Renzi-Hammond to develop new eye care tech as part of UGA’s first I-Corps Cohort

Lisa Renzi-Hammond, an assistant professor of health promotion and behavior in the College of Public Health, has been selected to join the first group of faculty developing entrepreneurial projects with the University of Georgia’s Innovation Corps Site.

UGA was named a National Science Foundation I-Corps Site earlier this year. The I-Corps award enables the university to serve up to 30 new startup projects a year, assisting the campus-wide collaboration focused on helping all entrepreneurial projects move to the marketplace, according to the University’s Office of Research.

Ideas or projects supported by I-Corps Sites must be focused in an area of STEM – science, technology, engineering or mathematics – but can derive from faculty or student work, or even from private industry or community projects.

Renzi-Hammond will work with longtime academic collaborator Billy R. Hammond, a psychology professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, to transition the technology they’ve developed for tracking visual consequences of age-related cataract into a tool that eye care specialists can use in their daily practice.

“Technology can provide new solutions to difficult health problems, but only if we change the way we apply technology,” said Renzi-Hammond. “Instead of stopping in the technology development and discovery phase, we can see our work through to its long term, sustainable application in the community.”

The I-Corp Site will provide seed funding, entrepreneurial mentoring, curriculum or other needed assets. According to UGA’s Office of Research, the program contributes $3,000 for up to three months, which can be used develop a product prototype, seek education or training, or travel to meet with consultants or potential clients.

“Academia is an incubator for technology that solves research problems. We often invent new models, methods and technologies to do this, but once we publish manuscripts, we rely on the rest of the world to use the information and to make the technological next steps,” said Renzi-Hammond. “I-Corps is providing us with the knowledge and skills to take those next steps, and to get those ideas out of laboratories and into the private sector.”

Renzi-Hammond says she’s honored to represent the College of Public Health in this inaugural group.

“When people think of designing new technology for use in the healthcare space, they naturally think of engineering and biotech or genetics. Public health professionals are trained, however, to view problems through the lens of the community using the intervention, and the larger system that supports it,” she said. “Public Health is a natural fit for a program like this.”

The I-Corps Site cohort began its six-week long run on October 9, 2017.

As part of a pipeline of device technologies, Renzi-Hammond’s team will build and commercialize the first device on the market to quantify these types of light-induced visual impairments. (Photo Credit: Lisa Renzi-Hammond)

– Lauren Baggett

Posted on October 9, 2017.