The CRI Announces the Spring 2023 Spark Fund Awardees

Jan 12, 2023 | CRI, Innovation, Spark Fund

Northeastern CRI is excited to announce the Spring 2023 Spark Fund Awardees!

What is the Spark Fund?

The Spark Fund supports commercially valuable inventions (from any field) from university researchers in earlier stages of development. The goal of the award is to advance a technology or suite of technologies from academia towards commercialization.

Spark Fund grants may be used to advance the commercial prospects of inventions in many different ways, including but not limited to:

  • Building a commercially ready prototype
  • Animal testing to generate in vivo data
  • Optimizing processes for yield, speed, cost
  • Repurposing tech to meet industry needs

Each award cycle includes 5 or more awards. Each award recipient receives a grant up to $50,000.

Who are the Spring 2023 Spark Fund Awardees?

Representing multiple colleges and disciplines, the Spring 2023 cohort of Spark Fund awardees presented diverse and exciting projects to the CRI. Their research accomplishments are all strong representative examples of the society-driven impact our community looks to achieve.

These six awardees were carefully evaluated and chosen out of a pool of strong applicants by judges who are leaders in innovation in industry. The six awardees are:

Diomedes Logothetis

Professor Diomedes Logothetis, Bouvé College of Health Sciences

By leveraging novel approaches with mechanistic insights of allosteric regulation of targets by endogenous regulators, Zorn’s research can selectively and precisely target the underlying causes of diseases at the molecular level. Zorn and his team aim to accelerate drug discovery for rare diseases or hard-to-target diseases with these insights combined with a sophisticated computational approach. Their focus is starting with epilepsy and will expand where needed.


Carolyn Lee ParsonsProfessor Carolyn Lee-Parsons of the Lee-Parsons Lab, College of Engineering

Lee-Parsons’ main research focus is the production of valuable pharmaceutical compounds from plant cell cultures, specifically the production of important anti-cancer drug molecules from cell cultures of Catharanthus roseus. Plant cell culture is potentially a better route for supplying certain structurally complex drug molecules than chemical synthesis or extraction from whole plants. Moreover, plant cell culture can potentially produce these drug molecules at a faster and more consistent rate than whole plants. The overall vision of her research is to meet the needs and demands of important and cost-prohibitive plant-derived pharmaceuticals using plant cell culture, applying engineering strategies, and ultimately developing an economically viable process using plant cell culture.

Edmund Yeh.jpg

Professor Edmund Yeh, College of Engineering

Yeh’s research focuses on networking and systems for data-intensive engineering, science, health applications; caching, fog/edge computing, networked distributed learning; wireless network optimization, coding for low latency, network coding, polar codes; interdependent networks, cascading failure, information dissemination; and network economics.


Ke Zhang

Professor Ke Zhang of The Zhang Lab, College of Science

The Zhang Lab is a highly interdisciplinary laboratory, with its core research focusing on polymer chemistry. The Zhang Lab also utilizes a range of organic reactions, colloidal syntheses, and bioconjugation techniques to access synthetic targets. The team is developing a drug delivery technology that solves the problem of kidney clearance, immunogenicity, and delivery to the muscle and heart.


Ryan KoppesProfessor Ryan Koppes of the Laboratory for Neuromodulation and Neuromuscular Repair (LNNR), College of Engineering

The LNNR studies the physical bridge between cells and electronics to improve nerve gap and prosthetic technologies. The lab is also interested in neuron interactions with the heart to help relieve the healthcare burden of heart failure. Peripheral nerve injury results in a debilitating loss of motor and sensory function. Despite synthetic options, surgeons insist on utilizing sacrificial, ‘less important’, nerve grafts from the patient to treat large nerve injuries. Prof. Koppes and the LNNR’s strategy may propel synthetic options to the beneficial level of native nerve.

Yaning LiProfessor Yaning Li of the Mechanics, Biomimetics, and 3D Printing Research Lab, College of Engineering

Li’s lab focuses on discovering and simulating the mechanics of innovative soft hybrid micro/nano-architectured mechanical metamaterials with unique mechanical properties, such as negative Poisson’s ratio, negative stiffness, and superior energy absorption capabilities. The team has worked on theoretical, numerical, and experimental investigations of instability of all kinds of materials and structures across all length scales. This enables the team to develop new materials with unique mechanical properties. Learn More About the Spark Fund and Past Awardees


If you’d like to learn more about the six Spark Fund awardees, you can read more about their research and innovations on the CRI website.

You can also learn more about the Spark Fund, as well as the eligibility requirements and the terms of the funding on our website. The Spark Fund awards are presented twice per year, with a Fall and a Spring cohort annually. Applications are currently closed, but the next application cycle for the Fall awards will be announced in the coming months.

Written by Elizabeth Creason