University of Washington launches record 18 start-ups in FY14; UW ranks third in nation for number of companies spinning out of a university

Story by Clare LaFond
Photos by Conrado Tapado

Brian Marquardt of MarqMetrix demonstrates the Raman BallProbe.

Brian Marquardt of MarqMetrix demonstrates the Raman BallProbe.

The University of Washington launched 18 new start-up companies in the past fiscal year based on UW research technologies, surpassing last year’s previous record of 17 spin-outs, and making FY14 the UW’s single most productive year for start-up formation. In FY13, the UW’s launch of 17 start-ups placed it third among top schools in the nation for spinning out companies, along with the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Utah.

This year’s spin-outs span a broad range of industry sectors — from medical devices and therapeutics to software and clean technology — all benefitting from UW Center for Commercialization (C4C) support.

“The University of Washington is becoming increasingly known for its culture of innovation and for the world class commercialization resources we provide to our UW entrepreneurs, who take ideas that are barely imaginable today and turn them into tomorrow’s inventive solutions,” said UW President Michael K. Young. “Their visionary achievements are improving people’s daily lives, here and around the globe.”

During the past six years, C4C has increasingly funded prototype design, business model development and market validation, in addition to helping UW researchers win federal money for technology commercialization. C4C’s mentoring programs give UW researchers access to experienced entrepreneurs from the UW faculty and from the region. Seattle’s top venture attorneys assist UW start-ups in constructing an attractive capitalization structure, and venture capitalists and business leaders help these new companies recruit some of the region’s top executive talent.

Greg Newbloom and Volha Hrechka of Polydrop.

Greg Newbloom and Volha Hrechka of Polydrop.

“C4C’s integrated programs accelerate the movement of lab discoveries to the marketplace,” said UW Vice Provost for Innovation Vikram Jandhyala, who was recently named to this new post to lead UW entrepreneurial efforts and to more fully integrate innovation into the educational mission of the University. “We’re not just spinning out more companies, but creating stronger start-ups with growth potential to contribute to our region’s economic health.”

With access to experienced business and research talent through C4C’s many programs, Jandhyala sees an opportunity to engage more UW innovators across campus – especially entrepreneurial students.

Fredrik Rydén of BluHaptics demonstrates a remotely controlled robot.

Fredrik Rydén of BluHaptics demonstrates a remotely controlled robot.

“We’re poised now to focus on the student entrepreneurial experience at UW — to encourage entrepreneurship in every major field of study — as more and more students embrace their areas of interest while working on innovations with market potential,” he said.

University start-ups create high-quality jobs, almost all of them in Washington with an historical average of 60 employees per company. UW start-ups also attract investment from outside the state and increase the state’s exports.

“From our record number of start-up companies generated and our No. 1 national ranking in licenses signed, to the doubling of patent applications filed annually, the University of Washington has become one of the top universities in the nation taking ideas to impact,” said Linden Rhoads, who has led Commercialization at the UW for the last five years. “I recently announced that I’ll be returning to entrepreneurship, so it’s gratifying to have stayed long enough to see a second year of record results show that UW’s performance is sustainable and more.”

The ten year average for start-ups when Rhoads arrived in 2008 was seven. Rhoads will work closely with Jandhyala through the rest of 2014, as he takes on his new role.

FY 2014 UW Start-Up Companies:

AnswerDash – Has developed contextual Q&A technology that provides website and web application users with instant context-sensitive answers right when and where they need them. As users ask new questions over time, an “answer layer” builds up over a site or application, enabling future visitors to find answers easily without having to ask again.

Applied Dexterity – Advancing the field of robotically assisted surgery by creating a research surgical robot that allows researchers in engineering, surgery, and computer science to experiment, innovate and collaborate.

BluHaptics – Creating a control system for underwater remotely operated vehicles that can perform a variety of undersea tasks too dangerous for humans.

Deurion – Developing products for diagnostics and mass spectrometry, an analytical technique that produces spectra of the masses of atoms or molecules constituting a sample of material.

Ennaid Therapeutics – Commercializing cures for mosquito-borne diseases, including Dengue virus and West Nile virus.

Lodespin Labs – Creating the next generation of iron oxide magnetic nanoparticle tracers for medical imaging.

MarqMetrix – Providing real-time product quality improvement through optical, or light-sensing, measurement technology — most notably its use in an optical measurement device known as the Raman BallProbe™.

Medical Models – Using specialized medical imaging software and 3D printing to create custom physical models to assist medical students and patients when confronted with specific injuries and anatomical abnormalities that are typically only visible in scan data.

NaviSonics – Developed a handheld, ultrasound-guided catheter system to assist neurosurgeons with placement of extraventricular drains during surgery to relieve elevated cranial pressure, reducing neurosurgical revision rates and improving patient safety.

Oricula Therapeutics – Developing medications to protect hearing and balance from the effects of aging and ototoxic drugs, or medications that are toxic to the ear.

PET/X LLC – Integrates PET (positron emission tomography) and X-ray mammography to determine which targeted breast cancer therapies will be effective on an individual patient.

Polydrop – Developing robust new technology that improves adhesion and durability in paints and coatings for aerospace and automobile manufacturers. The technology diffuses the electrostatic charge that accumulates from friction, and provides electromagnetic interference shielding for paints and other coatings used in the transportation industries.

Shockmetrics – Creating non-invasive devices that measure the amount of oxygen in a patient’s muscles to detect medical shock.

Spark Medical — Developing a novel football helmet that protects against skull fracture and traumatic brain injury, particularly concussion.

Stasys – Commercializing a novel device to assess the state of blood coagulation in trauma patients within minutes, helping emergency physicians save lives.

Taggpic — Developing computer software that automatically recognizes buildings, structures, and landmarks in digital photographs, as well as the precise location where photos were taken.

VerAvanti – Developing medical devices focusing on the Endoluminal Optical Imaging, or Angioscopy, segment of the medical industry. Angioscopy is a medical technique for visualizing the interior of blood vessels.

Universal Cells — Developing methods for accurate and reliable gene editing in stem cells.