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TSRL pivots business model to become technology accelerator, grows staff

To say Therapeutic Systems Research Laboratories has been through a lot over the last year might be an understatement. The Ann Arbor-based life sciences firm lost its president and general manager, John Hilfiger, in April of last year. That led to the promotion of Elke Lipka as president of the company just at the time when it started to pivot its business model from drug development to technology accelerator.

"We are partnering intensely with academic institutions," Lipka says. "We are providing the wet lab space and drug development services."

...And more importantly showing its clients the way to non-dilutive seed capital. Therapeutic Systems Research Laboratories, commonly known as TSRL, uses an ongoing collaborative process that lets entrepreneurs leverage its expertise to obtain the data and non-dilutive funding necessary to develop and commercialize their technologies. In exchange, TSRL takes a fee and small equity stake in the company.

"Much smaller than a venture capital firm would take," Lipka says.

TSRL is focusing on companies that optimize treatment for infectious diseases, such as influenza, HSV, VZV, CMV, EBV, poxvirus, HPV, Adenovirus, and RNA viruses. It is currently working with a handful of partners, including one from the University of Michigan.

"Three are pretty active right now," Lipka says.

TSRL has hired two people over the last year, including a business development manager and a chemist. It is currently looking to hire a research scientist to add to its staff of 10 employees and one intern.

Source: Elke Lipka, president of Therapeutic Systems Research Laboratories
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland University spins out first tech startup, Fulcrum Engineering

The first startup to spin out of Oakland University wants to make your vehicle safer by making its parts disengage during catastrophic accidents.

Fulcrum Engineering is developing technology that enables structural joints in a vehicles to decouple during big accidents. The idea is the force of the accident is displaced to better protect the motorists.

"We have shown we can reduce the force that is felt by the occupants of the vehicle by 60 percent," says Michael Latcha, president of Fulcrum Engineering.

Latcha is also an associate professor at Oakland University. He discovered the idea for the technology when trying to figure out ways to protect military vehicles from IED explosions. He found that if things like the engine or transmission were able to decouple during an explosion, then the force of the blast would also be displaced and better protect the people inside the vehicle.

"All your left with is the shell of the vehicle protecting the occupants," Latcha says.

Fulcrum Engineering is trying to commercialize that technology for use in everyday vehicles like sedans and work trucks. The idea is that only major accidents would enable the decoupling of the structural joints, not fender benders.

The Rochester-based startup launched last November. It made the finals of the Global Automotive Innovation Challenge and is currently working to license its technology to automotive suppliers.

Source: Michael Latcha, president of Fulcrum Engineering
Writer: Jon Zemke

Functional Fluidics leverages WSU tech for new contract research

Dr. Patrick Hines has long been fascinated with blood analysis. He has used flow-based platforms to do blood analysis since he was a grad student in North Carolina.

That history and his wife taking a residency at the University of Michigan Health System led Dr. Hines to Detroit where he is launching a life sciences startup, Functional Fluidics.

"I was most comfortable with the opportunities here in Detroit, working Children's Hospital of Michigan and laboratories at Wayne State University," Dr. Hines says.

The 1-year-old startup is licensing technology spun out of Wayne State University that is enabling it to do expedited contract research of blood analysis for pharmaceutical companies. Dr. Hines and his team have developed a novel assay that allows the user to quantify the amount of adhesion and thrombosis in a sample of whole blood under physiologic flow conditions. The use of a patient's whole blood allows for a more accurate result. It is used in sickle cell research and blood platelet work.

The TechTown-based startup currently employs a team of five people. It is currently getting ready to raise a seed capital round to further its work.

"We are planning to raise between $500,000 and $1 million to grow this business and finance new product development," says John Cunningham, COO of Functional Fluidics.

Source: Patrick Hines, founder & CEO of Functional Fluidics; and John Cunningham, COO of Functional Fluidics
Writer: Jon Zemke

H3D expands camera tech to more nuclear plants around world

H3D has spent much of the last year becoming a global player, selling its camera technology internationally.

"We have sold our cameras to close to 20 nuclear power plants around the world," says Zhong He, chairman of H3D.

Zhong is also a professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences at the University of Michigan. He has been working on H3D’s camera technology since the late 1990s, spinning out the company four years ago.

H3D's Polaris H technology is a hand-held radiation camera that helps nuclear plant operators find potentially dangerous hot spots and leaky fuel rods with more speed and precision. It accomplishes this by laying a gamma-ray map over an image of a room, allowing it to pinpoint radiation sources.

