Five WashU research teams win LEAP Inventor Challenge Awards

Five Washington University in St. Louis research teams have been selected to receive funding as part of the Summer 2017 cycle of the Leadership in Entrepreneurial Acceleration Program, better known as the LEAP Inventor Challenge (LEAP). The challenge’s facilitators anticipate investing more than a quarter million dollars in this cycle’s winners.

Several university departments work together on LEAP to maximize industry engagement and funding opportunities.

LEAP exists to propel Washington University intellectual property towards commercialization. The money that teams win helps fund their early stage research so that they can turn their concepts and ideas into viable products and services. The competition supports all Washington University faculty, postdoc, staff and graduate student teams. The winning teams include three teams with ties to WashU Engineering:

A Cellular Delivery Systems for the Treatment and Imaging of Cancer

This a new class of immunotherapy, in which a specific stem cell population can identify and home to tumors, and serve as drug-carriers for delivery of therapeutic and imaging agents.


  • Kareem Azab, BPharm, (Lead Investigator), Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology; Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Barbara Muz, PharmD, PhD, Senior Scientist, Department of Radiation Oncology

Smart Fertilizers for Sustainable Agriculture

This project develops smart fertilizers for agricultural crops that provide highly efficient nutrients at low-cost and an eco-friendly alternative to conventional methods. This offers a great potential to tailor fertilizer production with the desired chemical composition, improve the nutrient use efficiency that may reduce environmental impact and boost the plant productivity.


  • Ramesh Raliya, (Lead Investigator), Research Scientist, School of Engineering & Applied Science
  • Pratim Biswas, Assistant Vice Chancellor & Department Chair of the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering; Lucy and Stanley Lopata Professor of Environmental Engineering Science

Anion exchange membranes for water desalination and energy applications

This project uses anion exchange membranes for energy and water desalination applications, aiming to disrupt the current energy and water purification landscape.


  • Vijay Ramani, (Lead Investigator), Roma B. & Raymond H. Wittcoff Distinguished University Professor of Environment & Energy, Department of Energy, Environmental and Chemical Engineering
  • Shrihari Sankarasubramanian, Research Associate, electrochemical engineering, Department of Energy, Environmental &Chemical Engineering

Think you have what it takes? Apply for the next cycle of the LEAP Inventor Challenge through the Skandalaris Center.