funded by the hub focused on transformational innovations that have the potential to bring disruptive solutions to the market in their respective fields. Funded projects include: 

• Arash Javanbakht, M.D., associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, is developing a telehealth exposure therapy platform using augmented reality to provide clinicians remote treatment capability.

• Jeremy Rickli, Ph.D., associate professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering, is commercializing an automation intelligence and digital twin technology that delivers an integration of prescriptive analytics capability and augmented reality to optimize robotic and automated system operations.

• Ming Dong, Ph.D., professor of Computer Science, is developing DeepWave, an artificial intelligence acoustic analysis technology that can deliver sound element separation and audio enhancement in real time.

Two additional Wayne State University projects received positive feedback as runners-up from the oversight committee: Yanchao Liu, Ph.D., assistant professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering, for a drone air traffic management system; and Alan Dombkowski, Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics, for “Disulfide by Design,” a protein-binding analysis technology for pharmaceutical applications.

The three funded projects, along with the runners-up, will receive extensive support from Wayne State’s Technology Commercialization staff, the MTRAC Advanced Computing Oversight Committee and the program director to accelerate the technologies toward commercialization.

Wayne State’s Office of the Vice President of Research and the Technology Commercialization Office have been instrumental in advancing the early-stage technologies derived from the research enterprise toward commercialization. Under the leadership of Joan Dunbar, Ph.D., associate vice president for Technology Commercialization, their operations have leveraged an ecosystem of funding, mentoring and connections to industry experts to provide comprehensive support to address the cultural, technological and financial challenges associated with the translation of innovative early-stage technologies from academia to the marketplace.

“We are extremely excited to have the commitment of a world-class oversight committee to guide the development and application of these research-derived innovations,” Dr. Dunbar said. “The funding and mentorship provided by the MTRAC program are key to achieving milestones toward ultimate commercialization of the projects and societal impact. The support of the MEDC is critical to these programs.”

In 2019, Wayne State’s Technology Commercialization Office was selected by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to manage the MTRAC Innovation Hub for Advanced Computing. Wayne State’s extensive ties to regional industry and the entrepreneurial ecosystem and initiatives make the university well-positioned to host the MTRAC Innovation Hub for Advanced Computing at a statewide level.

The hub is part of a network of statewide innovation hubs that includes the MTRAC Innovation Hub for Life Sciences at the University of Michigan, the MTRAC Innovation Hub for AgBio at Michigan State University, the MTRAC Advanced Applied Materials Innovation Hub at Michigan Technological University and the MTRAC Innovation Hub for Advanced Transportation at the University of Michigan. Each hub is strategically located at a university with significant strengths in the sector, further increasing the quality and quantity of resources available.

The MTRAC program is supported by funds from the Michigan Strategic Fund and administered by the MEDC, with additional funding from partner institutions. Since inception through September, MTRAC programs have received 658 proposals, funded 306 projects, developed 52 startup companies, licensed 34 technologies to industry partners and secured more than $209 million in follow-on funding.

MEDC’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation initiative establishes Michigan as the place to create and grow a business by providing high-tech startup companies access to a variety of critical resources, such as funding and expert counsel, from concept to maturation. For more information on MEDC’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation, visit

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