Congratulations to the inaugural winners of  Synergy!


Kenneth M. Hargreaves, DDS, PhD, professor and chair, Department of Endodontics, School of Dentistry.

Project: Use of specific fatty acids as a non-addictive, non-opioid, pain therapeutics

“The Synergy funds will provide the critical resources to validate our target with new drug formulations to determine optimal efficacy for relief of pain and acceleration of healing.”



Neelam Mukherjee, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Urology, Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine.

Project: Potential novel therapeutic for bladder cancer

“The Synergy funds will significantly contribute to advancing the development of nitration-resistant CCL2 as an innovative and groundbreaking treatment approach for patients suffering from bladder cancer. This novel approach also holds immense promise in revolutionizing the landscape of cancer treatment beyond the bladder cancer field.”



Gang Huang, PhD, professor, Department of Cell Systems and Anatomy, Long School of Medicine.

Project: Immune activation of cell-based therapy to treat cancer

“Funding from the Synergy award supports developing an innovative CAR-T immunotherapy that activates NK cells to treat hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which is highly prevalent in South Texas. This project is a collaboration between Drs. Huang and Sun labs. We aim to obtain preclinical laboratory results and move forward to clinical trials, solving the unmet need for HCC treatment regionally and internationally.”



Maria Gaczynska, PhD, associate professor, Department of Molecular Medicine, Long School of Medicine.

Project: Potential therapeutic for use in traumatic brain injury and beyond

“We developed compounds that regulate and boost the performance of proteasome, the enzyme performing critical intracellular cleaning services, which are compromised in brain neurons during neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease or the aftermath of traumatic brain injury. Our compounds ameliorate deleterious effects of Alzheimer’s disease-related neurodegeneration in animal models (Science Advances, 8/23/22). Thanks to the Synergy award, a collaborative team of proteasome (Maria Gaczynska, PhD and Pawel Osmulski, PhD) and neurodegeneration (James Lechleiter, PhD) experts will use the mouse model of traumatic brain injury to test how our compounds could help to ease the effects of this devastating and incurable condition affecting millions of Americans of all ages.”

About Synergy

Synergy, an early-stage innovation Gap Fund or grant, is a partnership between the Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) and the Office of the Vice President of Research at the University of Texas Health San Antonio (UTHSA). Synergy’s mission is to fund promising early stage applied research that has a high chance of impacting the life sciences and indirectly to patient healthcare, but without additional funding is unlikely. Notably, Synergy is intended to provide funds for ideation that is prior to intellectual property filing or is exceedingly early in the intellectual property life cycle. Synergy intends to reward intra-institutional collaboration between disciplines at UTHSA that seek to solve larger scope and complex public healthcare issues. 

Synergy is intended to spark and support innovative ideation, promote academic entrepreneurship, as well as bridge the collaborative gap between scientific and clinical disciplines while providing a platform for early engagement by the life science industry ecosystem. 

Background Information

A significant obstacle to the development of early-stage university discoveries in the journey to impacting patient healthcare is the lack of federal funding for creative transformational innovations encountered during the research process, as well as cross-discipline innovation critical to many areas of life science to demonstrate commercial potential. UTHSA as an Academic Healthcare Organization is uniquely qualified to address this obstacle. Therefore, to overcome this barrier, Synergy will provide funding to allow for this early-stage exploration. Importantly, Synergy is an early gap-challenge fund: Synergy funds are aimed at seeding innovative, in process observations that may or may not have intellectual property secured. 

Synergy, the Fund, will complement the current Gap Fund, the President’s Translational and Entrepreneurial Research Fund (PTEF). PTEF focus is dedicated to accelerating promising innovation with secured intellectual property closer to either licensing, partnering or start-up formation.


The primary goals of Synergy are to: a) Generate transformational and innovative science, b) Provide new intellectual property that can be further developed and c) Advance technologies to the point where additional support from industry and/or venture development is appropriate. 

