12 companies awarded more than $657,000 in funding
Washington Technology Center’s Research & Technology Development (RTD) grants program awards more than $1 million annually to university researchers teamed with technology companies on projects that show potential for commercial success.
Twelve Washington companies received awards totalling more than $657,000 in the most recent round of funding. These recipients represent businesses all across Washington, east to west and north to south, with research support provided by three of the state’s major academic institutions: University of Washington, Washington State University and Central Washington University.
Five of the 12 grants involve WSU research projects.
Below are short summaries of the six projects that received Phase 1 grants under the most recent funding cycle. Followed by a list of the six companies who received follow on funding for later-stage projects.
* American Premix Technologies, Creston, Wash., is partnering with Dr. Shulin Chen from Washington State University’s Biological Systems Engineering Department to convert biodiesel waste into an additive for a new commercial animal feed supplement. During the typical biodiesel production process, glycerin is the primary waste product. The current market for glycerin products can only absorb about 50 percent of the amount produced from biodiesel production. An alternate use for this waste presents strong market potential. APT and WSU are working on technology to optimize a process for converting biodiesel waste to algae biomass that is high in Omega 3 fatty acids. This biomass can then be used as a supplement to an organic animal feed that the company plans to develop and market. The algae act as a nutrient conductor to the animals, whose systems cannot synthesize large carbon fatty acids by themselves. This technology has the potential to create an emerging business opportunity and at the same time, convert an environmental liability into a commercial product for end-use health benefits.
* DiMeMa, Inc., Seattle, is working with Professor Maya Gupta from the University of Washington’s Electrical Engineering Department on a software solution for optimizing compression and structuring of scanned paper documents. DiMeMa is the manufacturer of the leading software used in libraries and archives for the creation of digital collections. The company products are currently sold to over 200 libraries in 42 states and six countries. As the digital age advances, archivists are looking to a process that allows printed documents to be scanned, compressed and converted to digital images. Current software is limited with respect to maintaining the quality of newspapers, maps, engineering and architectural drawings, and other documents that don’t relate well to straight binary conversion due to grayscale details. The emerging standard for image compression is JPEG 2000.Gupta’s group and DiDeMa is working on technology that will enhance this existing standard with better compression and features without sacrificing standardization or interchangeability with decompression software currently on the market.
* CellVitro Technologies, Inc., Seattle, is teamed with Dr. Albert Folch from the University of Washington’s Bioengineering Department to create a unique nanoscale “lab-on-a-chip” device to assist with drug discovery process. Cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, migraine, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other debilitating conditions have been linked to malfunctioning ion channels – specialized proteins present in human cells that regulate the flow of ions including sodium, potassium, calcium and chloride in and out of the cell. Currently, screening new drug candidates for ion-channel-targeting properties is challenging. Development of a high-throughput screening technology with better data quality is needed to accelerate drug discovery processes. The proposed CellChip™ screening system combines automated, parallel analysis of drug compounds on living cells with high-throughput screening capabilities at earlier stages of drug discovery. This advanced screening technology will allow pharmaceutical companies to develop safer, more effective drugs and potentially shorten their to-market delivery cycle.
* Kronos Air Technologies, Inc., Redmond, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kronos Advanced Technologies, Inc. (OTC Bulletin Board: KNOS), is teamed with Alexander Mamishev from the University of Washington’s Electrical Engineering Department to develop a novel heat transfer technology for microelectronics. Thermal management for microelectronics and MEMS systems is a challenge. Existing cooling devices aren’t meeting increasing needs for energy consumption and heat dissipation of this rapidly growing and evolving market. Kronos’ air movement system is an emerging technology that uses an electric field to exert force on ionized gas. Kronos is looking to develop an improved air handling system that is smaller in size, has high speed airflow, allows more targeted delivery of cooling to areas of highest heat and is compatible with current processes. This new microchip system will help the semiconductor industry meet the demands of the next generation of microelectronics devices.
* Pro-Tech Services, Inc., Mukilteo, is partnered with Dr. Vishesh Kapur, Pulmonary & Sleep Medicine Specialist at the University of Washington Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center to develop a new device that measures changes in autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity during sleep as a means to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a disorder present in 3 percent of middle-age adults that causes disruption of sleep and changes in ANS activity during sleep. OSA can lead to fatigue, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The sleep diagnostic sensor market is roughly $13 million a year. Pro-Tech is the market leader in the worldwide sleep sensor market. In this project, the team is working to create a sensor that measures ANS activity more accurately, easily and economically than is currently available. Commercial systems on the market now have a number of drawbacks including the inability to normalize for patient body and hand movements, high equipment and labor costs, and limited availability. The initial project involves developing prototype software for integration with existing systems. A second phase is planned to develop a wireless wrist-worn device with features for data transfer for post-test analysis as well as real-time analysis over the Internet.
