UM Opens Biz Accelerator In Former Pfizer Space
The University of Michigan showed off its initial crop of incubator companies at its new Venture Accelerator Tuesday.
Housed in an office and lab building formerly used by Pfizer Inc., part of the two-million-square-foot, 30-building complex the university bought in 2008, the companies range from pharmaceutical development to high-tech magnetic field detectors used by the space program and the electronics industry.
The 16,000-square-foot accelerator is adjacent to the UM Office of Tech Transfer and its Business Engagement Center, both of which have reclocated to what is now known as the North Campus Research Complex.
University officials say they plan to fill the accelerator in between three to five years, by which time the successful companies now in the accelerator should have moved out to their own space.
The tenants taking initial spots in the accelerator are:
* Life Magnetics, which moved in Dec. 20. The company, founded in 2009 by recent UM Ph.D. physics graduate Brandon McNaughton, is developing a device that helps doctors quickly identify the most effective antibiotics to use against an infection. The core concept behind the device was part of McNaughton’s doctoral thesis. Interim CEO Bill Wood said the company is 24-30 month saway from having a product ready to market to clinical microbiology labs.
* EngXT, which has developed the world’s most sensitive electric field monitoring system. CEO and co-founder Nilton Renno said static discharge damage during manufacturing is a $10 billion-a-year problem for the electronics manufacturing and fabrication industry — a problem his devices can help overcome. Devices are ready for sale now, Renno said. They’re also used to monitor electric fields in space.
* Phrixus Pharmaceuticals Inc., which is developing Carmeseal, a product originally developed as part of a laxative to treat heart failure associated with muscular dystrophy. When released into the bloodstream, Carmeseal finds microscopic tears in heart muscle and binds to them like a molecular-level Band-Aid. President and CEO Thomas Collet said the company could have up to 10 people working by the end of the year, and a product launch by 2015. Phrixus was spun out from UM in 2006. Its lead scientist, Bruce Markham, left Pfizer in 2007.
* 3D Biomatrix, which is developing a cell culture device to grow cells in three dimensions, which comes closer to matching conditions in the human body. The scaffold, called Perfecta3D, envelopes cells in spherical cavities and provides an efficient nutrient supply through a system of interconnecting channels. Company officials believe the technology will help lead to fewer failures in early human drug testing.
* Civionics LLC, whcih is developing wireless sensing technology to detect excess stresses on structures — from buildings to bridges to wind generator towers and turbine blades. Essentially, the company can deploy devices to look for structural changes before they become catastrophic. The technology is also being adapted for homeland security and residential building security applications.
UM Tech Transfer director Ken Nisbet said the goal of the accelerator is “moving new startup ventures more quickly and effectively to the marketplace.” The university has launched more than 90 spinout companies since 2001.
Accelerator tenants will have access to Tech Transfer’s Venture Center to help them refine business models, attract investors, acquire gap funding and connect to talent that helps the companies’ quality and sustainability. Accelerator tenants can also seek guidance from seasoned entrepreneurs in Tech Transfer’s Mentors in Residence program.
The Venture Accelerator has about enough space for 15 startup companies. An accelreator manager will be hired, along with three additional Mentors in Residence. The accelerator will house a mix of life sciences, cleantech, software and other technology ventures.