An early-stage gap fund such as Synergy is unusual as it seeks to award the most creative ideas in alignment with the life science market needs which may not have any current intellectual property assigned. However, this makes Synergy an attractive exciting fund, but expected impact: 

  • Support emerging life science technologies 
  • Address an important applied life science question 
  • Promote intra-institutional collaborative research 
  • Provide for both follow-up ventures as well as other extramural funding support 
  • Create an avenue for early-stage partnerships with for profit entities 
  • Boost innovation transfer (technology venture development) 
  • Attract and inform outside expertise 
  • Provide an opportunity for the UTHSA scientist, clinician plus other healthcare professionals to actively engage in the development life cycle of applied innovative healthcare solutions

Synergy Letter of Intent


QR Code Link

Eligibility and Key Research Focus Areas

PI Eligibility:
  • Synergy awards are open to UT Health San Antonio principal investigators or clinicians. Synergy does not allow co-PI status to other institutions currently.
Project Eligibility:
  • Synergy Awards support the development of therapeutics, medical devices, diagnostics, and digital health solutions. Importantly, all awards must address an unmet medical need. 

As Synergy is meant to spark innovation or academic entrepreneurship with new impactful healthcare products (eventually), all proposals will be healthcare focused/patient focused. Also, it is understood that the award from Synergy may only offset does not supplant costs for innovation. Potential major focus areas include but are not limited to:  

  • Diagnostics, Devices, and Digital Health/Software.
  • Solutions that target any clinical specialty or area of healthcare.
  • Cell-based or Gene therapeutics, in vivo editing, biologics, nucleic acid therapeutics, novel small molecules, etc.
  • Prototype development

Intra-departmental or School collaboration is highly encouraged especially projects that cross research disciplines to uncover novel solutions to public health.

Out of focus for Synergy would be projects which require background IP from another institution, inter-institutional collaborations, basic research not targeted towards an applied concern, or projects that lack a clinical need (patient, diagnostic, etc.).

Evaluation Criteria

The Synergy Advisory Committee (SAC) will consider the following criteria before making an award recommendation:

Innovation/Invention/Idea Disclosure
    • All Letters of Intent/Applications must submit an Innovation Disclosure Form (IDF) if there is not an IDF on file.   
    • IDF stage, i.e., whether there is actionable patent filing information, is not important; rather, the idea is important.  OTC uses this information to track projects more closely with the investigator (s) in anticipation of intellectual property and/or partnering.   
    • Please click here to submit your innovation to OTC.
Intellectual Property
    • All healthcare solutions must be an innovation, an invention or idea and must have the potential to generate UT Health San Antonio intellectual property or alternatively, has sole UT Health San Antonio intellectual property at the time of application. 
    • Applications are strongly encouraged from groups that propose healthcare solutions that originate from intra-departmental and cross discipline interactions. 
      • NOTE:  Collaboration with other institutions that requires or utilize intellectual property rights is not allowed under Synergy. 
Third-Party Providers
    • The use of third-party providers, or Contract Research Organizations, is highly encouraged if the third-party provider does not require intellectual property rights. 
Stage of Development
    • Applications are encouraged from teams that are proposing novel healthcare solutions for an unmet medical need. Synergy is meant to be idea/innovation fulfilling resulting in actionable intellectual property that would not have occurred without the collaboration and funding. As Synergy will fund based on milestones achieved, ideas from groups that possess require proof-of-concept or earlier is acceptable. It is understood that failure to achieve a milestone will result in the termination of the award.
    • We encourage potential applicants to reach out to UT Health San Antonio Office of Technology Commercialization for clarification if necessary.

Application Process

Synergy award application process comprises 4 stages resulting in award selection.  The approximate timeline to award is 6 months.  Synergy is intended to fund to awardees by July 2023.

