January 19, 2012

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Out for a Spin

The Latest Promising Spin-offs from Utah’s Research Universities

Heather Stewart

January 19, 2012

When the University of Utah ranked No. 1 in the country for spinning out innovative companies (that’s right, No. 1, beating renowned research universities including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), many were surprised. The U’s accomplishment was even more significant when you consider the fact that MIT received almost five times more research funding, $1.3 billion, compared to the U’s approximately $273 million, according to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. But Utah’s universities have a long legacy of spinning out companies—a legacy that, as the U’s achievement demonstrates, is continuing today. Here’s a look at five promising companies fresh out of Brigham Young University, Utah State University and the University of Utah. Dynamic Screening Solutions, Inc. (DSS) “We don’t try to solve the world’s problems; we just want to take the headaches out of required paperwork,” says Adrienne Akers, president and CEO of DSS. In its inception at Utah State University, the technology was developed to solve one problem: duplication of information in a variety of paperwork. The Web-based system, branded as Utah Clicks, is used by the state of Utah to enable families to complete, electronically sign and submit required paperwork for multiple state programs, such as Baby Your Baby or Head Start. Applicants enter data such as birthdates or social security numbers just one time—and the software populates the information in applications for multiple programs. The system has been adopted by other states, and now DSS is launching a product for the human resources industry. Called 321Forms, the product will enable new hires to fill out multiple forms without duplicating any of the data entries. Xeromax Sciences LLC Xeromax Sciences’ innovative technology, spun out of Brigham Young University, is a method for treating fabrics that makes them ultra water repellent without changing their look or feel. “We incorporate the use of plasma along with chemical processes in the vapor phase to introduce our treatments to the surface of fabrics. This process creates a water-repellent barrier that outlasts any other durable water repellent currently in use,” says Jon Ward, COO of Xeromax Sciences. “Our technologies are applied at the nano-level, meaning that they are virtually undetectable.” The technology is applicable to a variety of industries such as outdoor equipment and furniture, apparel, carpeting or linens. Short Solutions The Short Solutions technology enables auto dealers and repairs shops to diagnose and solve the frustrating problem of intermittent electrical shorts in vehicles. The company’s SmartFuse device is plugged into the fuse box of a car that has an intermittent fault to record data while the customer drives the car. When the fault occurs, the SmartFuse will record the type and the location of the fault so that it can easily be fixed. The Short Solutions device is based on spread spectrum time domain reflectometry technology that was developed at the University of Utah. Teton Botanicals Inc. Teton Botanicals is producing and selling a lotion under the brand name Logan Botanicals that is made with avocado oil and pure plant extracts. So what makes that unique? The company employs a technology that structures liquid avocado oil and pure water into tiny vesicles about one third of the size of a red blood cell. A vegetable emulsifier helps bind the water and oil together. The resulting lotion feels cool and soothing when applied—not greasy or sticky at all. The Teton Botanicals formula was derived from research at Utah State University. “The College of Agriculture at Utah State University is a leader in the technical areas that are important to the future of our business,” says Steve Bernet, co-founder of Teton Botanicals. The company currently sells its product in the Logan area, but has immediate plans to expand into national and international markets. Veritract Veritract is developing a “smart” feeding tube that will allow health care workers to insert feeding tubes quickly and correctly—and without the need for a follow-up X-ray to confirm correct placement. The Veritract tube employs fiber optics and directional control, giving clinicians real-time vision to help guide the tube into the stomach or small intestine. This smart tube reduces the risk of misplacing tubes in other parts of the body, such as the lungs, and helps reduce the traditional cost of placing a feeding tube. Veritract was founded by Dr. John Fang, a gastroenterologist with the University of Utah, to ensure that patients can benefit from enteral feeding in a safe and timely manner.
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