Part of the OxyCART team, who received funding through the UofL PRePAre Program. From left: Neil Gupta, Gautam Gupta, Bikram Bhatia and Luc Speybreck. Photo by Ashly N. Cecil

A University of Louisville program aimed at solving the long-term health, economic and societal problems resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has selected five projects in its second round of funding, training and other development support. 

The Pandemic-Related Product Acceleration & Responsive Entrepreneurship Program, or PRePARE, partners UofL researchers with companies and 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. 

PRePARE announced its first round of projects in December 2021, each of which received project management, entrepreneurial support and up to $50,000 in direct costs to fund product development at UofL. In its second round, the program selected three new projects, and awarded additional funding to two existing ones.  

The new projects are: 

  • Data-driven personalized treatment for eating disorders: Researchers Cheri Levinson and Christina Ralph-Nearman (both from the College of Arts and Sciences) working with Awaken Digital Health Solutions; 
  • Development of evidence-informed mental health for student athletes: Researcher Becky Antle (Kent School of Social Work) working with UofL Health; and 
  • A virtual reality software for listening with hearing aids in realistic environments: Researcher Matthew Neal (School of Medicine) working with Heuser Hearing Institute. 

The two projects receiving additional funding are: 

  • OxyCART: An efficient and durable oxygen concentrator for COVID-19 and beyond: Researcher Gautum Gupta (J.B. Speed School of Engineering) working with medical equipment company, Southeast DME, and non-profit, Waterstep; and 
  • Wicked Smart Pad: Washable bedding with sensors for the detection and mitigation of moisture events: Researcher Cindy Harnett (J.B. Speed School of Engineering) working with tech startup, Wicked Sheets

These are truly innovative ideas, and each one addresses an important social, economic, health or other challenge presented by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Paula Bates, a professor of medicine who leads the program with the Office of Research and Innovation’s Will Metcalf, Sara Price and Jessica Sharon. These products, backed by UofL researchers and community partners, have the potential to make a real impact that could help us recover faster from this pandemic and become more resilient against future ones.” 

PRePARE is part of the UofL Office of Research and Innovation’s New Ventures office, which works to launch and grow startups built on UofL intellectual property and helps to manage a suite of prestigious grant-backed programs aimed at turning research into viable commercial products. 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.  

PRePARE and UofL’s other translational programs create important connectivity between industry and our campus,” said Metcalf, an associate vice president for research and innovation who heads UofL New Ventures and helps lead the PRePARE grant. That connectivity is critical to economic development, and I encourage researchers and industry who want to be involved to reach out to our staff at By working together, we can build innovative companies and products that solve problems, like those related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and make a positive impact on our world.”