UM, Shanghai Jiao Tong University Fund Joint Energy, Biomedical Study

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The University of Michigan central campus.

The University of Michigan central campus.

ANN ARBOR — Six research teams from the University of Michigan and Shanghai Jiao Tong University have won a share of $1.16 million in funding for renewable energy and biomedical technology projects in the third year of a joint program that teams up investigators from both schools.

The energy projects chosen seek to improve electric vehicle batteries, to model the impact of renewable energy policy on the economy and the environment, and to better understand the combustion biodiesel fuels. The healthcare technology efforts are aimed at finding natural therapeutic agents in China’s ecosystem, improving the treatment of sepsis, and creating a base of information on enzyme activity that could aid the development of new therapies.

“The strength of this program with SJTU is that it not only brings our complementary research strengths to bear on critical global challenges, but also the different perspectives of our two societies,” said Stephen Forrest,  UM vice president for research.  “This kind of cross-cultural collaboration is central to our ability to develop realistic solutions.”

“This joint program is a model for successful collaboration between two universities,” said  Zhongqin Lin, executive president at SJTU. “By working together, we are better able to conduct research in renewable energy and biomedical technology that is important not only to both of our nations but also to society as a whole.”

The renewable energy projects are:

• Thermodynamics and characterization of environmentally benign new generation electrodes for Li ion batteries
Principal investigators: Aniruddha Deb, UM Department of Chemical Engineering; Li Yang, SJTU School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
Goal: Explore the potential of new classes of materials for making electrochemically superior, environmentally friendly, and affordable electrodes for lithium-ion batteries that may be used in such applications as electric vehicles.

• Integrated energy-economy-environment (3E) modeling for clean vehicle development in China
Principal investigators: Ming Xu, UM School of Natural Resources and Environment; Xiaojun Hu, SJTU Energy Research Institute
Goal: Develop a model to simulate and evaluate the impacts of renewable energy policy on the economy and the environment, and to apply the model to provide policy suggestions for clean vehicle development and deployment in China.

• Engineering the right fuel for sustainable transportation
Principal investigators: Margaret Wooldridge, UM Department of Mechanical Engineering; He Lin, SJTU Department of Mechanical Engineering
Goal: To develop quantitative data on the combustion properties of current and emerging biodiesel fuels in order optimize biodiesel fuel performance in engine design and encourage broader use.

The biomedical technology projects are:

• Development of a UM/SJTU microbial natural product diversity resource for collaborative drug discovery programs
Principal investigators: David H. Sherman, UM Life Sciences Institute; Linguan Bai and Zixin Deng, SJTU School of Life Sciences and Biology
Goal: To discover, isolate, evaluate, and develop natural therapeutic agents derived from microorganisms found in China’s terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

•  Monitoring immune dysfunctions in septic patients using integrated microfluidics
Principal investigators: Jianping Fu, UM Department of Mechanical Engineering; Hongchen Gu, SJTU Joint Institute
Goal: To develop a novel technology that may lead to a more effective, individualized treatment of sepsis, a clinical condition arising from a patient’s immune response to severe infection.

• High-resolution structure modeling and substrate specificity annotation of proteases using protein structure prediction and sequence screening techniques
Principal investigators: Yang Zhang, UM Medical School Department of Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics; Hong-Bin Shen, SJTU Department of Automation
Goal: To lay the groundwork for improved therapies by modeling the behavior of proteases, enzymes that play a key role in regulating cellular processes in humans.

This is the third year of a five-year seed phase of the programs, during which officials identify projects that have commercial potential and that are likely to attract follow-on research funding from the U.S. and Chinese governments, as well as from industry. The universities have committed to spending up to $3 million each on their part of the collaborative research over the five-year period.

These research partnerships between UM and SJTU are part of a broader relationship between the two schools. In 2001, UM became the first non-Chinese academic institution approved to offer graduate engineering degrees in China, at SJTU. In 2005, UM and SJTU formed a joint institute to manage and direct degree-granting programs offered by both universities to students of both nations.

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