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Gongos growth curve continues with 23 new hires

Gongos is one of those companies that always seems to be growing. 

The Auburn Hills-based market research firm routinely clocks revenue growth, often adding double-digit gains for most of its 20-plus years. Its revenue is up 12.9 percent since 2012. Its non-U.S. revenues are also up 6.9 percent. Gongos has achieved this by increasing its workload with some major companies like Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Chase and Fiat Chrysler.

"We're really growing a lot," says Katherine Ephlin, COO of Gongos. She adds, "there are a lot of new faces around."

The firm has hired 23 people over the last year. It now employs about 135 people and Ephlin expects to keep growing. She recently made the jump from vice president of operations to COO.

Gongos was also recently named a Gold Top 50 U.S. market research organization by Marketing News. Based on its 2013 gross revenues, Gongos ranks as the 43rd organization in the U.S., which is up one spot from the previous year. This is the seventh straight year Gongos has made the list.

"It's by continuing to serve our clients really well," Ephlin says. "Our people are really great at thinking about the business’s problem. ... Our clients really trust us and give us some of their most strategic problems."

Source: Katherine Ephlin, COO of Gongos
Writer: Jon Zemke
 

MMS Holdings launches science internship at Wayne State

MMS Holdings is helping beef up the talent pipeline in Metro Detroit with the creation of a science internship program at Wayne State University.

The Canton-based clinical research organization specializes in regulatory submission support in the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device industries. For the company, filling the local talent pipeline with more STEM graduates does nothing but help its bottom line.

"It's a good way to collaborate with the university so we have a healthy pipeline of college graduates," says Prasad Koppolu, vice president of MMS Holdings.

The Broadening Experience in Scientific Training program will focus on providing workplace opportunities at MMS Holdings for graduate students in the scientific fields from Wayne State University. These paid positions will focus on the areas of regulatory operations, medical writing, data management, clinical programming, and pharmacovigilance. The hope is these internships will open doors to a growing number of opportunities in the scientific research realm.

MMS Holdings has a staff of 500 people globally (including 80 in Metro Detroit) that primarily work on regulatory submissions for drug development. It has completed 45 new drug development applications in its seven years. The company has hired about 15 people over the last year, including positions in medical writing and clinical programing. It currently has two summer interns from the Broadening Experience in Scientific Training program, and is looking at adding co-op students to the program.

"Each year we could have around six people," Koppolu says.

Source: Prasad Koppolu, vice president of MMS Holdings
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M researchers develop Entrain mobile app to reduce jet lag

A professor and graduate student at the University of Michigan, both mathematicians, have launched a mobile app focused on minimizing the effects of jet lag.

Entrain helps its travelers leverage shortcuts to getting their internal clocks on pace with their new time zones quickly and efficiently. The app is named for entrainment, which is the scientific term for synchronizing circadian rhythms with the outside hour. Entrain’s technology is based on new findings by U-M Matt Professor Daniel Forger and former U-M undergraduate student Kirill Serkh. Olivia Walch, a PhD student at U-M, created the mobile app, which launched last week.

"I took the results from the research paper and put it into app form," Walch says.

Forger and Serkh’s research focused on the impact of light on the average person. They identify it as the strongest signal to regulate circadian rhythms. Short disruptions to light exposure from things like jet lag can cause fatigue and lowered performance. Entrain provides shortcuts to eliminating these symptoms by providing custom schedules of light and darkness, boiling down to one block of time each day when the user should seek the brightest light possible and another when you should put yourself in the dark, or at least in dim light.

"Some of the schedules are pretty easy to follow," Walch says.

And the app has proved popular so far. "We have already had 50,000 downloads," Walch says.

Source: Olivia Walch, co-founder of Entrain
Writer: Jon Zemke

University of Michigan, Virginia profs team up to create PsiKick

Professors from the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia have spun out technology from their respective universities to create a new venture-backed startup, PsiKick.

Startups pulling technologies from a number of different universities isn't unheard of. However, fledgling companies taking technology from premier research institutions doesn’t happen often.

"It might be more rare that it's this equal (the standing of the research universities supplying the technology)," says Mark Maynard, marketing manager for the Office of Technology Transfer at the University of Michigan. He adds that the contribution of each university's technology is "pretty right down the middle."

David Wentzloff and Benton Calhoun met while attending graduate school at MIT. After graduate school they went back to their respective alma maters to start teaching careers. Wentzloff is an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at U-M and Calhoun is an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the UVa.

The friends came together in 2012 to launch PsiKick, which now has offices in Ann Arbor and Virginia. PsiKick is developing an ultra-low-power wireless sensor that is capable of operating on 1/100th to 1/1000th of the power budget of other low-power integrated circuit platforms. That enables the chip to be powered without the help of a battery, instead relying on vibration, thermal gradients, solar, radio frequency or piezo actuation for energy sources.

