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BCOM Student’s Team Wins LAUNCH Competition

WRITER: Lauren Goldstein (575) 646-5069
SOURCE: Gina Duttle (575) 646-7279

Have you ever had the inkling to glance into the future? The LAUNCH competition at Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University might be as close as you can get—and industry is taking notice. Three of five teams from this year’s cohort are close to “sealing the deal” with industry partners, as well as filing provisional patents for groundbreaking work. At the LAUNCH reception last Thursday, the Prosthetic Sleeve Liner team secured a $20,000 award made possible by the Hunt Family Foundation.

LAUNCH final pitches were held Wednesday, April 18th, where five participating teams showcased the growth they cultivated over the course of the 4-month program. The program included five phases: focus on industry, customer validation, market research, product development, and commercialization strategy. Each team received $5,000 of participant support through LAUNCH. The program was developed seven years ago with the goal of commercializing NMSU intellectual property resulting from university research. It is sponsored by Arrowhead Center, the Hunt Family Foundation, and the EDA University Center for Regional Commercialization.

The LAUNCH Day reception and award ceremony convened on Thursday, April 19th at the NMSU Golf Course. Previous LAUNCH winner Alex Gorsuch, currently participating in Arrowhead’s AgSprint accelerator program, gave an energized speech to highlight the avenues LAUNCH illuminated for him and his team at MagPi Innovations.

“LAUNCH is a push, not a technology finalizer or creator. Whether or not you win, if you think you have a minimum viable product, get it in the hands of customers to keep improving through their feedback. Also, find members of your team that complement your skills, find others.”

Gorsuch has continued to build from 2017 LAUNCH program momentum. His team won $25,000 for MagPi’s FieldMAK technology at the 2018 University of New Mexico Business Plan Competition last week.

Luke Smith, another previous LAUNCH winner, opened up about his “long, winding, up and down road as an entrepreneur.” Smith detailed his initial innovative idea, which came to him while bagging onions in an onion shed. Throughout a four-year process, Smith participated in multiple Arrowhead Center programs, established his company EcoSeal, and conducted additional research that, just this month, resulted in a patent for an organic biopesticide originally developed in NMSU labs.

The 2018 LAUNCH winning team, Prosthetic Sleeve Liner, included co-inventors Dr. Reza Foudazi from NMSU and Robyn Marks from Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine, business lead Dr. Neda Sanatkaran, technical lead Ryan Zowada, mentor Terry Lombard, and Technology Commercialization Associates (TCAs) Parampreet Sodhi and Zahra Abbasian Chaleshtari.

TCAs are an interdisciplinary team of carefully trained and mentored NMSU students who undertake technology and business research. They work closely with clients and Arrowhead Center staff members to deliver this specialized research to suit clients’ needs.

The Prosthetic Sleeve Liner team has already filed a provisional patent as a result of the program. The day after LAUNCH final pitches, members from a world-wide leading manufacturing company visited the team’s lab with hopes of licensing the technology. The team will use its award to move forward with next steps toward commercialization.

Foudazi explains that the team will be looking to form a startup business around the technology. He says the team previously completed Aggie I-Corps and has applied to the NSF national I-Corps program this year, where they plan to complete additional, in-depth customer discovery.

Sanatkaran says that some next steps will involve planning to scale up and find manufacturers to support the business. ”We know our product will have impact, and we plan to partner with manufacturers in the near future, as well as explore possibilities of impact of the sleeve liner material in other medical applications.”

“As a med student, the program has given me networking opportunities,” co-inventor Robyn Marks says. “LAUNCH is a platform that allows incredible progress and collaboration to take place. Dr. Kevin Boberg’s feedback and mentorship was instrumental to us as well. Ultimately, our goal is to improve the lives of patients who are often overlooked.”

Other 2018 LAUNCH teams included:

●  Alert Cardio, developed by Dr. Wei Tang, builds microchips that utilize Artificial Intelligence to read and analyze data from biomedical sensors in real time. This innovative chip technology utilizes a low-power integrated AI circuit for real-time ECG analysis. It’s like having a cardiologist on a chip. Additional team members included business lead Sean O’Shea, mentor Dana Catron, and TCA Zahra Abbasian Chaleshtari.

●  BioBattery, developed by Dr. Geoffrey Smith and Dr. Young Ho Park, is a novel single-stage Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) which is essentially a biological battery. What sets BioBattery apart is that the anode and cathode are in a single chamber and expensive membranes are not required. Additional team members included mentor Zetdi Sloan and TCA Alex Gorsuch.

●  CytoLife is a biomedical and life sciences technology developed by Dr. Jessica Houston, introduces a new approach to cell counting. It takes flow cytometry and introduces a new feature onto cytometers that permits analysis of the fluorescence lifetime. Additional team members included mentor Kristin Morehead and TCA Mohammad Panah.

●  THUAGS (Tethered Heterogeneous Unmanned Aircraft and Ground System), developed by Dr. Liang Sun, consists of a drone that connects with an autonomous ground vehicle by a tether. The tether enables unique capabilities such as power transmission, secured communication, and self-localization in GPS-denied environments. Additional team members included student lead Luis Soto, mentor Del Mackey, and TCA Alex Gorsuch.

Along with the winning team, program coordinator Gina Duttle acknowledges the incredible advancements across the cohort.

“In the seventh round of LAUNCH we saw tremendous growth and development from the entire cohort,” says Duttle. “Three of five teams are currently in talks with industry players to collaborate or license technologies. We’ve had one team realize they’re to the point now where they need a business partner to really launch them to the next level of commercialization. We had another team that finally pushed out of their comfort zone to start talking to their customers, which has resulted in a local company agreeing to provide the resources needed to conduct experiments in the lab. These are the things that make LAUNCH so exciting, each team is at very different stages, but the strides they make throughout the program are huge and have lasting impacts both inside and outside of the labs.”

For more information on LAUNCH, contact program coordinator Gina Duttle at 575-646-7279 or