H3D's has seen dramatic sales gains without a marketing budget. It also has landed two Department of Defense contracts. All of these wins are coming primarily through word-of-mouth advertising from the company's customers. The increased roster of clients has allowed the company to hire four people (engineers) over the last year, expanding its staff to nine people. It is also looking to hire another engineer if the right candidate comes around.

"We are financially quite sound," He says.

Source: Zhong He, chairman of H3D
Writer: Jon Zemke

InfoReady hires 7, looks to add a dozen more in Ann Arbor

InfoReady is celebrating its fifth anniversary this month, a milestone that carries a lot of weight with the startup's founder.

The Ann Arbor-based firm has doubled its revenue each year, notching 1,000 percent growth in that time frame. That growth streak doesn't look like it's going to end anytime soon.

"At least the next three years," says Bhushan Kulkarni, CEO of InfoReady.

Kulkarni is a serial entrepreneur in Ann Arbor, having launched and exited a handful of tech startups over the last couple of decades. InfoReady was spun off one of those firm, GDI Infotech. InfoReady's software streamlines the research and business-venture-building process for everything from obtaining grants to building new startups. It even helps match the user with the best sources of funding and talent.

"It matches you with the right data," Kulkarni says.

InfoReady raised a $2.5 million angel round last year. It is now looking to recapitalize later this year with a planned $5 million Series A.

InfoReady has also expanded its team over the last year, hiring seven people. It currently employes a staff of 25 employees and a couple of interns. It is also looking to hire a dozen people, primarily in sales and marketing.

Source: Bhushan Kulkarni, CEO of InfoReady
Writer: Jon Zemke

Sakti3 leverages $20M Series C, including $15M from Dyson

Sakti3 has closed on a eight-figure Series C round of seed capital to help develop and commercialize its lithium ion battery technology.

The Ann Arbor-based startup closed on a $20 million Series C earlier this month. That investment includes a $15 million investment from Dyson, the vacuum cleaner company. Sakti3 now has a broad range of investors including General Motors and Khosla Ventures.

"We think this is a huge development for Sakti3," says Ann Marie Sastry, CEO of Sakti3. "The Dyson partnership is critically important for our growth and first entry into the market."

Sakti3 spun out of the University of Michigan seven years ago looking to help lithium ion battery technology take a big step forward. Sakti3's technology claims to offer double the energy density of today’s commercial cells at half the price. It has been targeted for the automotive industry but Dyson sees potential in it for its handheld vacuum cleaners.

Sastry says her startup employs less than two dozen people and is hiring. She declined to say how many jobs it has open or how many people it has hired over the last year.

Source: Ann Marie Sastry, CEO of Sakti3
Writer: Jon Zemke

AutoHarvest goes global by adding more Asian clients

AutoHarvest got its start with the idea of growing Michigan's new economy by enabling local entrepreneurs to leverage the intellectual property coming out of the universities and major corporations in the Great Lakes State. Today the nonprofit is aiming beyond the state's borders.

"We've been growing," says Jayson Pankin, president of AutoHarvest. "We have been increasing our membership and database...[which] now contains about 90,000 intellectual property opportunities."

AutoHarvest has been targeting Asian-based firms to engage with its membership and plans to continue that expansion throughout this year by connecting more international businesses with the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The four-person nonprofit (it has hired two people over the last year) fosters collaboration and innovation in the auto industry by making things like tech labs and intellectual property more accessible. The 4-year-old organization has offices at the University of Michigan and TechTown.

Despite its recent foray into internationalism, AutoHarvest still regularly engages with local firms and entrepreneurs. For instance, Optimal Process Technologies is developing technology that improves the weldability of dissimilar materials. The processes will support the production of multi-material structures, reducing vehicle weight and improving vehicle fuel efficiency.

"The entrepreneur who licensed the technology came across it as a member of AutoHarvest," Pankin says.

Source: Jayson Pankin, president of AutoHarvest
Writer: Jon Zemke

Civionics brings wireless sensors to manufacturing

Civionics got its start spinning out of the University of Michigan in 2009 by commercializing wireless sensor technology. The platform was primarily used to measure the strength of large-scale infrastructure, such as bridge supports.

That's changing now. The startup is pivoting from its previous work, which mostly generated revenue from government grants, to a product platform.