PsiKick's chip conducted continuous EKG monitoring and detection of atrial fibrillation. Wireless updates each second were sent by radio, all operating continuously and powered by body heat using a small thermoelectric generator on a body with no battery at all in the system. The lack of a battery means the chip can be used in a number of harsh environments.

"The implications could be enormous for several industries," Maynard says.

PsiKick recently closed on a Series A round of funding to help further develop the technology. The investment was led by New Enterprise Associates. Other investors include MINTS, a U-M venture fund, and Osage University Partners.

Source: Mark Maynard, marketing manager for the Office of Tech Transfer at the University of Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Kalyspo aims to commercialize technology by year-end

Kalyspo, the bio-tech startup and University of Michigan spin out, is well on its way to commercializing its surgical instrument tracking technology.

The Ann Arbor-based company’s technology helps prevent medical professionals from leaving foreign objects (think surgical tools like sponges) in patients during an operation. It accomplishes this by inserting a micro-machined tag that shows up clearly on x-rays and computer software. The technology is so advanced that it scores highly on both the sensitivity and specificity scales for finding these sorts of items.

"This is one of the best (detection rates) I have ever seen," says Dr. Theodore Marentis, co-founder of Kalyspo.

The 1-year-old startup employs a team of four employees, two interns and two independent contractors. It also won the Best of Boot Camp award at the Ann Arbor SPARK Entrepreneur Boot Camp.

Dr. Marentis expects to commercialize this technology before the end of the year. He says the company is in discussion with a couple of hospitals which could become potential customers, and it is looking to create other types of revenue streams.

"We're talking to a number of manufacturers about adding them to their product line," he says.

Source: Dr. Theodore Marentis, co-founder of Kalyspo
Writer: Jon Zemke

Data Driven Detroit adds 5 staff in TechTown

To say 2013 was a year of transition for Data Driven Detroit might be a bit of understatement. The TechTown-based non-profit’s founder retired, it joined the Michigan Nonprofit Association and it started to take part in some big projects, such as Motor City Mapping.

"We have been through a lot of transition in the last year and a half," says Erica Raliegh, acting director of Data Driven Detroit.

Despite all of that, Date Driven Detroit has hired five people over the last year. Those new hires include data analysts and project managers. The organization now has a core staff of 11 people.

Raliegh is filling in for Kurt Metzger, Data Driven Detroit’s founder. Metzger retired last summer and has since been elected as the mayor of Pleasant Ridge. He is currently serving as Data Driven Detroit’s Director Emeritus.

"We are so glad to have had Kurt throughout the years," Raliegh says.

She adds that Data Driven Detroit plans to continue its push to bring greater transparency to Metro Detroit by "opening up data holdings." That includes publishing MEAP scores for every school in the state, analyzing population statistics and trend and making information about recorded offense in the city of Detroit more accessible.

One of its largest projects is taking part in the Motor City Mapping project, which aims to catalogue the condition of every piece of property in the city of Detroit. "Every piece of property across the city, including those that don’t have buildings," Raleigh says. That project is currently underway and is expected to wrap up by the end of this winter.

Source: Erica Raliegh, acting director of Data Driven Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke

Brooks Kushman adds staff to keep up with IP work spike

Brooks Kushman has experienced a hiring spike over the last year as the economy has rebounded.

The Southfield-based intellectual-property law firm has hired 17 people over the last year, including 12 new attorneys and five support staff. It has expanded its office space by 7,000 square feet to accommodate the growth. It now has a staff of 177 people, a vast majority of which are housed in 2.5 floors in 1000 Town Center, overlooking the Lodge Freeway.

"As the economy is getting a little better our clients are sending us more work and we need to hire more people to handle it," says Mark Cantor, president of Brooks Kushman.

What makes that statement unique is that intellectual property is pretty steady regardless of the ups and downs of the economy. Cantor says local companies are looking to expand on more intellectual property. While a majority of that work is automotive, it is not just new designs for brakes or gears. Since so much of a vehicle is dependent on software, a lot of that work revolves around new technology, which is making Cantor optimistic for next year.

"I think 2014 will be our best year," Cantor says. "The stars seems to be aligning for us."

Source: Mark Cantor, president of Brooks Kushman
Writer: Jon Zemke

Covaron takes 2nd place, $100K at Accelerate Michigan

Covaron Advanced Materials took second place in the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition last month, a win that put $100,000 in cash into the startup's kitty.

