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USF, Corridor collaboration supports infrastructure innovation, vaccine development and infection fighting strategies

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USF Research & Innovation and the Florida High Tech Corridor are partnering to provide $100,000 to support the advancement of technologies developed by USF researchers. This round of seed funding will support four projects from across the University:

  • Off-the-shelf repair system for failing and corroded bridges to reduce repair time and costs for critical infrastructure
  • Novel protein-based therapy to treat a leading genetic cause of inherited intellectual disability
  • Optimized vaccine for C. Difficile, a life-threatening bacterial pathogen and urgent antibiotic resistant threat
  • RNA-based strategy that enhances the body’s natural defense mechanisms to fight infections caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi

The awarded projects below are led by faculty from the College of Engineering and the Morsani College of Medicine.

Professor Haber

Zachary Haber

Off-the-Shelf Repair for Corroded Bridges Using Advanced Techniques & High-Strength Materials  
Zachary Haber, College of Engineering, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Dr. Haber’s research team has developed an innovative solution for repairing failing steel bridges. The long-range commercial aim is to develop a repair system that is versatile and deployable at scale by bridge owners. At this stage, the team has conducted preliminary engineering designs, 3D computer modeling of the system, and additive manufacturing of a small-scale prototype. Through this project, the team will develop a full-scale prototype and complete proof-of-concept structural testing to verify the system behavior, enhance its technology readiness level (TRL), and seek external funds.

Kevin Nash

Kevin Nash

Reelin Gene Therapy for Fragile X Syndrome
Kevin Nash, Morsani College of Medicine, Dept. of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology

Fragile X Syndrome is the leading genetic cause of inherited intellectual disability, and is characterized by autistic behaviors, childhood seizures, and abnormal neuronal signaling. As yet there are no treatments for Fragile X Syndrome. Significant past work by the Nash lab has shown administering Reelin, a protein critical to cognitive function, may offer a novel therapeutic treatment for Fragile X Syndrome, improving cognitive function in mouse models. With this funding, the team will optimize the delivery method of the Reelin protein, a key step in preclinical development. A therapeutic intervention for this disease would have profound clinical applications and the approach may benefit other neurological disorders such as Angelman Syndrome and Schizophrenia.

Xingmin Sun

Xingmin Sun

Development of Probiotic-Based Vaccines Delivery System Against Clostridioides Difficile Infection
Xingmin Sun, Morsani College of Medicine, Dept. of Molecular Medicine

Clostridioides difficile (C. diff) is a spore-forming and life-threatening bacterial pathogen that is currently classified as an “urgent antibiotic resistant threat” by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Active vaccination provides an attractive opportunity to prevent C. diff and its recurrence, but no vaccines are currently on the market.  The objective of this project is to develop novel vaccines against C. difficile based on two promising candidates formulated and patented by Dr. Sun’s lab. The research team will optimize the vaccines for oral delivery. This method will deliver the vaccine directly to the gut, the main site of C. diff’s onset and progression, and therefore holds more promise than a typical muscle-injected vaccine. This project is a critical step toward improving the patented vaccine candidates for human applications and commercialization.


Hana Totary-Jain

Strategy to Increase Anti-viral, Anti-microbial and Anti-fungal Defenses
Hana Totary-Jain, Morsani College of Medicine, Dept. of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology

Infections, caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi, exert profound and often devastating effects on human health, especially among immunocompromised individuals. Recognizing the critical need for comprehensive infection-fighting strategies, Dr. Totary-Jain’s team has developed a promising avenue to enhance the body’s natural anti-viral, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal defense mechanisms and trigger a heightened state of alertness against potential pathogens. In vitro studies have demonstrated reduced viral, bacterial, and fungal replication. However, further rigorous in vitro and in vivo testing is imperative. In this project, the team will transition from controlled lab conditions to the complex environment of living organisms. This will ensure the safety and effectiveness of the proposed approach and lay the foundation for its potential integration into clinical settings.

This funding is part of the Corridor Early-Stage Innovation Fund, a program first launched in fall 2022 to support early-stage, applied research with significant commercial potential. Awards made through the previous rounds focused on AI-based tools for stroke patients and aging populations, sustainable manufacturing, defense tech, and other critical innovation areas.  To date, past recipients have leveraged funding to launch a start-up company, secure federal funding through the America’s Seed Fund Program, and engage with other potential partners.

Details on previous awards can be found at:

Information on upcoming rounds, including dates and areas of focus, will be announced shortly. For more information, visit

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Learn more about USF research by viewing articles from past years (2010-2019).

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