"We have a new product we began selling at the end of last year," says Andy Zimmerman, CEO of Civionics. "We hope it will help us enter some new verticals."

That new product is called Constellation. It is based on Civionics original technology but applies it to manufacturing equipment in factories. The idea is to monitor the strength of those machines and avoid breakdowns with well-timed maintenance. The company is aiming to focus on Michigan’s automotive market as a start.

To help make that happen, Civionics has joined Automation Alley's 7Cs program. The program helps small businesses leverage cutting edge manufacturing technology, opening the door for them to go to the next level of production.

"Automation Alley clearly has the connections in the area that we lack," Zimmerman says.

The Ann Arbor-based company currently employs a core team of a handful of people after adding one over the last year. Zimmerman expects to grow that team later this year as it lines up the first customers for Constellation.

Source: Andy Zimmerman, CEO of Civionics
Writer: Jon Zemke

Premier acquires U-M spinout Electric Field Solutions

Premier, a gas and electrical industries service company, has acquired Electric Field Solutions, a University of Michigan spinout specializing in electric field measurement and detection.

"The company that acquired us has been working with use for over a year," says Nilton Renno, co-founder & CEO of Electric Field Solutions. "The testing exceeded its expectations by far."

Renno, a University of Michigan professor of engineering, first developed Electric Field Solutions' principal technology to measure electric fields caused by dust storms on the surface of Mars. The Ann Arbor-based company, it calls the Venture Accelerator home, is developing the Charge Tracker, a sensor product that can identify stray voltage from a distance of more than 10 feet. That technology caught the attention of Premier, a unit of Houston-based Willbros Group, which acquired Electric Field Solutions for an undisclosed amount.

Electric Field Solutions employed a couple people and a few independent contractors. Renno is now going on to work on another startup that helps detect black ice and sends feedback to the braking system in vehicles. Why leave Electric Field Solutions and go onto a new venture?

"I have a full-time job," Renno says. "I think we went through three CEOs with the company. We didn't find the right person to direct the company. When the last CEO left I decided to sell the company."

Source: Nilton Renno, co-founder & CEO of Electric Field Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Anonymous incubator set to grow 10 fold this winter

The anonymous incubator space at 333 Parkland Plaza is about to get much bigger as the owners begin to move to a new building that is much, much larger.

"We will essentially be 10 times bigger than we are today," says Mark Smith, co-owner of 333 Parkland Plaza.

Smith never intended to end up in the small business incubator game. He ended up with his current building just off Jackson Road in the early 2000s when a bio-tech company he invested in went under. Smith recruited young biotech and medical device firms to fill it, offering an all-inclusive rental rate with professional and mentoring services aimed at helping those startups grow.

It worked. The building has been full for years, and Smith has had to turn away prospective tenants because there is no room at the incubator. His current client list includes Evigia, ePack and AVAcore Technologies, which take up all of the 7,500 square feet.

Now Smith and his partners are in the process of closing on and moving into another commercial space nearby. The transition should be done by the of the first quarter or early second quarter. The 75,000-square-foot facility will include thousands of square feet of dry and wet labs. Smith plans to build in a co-working space, and add to the services offered with the likes of human resources, 3D printing and CAD software. Smith is looking to hire four people to operate the new facility with jobs ranging from facility management to IT.

"We are starting at 10 (companies occupying space in the new facility)," Smith says.

Those include all of the other firms currently at 333 Parkland Plaza and a few more. Smith can now accept applications for space in his incubator with the idea of having enough room to accommodate the requests. Smith plans to keep the facility at 333 Parkland Plaza and currently has a tenant lined up to take over the entire space.

Source: Mark Smith, co-owner & manager of 333 Parkland Plaza
Writer: Jon Zemke

GENOMENON leverages local startup support for success and growth

GENOMENON is one of those startups that local leaders get all warm and fuzzy about. The Ann Arbor-based company is a cross between life sciences and tech, and has a very promising future.

And then there are the startup resources that have been invested in its success. GENOMENON has leveraged just about every new economy startup program in southeast Michigan. It spun out of the University of Michigan, taking advantage of U-M's Office of Technology Transfer along the way. It has worked with Ann Arbor SPARK, the local small business development center, and the Great Lakes Entrepreneurs Quest initiative, among others.

"We have really maximized the resources in the Michigan startup community," says Dr. Mark Kiel, co-founder & CEO of GENOMENON.