That money will go toward its seed capital round. The firm raised a total of $300,000 in seed capital and also landed a $250,000 loan from the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund prior to the win last month. Covaron Advanced Materials is also looking to raise a $5 million Series A.

"We're just starting to solicit that now," says Dave Hatfield, CEO of Covaron Advanced Materials.?

The Ann Arbor-based start-up, formerly Kymeira Advanced Materials, is developing a new chemistry for ceramics, which brings the benefits of existing advanced ceramics to new parts and markets. The 1-year-old company won the student portion of the Accelerate Michigan competition last year. This year the startup and its team of six people (it just hired one of its interns) leveraged that experience to turn in another winning effort.

"We had a good story," Hatfield says. "To win both of those competitions and through the vetting for the business loan from the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund means you have a pretty good business plan. It’s a great confirmation for us."

Source: Dave Hatfield, CEO of Covaron Advanced Materials
Writer: Jon Zemke

URC report highlights need for talent retention

Talent retention is one of Michigan's traditional economic development goals. A new report from the University Research Corridor drives home the importance of that goal.

The recently released report shows that 19 percent of graduates from Michigan's three research universities (University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University) go onto start a business.

"It was a larger number than we thought," says Jeff Mason, executive director of the University Research Corridor, a non-profit advocate for Michigan's three research universities. "We were hopeful it would be 10 percent. Nearly 20 percent is pretty significant."

The rate of those graduates from the mid '90s to today that pursue entrepreneurship is about twice the national average of college graduates. More than half of those businesses are in fields different than the graduates' degree.

The good news is that nearly half of those companies are based in Michigan. Also, the success rate of those business hovers around 70 percent, which is significantly higher than the national average of 45 percent.

"It shows the education they are receiving at these institutions is broad," Mason says. "It helps them start companies and do amazing things."

Source: Jeff Mason, executive director of the University Research Corridor
Writer: Jon Zemke

Esperion Therapeutics adds 5 staff, preps for IPO

Esperion Therapeutics is adding staff, closing on a round of seed capital and prepping for an initial public offering of stock later this year.

The pharmaceutical firm's staff recently jumped to 13 people after making five hires over the last year. It also has a job opening for a senior director of clinical & PT staff. Helping make that expansion possible is the recent securing of $33 million in preferred stock financing. The seed capital round was led by Longitude Capital with Aisling Capital, Alta Partners, Domain Associates, Arboretum Ventures and Asset Management also participating.

Tim Mayleben, Esperion Therapeutics' CEO, declined to comment on the company's growth because it recently filed for an IPO. IPOs come with quiet periods where company representatives are not allowed to promote the upcoming IPO, often leading them to decline speaking about the company altogether to be safe.

Esperion Therapeutics
has historically been an Ann Arbor-based company, scoring a $1.3 billion exit when Pfizer acquired it in 2004. Company founder Roger Newton reacquired the firm in 2008 and eventually moved to the Michigan Life Sciences Innovation Center in Plymouth, which is managed by Ann Arbor SPARK.

Esperion Therapeutic's most advanced product candidate, ETC-1002, is being developed for patients with hypercholesterolemia and other cardiometabolic risk factors. ETC-1002 is a small-molecule metabolic regulator of imbalances in lipid and carbohydrate metabolism and inflammation. It is being developed to address the underlying causes of metabolic diseases and reduce multiple risk factors associated with them.

Source: Tim Mayleben, CEO of Esperion Therapeutics
Writer: Jon Zemke

University Research Corridor adds $15.5B to Michigan economy

The Michigan University Research Corridor (URC) helped create $2.6 billion in added economic impact in Michigan compared to similar figures released in 2007, according to a report released by the non-profit earlier this month.

The URC is a consortium of the state's three research universities (University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University) focused on helping creating synergies between Michigan's universities and increasing research that comes from them. Its more recent report shows the URC contributed $15.5 billion to the state's economy.

"We think that is pretty impressive when we benchmark ourselves against Research Triangle and Massachusetts and Northern California," says Jeff Mason, executive director of the Michigan University Research Corridor.

One of the factors in that growth is the increase of spin-out companies from technology developed at research at Michigan's three research universities. In 2011, the three universities spun out 18 companies, which ranked it third against other similar innovation clusters.

"What you see is these institutions spinning out on average of one company every month," Mason says.
 
Source: Jeff Mason, executive director of Michigan University Research Corridor
Writer: Jon Zemke

Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund continues investment spree in '13

Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund has struck again, investing $1 million into four local start-ups.

The four start-ups include Fusion Coolant Systems, Local Orbit, New Eagle Products, and Seelio. Seelio, New Eagle Products and Local Orbit are based in Ann Arbor. Fusion Coolant Systems was launched in Ypsilanti and is now based in Detroit on the campus of Focus: HOPE.

