The University of Louisville has received $750,000 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to launch a new program aimed at solving the long-term health, economic and societal problems resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Pandemic-Related Product Acceleration & Responsive Entrepreneurship Program, or PRePARE, will partner UofL researchers with members of the community to scale up innovative ideas. The end goal is to grow existing companies or spin up new ones to bring those ideas to market.

Innovations boosted through the program might include ways to track viral spread more efficiently, expand access to virtual services or bring employees back to work safely.

“The pandemic has caused so many changes and challenges,” said Paula Bates, professor of medicine and a lead on the grant. “Our hope is that by pairing these bold ideas with UofL’s researchers and innovation expertise, we can make a real impact that not only hastens the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also increases resilience against future ones.”

UofL is soliciting ideas for filling unmet needs and solving problems from community partners in the seven-county Kentuckiana Regional Planning & Development Agency economic development district. The district, centered around Louisville, includes Bullitt, Henry, Jefferson, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer and Trimble counties.

Community partners can be individuals, companies or organizations. UofL students, staff and faculty also are encouraged to submit ideas. Ideas may be submitted through the PRePARE project web page.

Community members whose ideas are selected will be partnered with one or more UofL researchers, who will have up to $75,000 to fund project development at UofL. Teams also will receive project management and entrepreneurial support from PRePARE’s program staff.

PRePARE is funded through the E.D.A.’s Scaling Pandemic Resilience Through Innovation and Technology (SPRINT) Challenge.

PRePARE builds on UofL’s suite of prestigious grant-backed programs aimed at turning research into viable commercial products, dubbed the “superfecta.” UofL is one of only a handful of universities in the U.S. to receive each of these innovation-associated awards, and it’s the only one to receive all of them.

The PRePARE program will be led by a group of university innovation experts that includes Bates, along with the Office of Research and Innovation’s Holly Clark, Will Metcalf and Jessica Sharon.

“UofL has significant earned expertise in developing and commercializing new technologies that can save and improve lives,” said Kevin Gardner, UofL’s executive vice president for research and innovation. “PRePARE is an extension of that work to empower our communities, advance our health and engineer our future economy through innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Baylee Pulliam, UofL News