Stage 1: Letter of Intent
    • A Letter of Intent (LOI) is required to advance to the Full Application stage.
    • The QR Code will be available for the LOI on February 17, 2023.
    • UPDATED: The NEW LOI submission deadline is April 1, 2023.
    • Click Here for Letter of Intent, or use the QR Code above.
Stage 2: Full Application
    • All applicants will be required to submit a Full Application.  Only applicants that have submitted a LOI will receive Full Application instructions.
    • During the preparation of the full proposal applicants are encouraged to communicate with the OTC business development team during this period for any guidance required.
    • When an LOI is submitted, an email will be sent with instructions to complete the Full Application.
    • The Full Application submission deadline is April 18, 2023. 
Stage 3: Application Review
    • The application review process will begin April 19, 2023.
    • Full applications will be reviewed by the Synergy Advisory Committee (SAC).  The SAC is composed of life science industry professionals as well as internal members of OTC, the Vice President of Research and select UT Health San Antonio life science professionals (not encumbered by application).
    • Applications that do not proceed to Stage 4 will received feedback on the project.
Stage 4: Application Presentation to SAC
    • Applications selected for presentation will be notified.  Presentations are 10-minutes (if required) and 10-minute question/answer. 
    • These presentations will occur May 2023. More information to follow.
Stage 5: Award Selection
    • Successful applications will be notified within two weeks of the final pitch.  OTC will work with awardees to ensure documentation is submitted for award.  Awards are intended to fund in the summer of the current fiscal year.

Frequently Asked Questions

Synergy is a “gap” fund administered by the UT Health San Antonio Office of Technology Commercialization.  

Synergy inaugural launch is February 2023. 

No.  PTEF is designated gap funds for stage gated, vetted, intellectual property with UT Health San Antonio as the majority inventorship.  Synergy is intellectual property agnostic. Synergy is meant for intradepartmental collaborative early-stage transformative innovation. Typically, Synergy would be assumed to be relevant prior to a PTEF award. 

For the funding year 2023, it is anticipated that a minimum of one (1) to a maximum of five (5) awards will be distributed.  

The proposal must justify the use of the funds to support the innovation. This amount may be in the range of $50,000 to $75,000 per proposal. Depending on the application, Synergy may award more (than $75,000) or less than the requested funds.  If there are multiple milestones, an award can be tranche.  Please talk to OTC for more information. 

The goal for Synergy in 2023 is to fund innovative, transformative, and impactful innovation, preferably cross-discipline.  While desirable, there is not an expectation that the award will move the innovation to a key milestone of a commercial transaction; rather that new innovative impactful translational science will be developed and augmented.

12 months.  An extension is possible. 

The Stella Herff foundation endowment.  In some cases, there may be institutional funds.  

  • Proof of concept studies leading to a provisional patent application 
  • Prototype development and research — materials and labor costs 
  • Commercial feasibility  
  • Contract Research Organization services 
  • Software development — specific scope of project required 
  • R&D — equipment, materials, lab time, personnel etc. (all must be specific and required for milestone accomplishment) 
  • Other specific costs associated with the milestones laid out in the funding request. 

Early stage applied/discovery ideation is targeted for Synergy.  Basic research is not eligible. 

Unlike PTEF, Synergy does not require background intellectual property.  Any IP that is part of the application must be solely owned by UT Health San Antonio.

Yes, if you do not have an idea/innovation/invention disclosed on your Synergy proposal.  The idea/innovation/invention disclosure form must be submitted prior to the Letter of Intent submission.  Unlike PTEF, the IDF does not require a Technology and Management Report or filed intellectual property.

Synergy applications are reviewed by an internal advisory group as well as an external advisory group consisting of senior executives, angel investors, venture groups, and pharmaceutical members.

Synergy proposals for 2023 are intended only for employees of UT Health San Antonio.  Other academic entities or those groups that may want ownership of intellectual property would invalidate the application.  

Yes, in most cases, the use of a “CRO” is a valuable capital and time efficient strategy.  Additionally, CROs typically are service providing but don’t require the capture of IP rights.  

All awardees must draft and submit a summary semi-annual report as well as a final report at the end of the cycle.

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