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Biomedical Applications for Nanofibers Sought in Challenge

Mouse bone cells cultured on nanofibers

Mouse bone cells cultured on nanofibers (National Science Foundation)

6 March 2015. A new challenge on InnoCentive is seeking novel ways of using unique properties of nanofibers to treat human diseases. The competition as a total purse of $10,000 and a deadline of 3 April 2015.

InnoCentive in Waltham, Massachusetts conducts open-innovation, crowdsourcing competitions for corporate and organization sponsors. The sponsor, in this case, is not disclosed. Innocentive calls this type of competition an ideation challenge that requires a brief written proposal. Free registration is required to see details of the competition.

The sponsor is seeking new methods that take advantage of properties of nanofibers, synthesized from polymers and typically 50 to 1,000 nanometers in diameter, with 1 nanometer equal to 1 billionth of a meter. Those properties — including size, porosity, and elasticity — make it possible to simulate fibrous qualities of the matrix supporting cells.

Among the potential applications is tissue engineering, where nanofibers can be arrayed into scaffolds similar to collagen supporting the growth of replacement cells and generation of new tissue. Another application is drug delivery, taking advantage of some nanofibers that have a high affinity for human tissue. Depending on the material, nanofibers could be adapted for delivering drugs to skin or oral surfaces, as well as into cancerous tumors or to organs such as heart or lungs.

InnoCentive says the sponsor of the competition is particularly interested in completely new applications that have not yet been explored. Competitors should identify unmet needs in diseases or conditions and describe ways nanofibers could address the problem that are different from what’s being done now.

This ideation challenge requires a brief (two-page) proposal. Ideation proposals can contain ideas originating from the participants, ideas from the public domain where no restrictions are applied, or ideas from third-parties where participants have the rights propose solutions with those ideas. Participants are asked not to submit confidential information in their proposals.

The competition has a total prize fund of $10,000, with at least one award no smaller than $4,000 and no award smaller than $2,000. The sponsor guarantees at least one prize will be awarded. The sponsor also indicates that submitting a proposal grants the sponsor a non-exclusive, perpetual, and royalty-free license to use any information in the proposal, including for promotional purposes. An exclusive transfer of intellectual property rights to the sponsor, however, is not required.

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