GENOMENON is the product of three U-M pathologists, including Dr. Kiel. They are developing software focused on interpreting the mountains of data that come from genome sequencing. The end result could lead to things like improving cancer diagnosis and treatment. Think of it as data analytics for genome sequencing.

"We can produce the data really efficiently," Dr. Kiel says. "It's interpreting the data that is the problem."

GENOMENON is currently made up of seven people after launching last May. It is currently looking to hire a handful of software developers.

"We need boots on the ground, people who can code," Dr. Kiel says.

Source: Dr. Mark Kiel, co-founder & CEO of GENOMENON
Writer: Jon Zemke

3D Biomatrix lands key patent for core technology

3D Biomatrix recently received a key patent for its research technology, a milestone that is setting the company up for more growth in 2015.

The patent is for the company's hangar system, which scientists use for life sciences research. The patent helps the company validate the uniqueness of its products and prevents knock offs from competitors.

"It's an important patent for us because it covers our core technology," says Laura Schrader, president & CEO of 3D Biomatrix.

The University of Michigan spin-out, it calls the Venture Accelerator home, makes 3D cell culture hanging drop plates for lab research in cancer treatments or stem cells. The plates allow cells to grow in 3 dimensions like they do in the body. Most current methods offer only flat surfaces.

The 96-well plates sell well for users using manual lab methods. The 384-well plates are growing in use as they work well with automated lab equipment. The company also makes transfer tools and assay kits.

Schrader says sales for 3D Biomatrix were up in 2014 but declined to say how much. It currently has 30 distributors and is looking to expand into new markets this year.

Source: Laura Schrader, president & CEO of 3D Biomatrix
Writer: Jon Zemke

Inmatech adds staff after closing on $1.5M seed round

Energy startup Inmatech closed on a $1.5 million seed round this fall, capital the company plans to spend on further developing its battery technology. Atlanta-based SMS Investments XII led the round.

The 4-year-old University of Michigan spin out is developing advanced technology that greatly improves the performance of supercapacitors in batteries for electronics. The supercapacitors enable the batteries to improve the delivery of energy and increase energy density.

"It will be a power-storage device that will help batteries in range, run time and cycle life," says Saemin Choi, CTO of Inmatech. "It will also give low-temperature performance."

Inmatech is in the process of making alpha-versions of its technology for international evaluation. Choi expects his startup to begin work on the beta-version midway through 2015.

The Ann Arbor-based startup is expanding its team to further the development of its technology. The company currently employs five people after hiring a COO and materials scientist over the last year.

"We have two new hires coming in on Jan. 1st," Choi says. He adds the company expects to hire two more engineers and two more technicians over the next six months.

Source: Saemin Choi, CTO of Inmatech
Writer: Jon Zemke

PHASIQ aims to ramp up production in Plymouth

PHASIQ is gearing up to make a number of steps toward commercializing its research lab technology in 2015.
"The technology has progressed a lot since last fall," says Shuichi Takayama, co-founder of PHASIQ. "We're currently working on scaling up our production."

The University of Michigan spinout provides a diagnostic platform for detecting protein biomarkers in biological samples. Its custom arrays can be used by pharmaceutical companies for drug and biomarker discovery, and advancing personalized medicine. You can check out a video describing the technology here.

The Plymouth-based startup that calls the Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center home has expanded its core team to three people after adding a technical support person. They have leveraged a $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to further develop the technology, which is currently being used by researchers at the University of Michigan.

"It's much more user friendly with fewer steps," Takayama says.

PHASIQ is currently going for a few more SBIR grants to further development. The team hopes to begin ramping up production of its lab equipment in 2015.

Source: Shuichi Takayama, co-founder of PHASIQ
Writer: Jon Zemke

University tech transfer offices bridge gap between academia and commerce

In Michigan's growing tech economy, there's no doubt that many of the innovators are coming from the halls and labs of academia. But how to get from concept to commercialization?

Excerpt:

"Coming up with a technological breakthrough is a feather in a university researcher's cap. 

But taking that brilliant notion, and forming a profitable business, involves another degree of difficulty. So professors and other researchers who want to turn their intellectual gifts into gold will probably need a little help along the way. 

"It takes more than a great idea," said Paul Riser Jr., managing director of technology-based entrepreneurship for Detroit business incubator  TechTown. "Professors sometimes are great technologists or great engineers and sometimes they don't have the know-how, from a business perspective."

The place to start may be the university's technology transfer office."

More here.
217 Research / Tech Transfer Articles | Page: | Show All
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