ABQ Lab-to-business accelerator ready to launch

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University of New Mexico Professor Jim Plusquellic with Phd candidates Wenjie Che and Dylan Ismari, from left, test hardware security primitive computer chips designed in the Integrated circuit hardware analysis laboratory at UNM. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A new “Lab-to-Business” accelerator will officially launch in Albuquerque on Jan. 13 with an initial cohort of three startups seeking to market University of New Mexico technologies.

The City of Albuquerque approved a $200,000 grant this week for the new accelerator, dubbed “L2B,” which will help scientists from the state’s research universities and national laboratories transfer their innovations into the marketplace.

That’s different from the six other business accelerators now operating in the city, which generally work with local entrepreneurs seeking to accelerate the development of new and existing businesses.

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L2B will be run by the Startup Factory, an entity created in 2012 by members of the New Mexico Angels to vet commercially viable technology and provide entrepreneurial expertise.

The program will disseminate entrepreneurial know-how among scientists who want to commercialize new products and services, said Startup Factory Operating Manager John Chavez. L2B will include intensive, individual classes for inventors with the most-promising technologies, plus open workshops for all researchers and scientists who want to learn more about the program.

“We’ve developed a curriculum to show how startups are created, identify viable products and potential markets, and connect researchers with the people and resources they need to move forward,” Chavez said.

The first three participants include a UNM Health Sciences professor with a drug to slow multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders, and engineering professors who built a security system to protect hardware from hackers and a handheld consumer device for people to temporarily color their hair.

The classes include weekly individual sessions for the first three months, followed by less-frequent meetings for six months or more, said Startup Factory Executive Director Dorian Rader.

“We’ll help validate their technologies for the market, do due diligence, and build a team with a startup to move to the next level,” Rader said. “We’ll give them the tools they need to commercialize their technologies.”

Scientists may end up taking a secondary role in a startup as chief technology or science officer to allow experienced entrepreneurs to move the company forward. In that sense, the L2B program is tailor-made for accelerating technology transfer, said the city’s economic development director, Gary Oppedahl.

“Some scientists do want to leave the lab to commercialize technology, but most generally don’t, so this program helps extract their knowledge and get it out to the market through experienced entrepreneurs who can take their ideas forward,” Oppedahl said.

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Scientists accepted into accelerator classes are vetted through the Startup Factory, which chooses the most promising technologies to form a company. At that point, the Startup Factory will take a 25 percent equity stake.

The NM Angels’ may later put money into a startup, or seek capital from venture firms and corporate partners.

That’s a major benefit, said Lisa Kuuttila, president of the Science and Technology Corp., UNM’s tech-transfer office.

“There are big capital gaps, especially at the earliest stages, to get these startups off the ground,” Kuuttila said. “Through the Startup Factory and the new Lab-to-Business program, the Angels are playing a critical role to nurture new technology companies forward.”

 

Here are details of the three startups that will enter the “Lab-to-Business” accelerator next week:

–“Enthentica” is marketing a new security system to protect hardware from hackers that was developed by UNM electrical and computer engineering professor Jim Plusquellic. Plusquellic’s process, developed over the past three years, will allow manufacturers to use unique identifiers in chips to prevent hackers from tampering with hardware. That could provide a lot more protection for Internet-connected devices, because security would be directly imbedded within the fabric of the chips that run the hardware. The professor has been working with the Startup Factory for about six months, leading to the creation of Enthentica, which will now move forward through the L2B accelerator to develop a business plan, an executive team and industry partnerships to start making and selling the security system to manufacturers.

— Cylenta Pharmaceuticals, which is developing a drug to ease acute inflammation and slow the progress of multiple sclerosis and other inflammatory neurological disorders. Jeff Hill, an assistant research professor in the Department of Neurology, has effectively tested the drug on laboratory animals and will now work through the L2B program to raise funding to move to clinical trials. “This can really accelerate the technology’s advancement because they (the Angels) have all the industry contacts and experts who know how to take new drugs to market,” Hill said. “These are people who have done it before and know what’s involved.”

— LoboLoxe — a technology developed by a UNM mechanical engineering professor that could allow

UNM Technology that would allow people to put color or designs in their hair with the simple sweep of a device would be in the first cohort of a new business accelerator designed to move lab and university technology into the marketplace.  Photo: Courtesy of UNM

UNM Technology that would allow people to put color or designs in their hair with the simple sweep of a device would be in the first cohort of a new business accelerator designed to move lab and university technology into the marketplace.
Photo: Courtesy of UNM

people to temporarily color their hair or create hair designs with the simple swipe of a handheld device. The process uses light infractions to put patterns on hair and make different colors when it’s hit by light. The L2B program will help find strategic partners in the hair product or consumer industry to take the technology to market.

 

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