"The seeds that were planted several years ago are starting to bear fruit," says Skip Simms, senior vice president at Ann Arbor SPARK who oversees the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund. "The ecosystem the state has created has really improved the quality of entrepreneur who is coming to us with better thought-out ideas and products that are further along."

The Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund is a collaborative effort of Michigan's SmartZones to support product commercialization at local start-ups. It has awarded more than $19 million in seed funding to 83 Michigan companies. One of the early recipients was Compendia Bioscience, which was acquired by Life Technologies last fall.

The Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund had its most aggressive year yet in 2012, making deals with 23 companies. Simms says he doesn't expect the fund to surpass that number again this year but there is more than enough demand from a plethora of quality companies.

"It has been growing," Simms says. "It has been evolving. The good news is it has been evolving and snowballing in a good way."

Source: Skip Simms, senior vice president at Ann Arbor SPARK
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Swift Biosciences lands $750K investment, launches 1st product

Swift Biosciences has scored a $750,000 Series A investment from the Michigan Accelerator Fund I, money that will help the life sciences start-up accelerate the commercialization of its products.

"The extra financing will help us with product development and launch," says David Olson, CEO of Swift Biosciences.

The Ann Arbor-based start-up is developing molecular biology reagents for research and diagnostic applications that provide new ways to examine disease-related genes. This technology is expected to help researchers analyze samples faster, at a higher volume, and at a lower price per sample. The 3-year-old company launched its first product (a consumable product for genetic analysis that helps detect mutations in things like cancer, with high sensitivity) last year and is set to launch more similar technologies this spring.

Swift Biosciences has hired one person (a scientist) in 2012. It now employs 11 people and expects to add more people to its staff, but not in the next few months.

"We do expect to expand but it will be later in the year and in 2014," Olson says.

Source: David Olson, CEO of Swift Biosciences
Writer: Jon Zemke

Plymouth's Delphinus starts $17M fundraising round, adds 5 jobs

Delphinus Medical Technologies has begun raising a Series B round of fundraising, setting a goal of scoring $17 million by this summer.

The Plymouth-based start-up that calls the Michigan Life Science Innovation Center home is spinning out technology for an alternative test to mammography from the Karmanos Cancer Institute. It has already raised $12 million in a Series A round.

"Our current investors are willing to put in a substantive portion of this round," says Bill Greenway, CEO of Delphinus Medical Technologies.

The 2-year-old start-up's principal product is SoftVue, which works to effectively differentiate between benign and malignant masses in breasts. The idea is to help eliminate false positives and reduce unnecessary biopsies. It can also accurately measure breast density, a known risk factor for developing breast cancer, as well as detect many early stages of cancer in women with dense breast tissue, which is often not picked up by mammography.

SoftVue works by surrounding a breast submerged in warm water with an ultrasound ring that captures detailed, three-dimensional images with sound waves. The results are similar to an MRI, but the procedure takes only a few minutes and costs much less. The procedure was the inspiration for the company's name, which is Latin for dolphins.

The first prototype of the technology is currently being used at the Karmanos Cancer Institute. Greenway expects to ramp up commercialization and sales of SoftVue by the end of this year. He points out that St. Mary's Hospital at the University of Toronto is also in line to receive the second one. "We have a number of sites that are interested in a system," Greenway says.

Delphinus Medical Technologies currently employs 19 people after hiring five people in 2012. He expects to hire another five or six people this year.

Source: Bill Greenway, CEO of Delphinus Medical Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

Birdhouse aims to becomes data mine for autism research

Birdhouse is wrapping up its first year of providing a mobile/web solution for parents and caregivers of autistic children.

The West Bloomfield-based start-up is creating software that tracks the behavior of autistic children and helps the loved ones of autistic children manage the disorder. It is also looking to find news ways to leverage the data it's collecting to help further the fight against autism.

"We'd like to be working with organizations from around the country to use the data Birdhouse is collecting to better understand autism, and to give us more answers and better understanding of the disorder," says Ben Chutz, founder of Birdhouse.

Chutz was inspired to start the company las year because his girlfriend has a daughter with autism, exposing him to the trials and tribulations that come with it. Chutz is now hoping the data gathered from his technology, still in private Beta until this summer, will be able to help shed some light on whether nature (barometric pressure or tides) factors into the impact of autism.

"We're looking to crowd source the idea of collecting info on kids with autism," Chutz says.

Birdhouse currently has a team of three people and is looking to add two software developers to help bring its technology to market.

Source: Ben Chutz, founder of Birdhouse
Writer: Jon Zemke
195 Research / Tech Transfer Articles | Page: | Show All
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