* SoilSoup, Inc., Seattle, along with Dr. Lynne Carpenter-Boggs from the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at Washington State University will be working on biotechnology solutions for increasing the life of liquid compost (Compost Tea). SoilSoup currently has patented aerobic compost tea brewing equipment that makes a fresh liquid compost tea and is selling in the market today under the brand name of SoilSoup. In this project, the company hopes to develop other versions of its existing products which will increase market share. In 2003, U.S. consumers spent $69 billion on do-it-yourself law and garden activities and professional services. In the past year, 110 million U.S. households purchased outdoor fertilizers or soil amendments. SoilSoup’s products are gaining brand awareness as a leading chemical-free solution for lawn and garden care. The company currently sells it brewing kits direct to consumers, retailers, garden centers, schools, and commercial farmers. Liquid compost helps to decrease fertilizer use and restore natural balance to the soil ecosystem. SoilSoup’s customers can now buy a home brewing unit or purchase the product by the gallon in select locations across the country. By adding new biological products, the company will increase its distribution and workforce within Washington State.
Phase Two RTD Grant Winners
* Andgar Corporation, Ferndale, is working with Dr. Shulin Chen from Washington State University’s Biological Systems Engineering Department to improve Anaerobic Digestion (AD) Systems for converting animal manure to energy and other value-add products. AD is a natural biological conversion process that has been proven effective in converting wet organic waste into biogas capable of producing electricity. It also alleviates environmental concerns surrounding waste such as odor, greenhouse gas emissions, and surface and groundwater contamination. The EPA estimates that there are 6,000 farms in the U.S. that could benefit from AD. Yet, less than 100 dairies are currently using it. Andgar’s goal is to increase widespread adoption by reducing the cost of AD systems currently on the market. Completed Phase 1 research pointed to possible efficiencies in AD systems that reduce capital cost and improve performance. In this next phase, the company is focusing on commercialization pilot studies and evaluation of the biogas production using a prototype.
* B&G Farms, Royal City, WA is working with Dr. Steven Verhey from Central Washington University and Dr. Lynne Carpenter-Boggs at Washington State University to study the commercial potential of mint-based compost. B&G Farms is a diversified agricultural company that produces both organic and conventionally-grown produce. It is the largest organic producer in Washington and sells most of its product to Pacific Rim companies. Washington state mint crop is worth $50 million annually. Disposal of mint waste is costly to growers and a source of ongoing environmental challenge. In a previous Phase 1 study, the research team developed a patented process for converting mint waste into high-quality compost. The compost has value as a fertilizer, soil-enhancer and disease suppression and can be used in conventional and organic agriculture and landscaping, viticulture, turf, and horticulture. In this Phase 2 grant, the company and researchers will continue to evolve the process and carry out field trials on several target crops in summer 2005 using the compost produced from the 2004 mint crop.
* Insitu Group, Bingen, WA – Project description pending.
* MicroGREEN Polymers, Inc., Stanwood, is working with Dr. Vipin Kumar at the University of Washington’s Microcellular Plastics Lab to develop and test environmentally-friendly food packaging made from 100% recycled materials. Disposable food packaging is an $11 billion market. Plastic foam products often contain chemicals which negatively impact the environment and render it commercially non-recyclable. Paper food packaging is generally coated with plastic, rendering it not economical to recycle and generally contains non-recycled content. MicroGREEN Polymers is looking to develop and market novel packaging that is tougher and stronger than traditional plastic , withstands heat and insulates well. Using 100% recycled PET plastic from soda and water bottles as raw material, the company’s microcellular plastic technology uses standard production equipment to create environmentally-friendly, high-performance packaging that meets FDA guidelines. MicroGREEN’s products also offer a cost advantage up to 20 percent less compared to paper products. In Phase 1 research, the team successfully produced prototypes with desired rigidity, insulation and surface finish. In this Phase 2 project, the focus will be on further optimizing the process for cost effective manufacturing and developing a pilot production line.
* Second Act Partners, Inc., Redmond, is teamed with Pierre Mourad from the Applied Physics Laboratory and Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Washington to develop a novel power toothbrush for improved dental care. Power toothbrushes are a more than $1 billion market in the U.S. alone. While the market for power toothbrushes has increased rapidly, more than 10 per year over the last decade, there is still a large market opportunity. Only 30% of U.S. households currently use a power toothbrush. Clinical benefits of power toothbrushes have been clearly established. However, there is also significant room to improve their performance ability. The purpose of this research is to study the safety and efficacy of a novel prototype power toothbrush. This technology has the potential of additional therapeutic benefits from an ability to disrupt plaque bio-films in hard to reach places such as under the gum line, between teeth and tooth-contact points. This plaque removal enhancement could greatly improve overall oral health for users.
* Tree Top, Inc., Selah, is working with Dr. Carter Clary from Washington State University’s Biological Systems Engineering Department to evaluate the market potential for microwave vacuum dried fruits and berries for the ready-to-eat (RTE) cereal market. Tree Top is a grower-owned cooperative currently processing apple products in Central Washington. The company’s Ingredient Division processes dried, frozen and fresh apples. There is a growing demand in the RTE cereal market for more exotic fruits including blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and peaches. To dry delicate fruit without degradation of shape, color and flavor, the trend has been to use vacuum- or freeze-drying equipment. These systems are labor intensive and produce small quantities of highly expensive products. Microwave vacuum drying offers a solution for producing high-quality, well-preserved fruit at a lower cost. In a phase 1 project, Dr. Clary used his expertise in microwave vacuum drying to evaluate the feasibility of drying fruits effectively and developed processing parameters and prototypes. In this phase 2 project, the focus will be on field tests on the dried fruit products and transitioning the scalability of the drying process from laboratory to high volume production.
12 companies awarded more than $657,000 in funding