Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Carolina startups notch awards for medical devices, food accessibility

Their innovations include the development of tissue-like implant materials, novel X-ray detectors, healthy frozen-meal products for lower-income consumers and a precise syringe for more accurate drug dose measurements.

A graduate student sets up a light-driven reaction with an organic dye.
(Photo by Mary Lide Parker/UNC Research)

KickStart Venture Services has awarded four Carolina-based startup companies with commercialization awards that will enable them to complete high-impact projects as they translate and commercialize UNC-owned intellectual property and innovations.

The commercialization awards are part of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Innovate Carolina initiative — a university-wide emphasis on turning ideas and discoveries cultivated in Carolina’s academic laboratories and classrooms into products and services that can benefit people outside the university setting.

“The commercialization award program provides vital early-stage funding for startups from UNC,” said Don Rose, director of KickStart Venture Services. “The program enables companies to build prototypes, obtain preliminary data for government grant applications or launch a beta program. This award is a stepping stone that propels companies to be more attractive for funding from grants, angel and venture capital investors.”

Four companies were awarded this round through the KickStart Venture Services Commercialization Award program.

BMPolytech

BMPolytech targets a new generation of biomedical devices through the development of tissue-like implants. This material-design platform developed at UNC-Chapel Hill is based on solvent-free materials that replicate the mechanics of biological tissue. Implants made of BMPolytech polymers feel like tissue by being simultaneously soft and firm. They won’t dry, freeze, or leak, and hence remain invariant and functional over time. This combination of solvent-free and tissue-like mechanics is vital for the safety of permanent biomedical devices including breast implants, intraocular lenses and vascular grafts. Further, this platform allows injectable-implant technology, which enables non-invasive administration into hard-to-reach body parts. BMPolytech was founded by Sergei Sheiko, the George A. Bush, Jr. Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry, Eric Green and Tatiana Touzova.

Good Bowls

Good Bowls produces healthy, frozen meal products, designed to provide better access to nutritionally valuable food for lower-income consumers. The venture also creates economic opportunities for local farmers and food entrepreneurs. The Good Bowls business model focuses on reducing food waste, increasing accessibility and bringing benefits to the farmers whose crops serve as ingredients in the meals. By pricing Good Bowls higher in more affluent retail outlets, the company hopes to sell the product for a food-stamp-accessible price at lower-income centers in food deserts like convenience stores and corner shops. Good Bowls’ founders are Alice Ammerman, the Mildred Kaufman Distinguished Professor in the Department of Nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and Laura Fieselman.

Perotech Corporation

Perotech Corporation is developing sensitive X-ray detectors and imaging arrays which are more sensitive, lower cost, compact and easy to use compared to the existing products in the market. Perotech’s X-ray detectors are based on new perovskite materials that enable lower X-ray dosing while providing high imaging resolution. As a result, they have the potential of making X-ray testing much safer in medical diagnosis imaging. Perotech Corporation was founded by Jinsong Huang, a professor in the Department of Applied Physical Science. The company aims at capturing the unprecedented opportunity to commercialize the perovskite-related technologies including perovskite radiation detectors, photodetectors and solar cells.

Assure Technologies

Assure Technologies has developed a novel, simple and affordable medical device called Precynge (a precise syringe) that utilizes the volumetric process to provide consistently accurate measurements for a variety of drug preparations. Precynge allows for easy and precise dose measurement, regardless of medication weight, specific gravity, or syringe size. Integrating this manual device into the current volumetric process increases its universality and affordability. Stephen Eckel, founder of Assure Technologies, is the inventor of the Precynge and has led all of the preliminary studies. Eckel is associate dean for global engagement and a clinical associate professor at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy.