CRI Unveils Fall 2023 Spark Fund Awardees: Pioneering Innovations for Societal Impact

Feb 7, 2024 | Available Tech, Spark Fund, Spinout

The Center for Research Innovation (CRI) at Northeastern University proudly unveils the Spark Fund awardees, showcasing an array of pioneering projects that embody the intersection of groundbreaking research and commercial viability. This year’s selections underscore the CRI’s dedication to fostering innovative solutions that promise significant societal impact and economic growth, highlighting the dynamic synergy between academic research and industry needs.

With a rigorous evaluation process, the Spark Fund has chosen to back six exceptional research endeavors, each chosen for their robust team dynamics, technical excellence, commercial potential, and feasibility. These projects span a broad spectrum of fields, from advanced biomedical applications to novel approaches in mental health care, reflecting the diverse expertise and innovative spirit of Northeastern University’s research community.

Spark Fund Awardees:

Ke ZhangKe Zhang, Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry, is pioneering the development of polymer-enhanced oligonucleotide therapeutics aimed at treating myotonic dystrophy type 1. His venture, pacDNA, is at the forefront of genetic medicine, creating solutions for drug delivery challenges associated with oligonucleotides. The Spark Fund’s support enables pacDNA to move closer to commercialization, capitalizing on Dr. Zhang’s extensive expertise in oligonucleotide therapeutics and the strategic guidance of an advisory board comprised of leaders in translational medicine and business.


Leanne ChukoskieLeanne Chukoskie, Ph.D., Associate Professor, leads a groundbreaking project that merges sensor technology with gamification to transform diabetes management. This innovative approach utilizes wearable sensors and a game-based app to educate users on blood glucose variability and promote healthy lifestyle adjustments. The project is deeply personal for Chukoskie, inspired by her son’s diabetes diagnosis, and aims to fill a critical gap in resources for young adults managing diabetes.


Jason RadfordJason Radford, Ph.D., Director of the Social Design Lab, focuses on True Voice, a project dedicated to enhancing the authenticity of online interactions. By developing advanced methods to validate online accounts, Radford’s work addresses the critical challenge of distinguishing genuine users from bots and inauthentic accounts. This research has significant implications for improving the quality of social media data and supporting more accurate analyses across various sectors.


Sara M. HashmiSara M. Hashmi, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering, is advancing microfluidic tensiometry/elastometry technology, which promises to revolutionize the screening and optimization of elastic particles and fluid droplets. This technology is poised to impact single-cell genomics and antibody discovery by offering a high-throughput method for assessing material properties. Hashmi’s expertise in complex fluid dynamics and microfluidic device fabrication positions this project to capture a significant portion of the growing microfluidics market.


Alexander R IvanovAlexander R. Ivanov, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, is developing next-generation technology for high sensitivity analysis of limited biomedical samples. His project, supported by the Spark Fund, focuses on novel chromatography technologies for proteomic and multi-omic analysis, addressing a critical need for improved medical testing and diagnostics. Ivanov’s leadership and extensive experience in separation and mass spectrometry-based technologies underscore the project’s potential to drive medical advancements closer to patients.


Aarti SathyanarayanaAarti Sathyanarayana is leading the development of My Atlas, a software application designed to revolutionize mental health care. This platform targets stress, anxiety, and burnout, particularly among college students, by leveraging machine learning and digital phenotyping to offer personalized behavioral recommendations. My Atlas represents a significant shift towards a more proactive and personalized approach to mental health, highlighting the project’s innovative use of technology to address pervasive wellness issues.

For more information on the awardees and the Spark Fund’s mission, visit the CRI website. Stay tuned for updates on these exciting projects and the next cycle of Spark Fund applications, continuing to foster innovation and commercial success within the Northeastern University research community.