Utah-based start-up companies have recently won Small Business Innovative Research and Small Business Technology Transfer grants totaling more than $1.2 million to help propel their research and development efforts forward including Veristride, NanoSynth Materials and Sensors Inc., Jade Therapeutics and Silicon Technologies Inc..
Veristride is developing a smart insole to help people improve the way they walk. The company has been awarded a National Science Foundation Phase II SBIR grant. Having already won a Phase I grant proving feasibility over a six month period, this Phase II expands the work to help produce a prototype and determine commercial potential over a two-year period.
Veristride’s smart-insole connects to a sensor on top of a shoe. As the user picks up their foot and places it on the ground, the insole transmits information to a smart phone device, enabling the patient to interact with the app and evaluate how they are walking. They can then make alterations as needed. By watching and listening to the app, a patient can gage if their gait is improving or getting worse, providing “real-time rehab.”
Leading Veristride’s research and development is Stacy Bamberg, CEO of Veristride. Bamberg has been developing her technology at the BioInnovations Gateway (BiG). This life science incubator is sponsored by USTAR and acts as an educational institution and workforce training facility providing access to laboratories, equipment, office space and resources for entrepreneurs as they develop medical technologies, with limited initial capital. In addition to Veristride, Bamberg is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah (U of U). However, she is currently on sabbatical while she develops her technology.
Veristride’s Phase II grant brings $750,000 over a two year period and will allow the company to expand its operations and devote more man-hours to developing its insole technology.
“This will expand our employee base,” Bamberg said. “We’ll have money for full-time engineering positions, clinical coordinators and a tech person. Having more talent will help us accelerate our growth.”
Like many Utah companies, Veristride was able to get valuable assistance in the SBIR-STTR process from USTAR’s SBIR-STTR Assistance Center (SSAC). Now in its fifth year, the center assists Utah’s entrepreneurs and innovators in securing the non-dilutive federal funding that will help them develop and research the technology they hope to eventually take to market. The SSAC helps companies better understand and navigate the process at any step along the path. The SSAC has also helped Jade Therapeutics and Silicon Technologies Inc. (STI), win Phase I grants from the National Science Foundation and the Department of the Navy respectively with announcements made in September.
“We are very pleased to have been able to assist Veristride, Jade and STI,” said Mary Cardon, director of the SSAC. “Each provided an opportunity to share our resources, assess the situation and get them quick answers to help them through the grant application process. We were also able to guide the editing and submission process to assure review with the best possible proposal.”
Since opening in 2008, the SSAC has helped Utah technology companies win more than $7.4 million in federal grants and has a funding success rate of better than 25 percent, compared to the national average of 15 – 17 percent.
“These grants will propel amazing technologies and companies to the next step with non-equity position funding,” said Cardon. “Phase I funding is so very important to companies and leads to Phase II opportunities. Then, winning a Phase II grant means you are on a solid track. It speaks to your technology but also sends a message to potential investors and customers that something really good is occurring.”
In addition to these three recent wins, University of Utah USTAR Professor Manoranjan Misra (Metallurgical Engineering), and Swomitra Mohanty, U of U Research Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering, have won a $222,000 Phase I STTR grant from the National Science Foundation to further develop a rapid point of care sensor for tuberculosis diagnosis. Misra and Mohanty have formed NanoSynth Materials and Sensors Inc. to commercialize this technology. Misra and Mohanty see this technology having a significant impact in indigenous areas for tuberculosis, such as India, Africa, and China, where traditional testing methods are impractical.
Traditional methods of testing for tuberculosis require trained personnel, central lab facilities and expensive tests which are not readily available in areas where tuberculosis is endemic. The sensing platform is designed to detect tuberculosis at the point of care in a rapid manner.
“The STTR is important in the next phase of the project,” said Mohanty “The funding will allow NanoSynth Materials and Sensors Inc. to focus on pilot studies with tuberculosis patients to characterize and develop the sensing technology. The funding will also be used to further commercialize the sensing technology and result in hiring of employees in Utah.”
After completion of Phase I, NanoSynth Materials and Sensors Inc. will pursue a Phase II grant for funding of $750,000. The company is currently going after strategic and commercial partnerships to deploy the technology around the world.