COMMERCIAL SPACE SP RIN G 2022
INSIDE STORY | PAGE 07
Startup Stars: Arizona Innovation Challenge Awardees profiled
Arizona: Where innovators turn for what’s next.
Something big, bold and exciting is happening in the Grand Canyon state. Cutting-edge companies are launching, testing and scaling new technologies in Arizona. Our culture of innovation, highly skilled talent pool, lean regulatory environment, and affordable operating costs provide the perfect platform for business growth and success. Beyond being a place where you can achieve your professional goals, Arizona also provides a lifestyle that allows you to achieve your personal goals. With year-round sunshine, endless outdoor activities, and a positive outlook, we play as hard as we work. It’s this perfect balance that makes life better here.
COMMERCIAL SPACE ISSUE
IN THIS ISSUE
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It Takes a Village Community helps Arizona Spaceport Alliance find its orbit
Mission Critical Life support is focus of system being created for return to moon
No Spacesuit Needed Capsule being prepared to carry passengers to stratosphere
Startup Stars Arizona Innovation Challenge Awardees profiled
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On the Defense Team’s observations may lead to protecting Earth from asteroids
Challenge in the Stars Startup answers need of antenna makers serving satellite industry
From Harmful to Helpful Carbon capture advances offer hope for countering greenhouse gases
A First in the U.S. Transmission documented of COVID from pet owner to pets
PUBLISHERS Sandra Watson Steven G. Zylstra EDITOR Don Rodriguez EXECUTIVE EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Alyssa Tufts CREATIVE DIRECTOR Michael Carmigiano EMAIL email@example.com For queries or customer service, call 602-343-8324 View more of TechConnect: aztechcouncil.org/techconnect TechConnect is published by the Arizona Technology Council, 2800 N. Central Ave. #1530, Phoenix, AZ 85004 Entire contents copyright 2022, Arizona Technology Council. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. Products named in these page pages are trade names or trademarks of their respective companies. Publication of TechConnect is supported by the Arizona Commerce Authority.
P ubl is her ’s Let t er
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THE COMMERCIAL SPACE ISSUE
CAREER PATHWAYS STRETCHING TO SPACE One of my early careers stops after earning my bachelor’s degree was working as a principal engineer at Ford Aerospace. It was a unique role at a unique company. While I learned early on there were economic opportunities possible for our nation by traveling beyond Earth’s gravity, Arizona’s universities are showing there is more potential in commercial space than my peers could have imagined when we started our careers.
Steven G. Zylstra is president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council and SciTech Institute.
One example is a new role for Arizona State University, which will lead the University Advisory Council of 14 universities that will provide public outreach and research guidance for Orbital Reef. That is the name of the commercially owned and operated space station to be built in low-Earth orbit and expected to start operating in the second half of the decade.
Students in the Space Domain Awareness lab at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory had their eyes on the chunk of space junk for weeks as they studied its rotation. They also had been gathering other data, which they used to confirm the Chinese origin. They even estimated it would hit in or near the Hertzsprung crater on the moon’s far side.
As NASA transitions from the International Space Station to other platforms, the agency wants to maintain an uninterrupted U.S. presence in low-Earth orbit with commercial, independent space stations made available to both government and private-sector customers. ASU is part of the $130 million project headed by Blue Origin, which was founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Not bad results from the only public university with a dedicated academic program for space domain awareness. UArizona’s space science program was ranked No. 2 among public U.S. universities and No. 10 in the world in U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 Best Global Universities rankings.
The University Advisory Council will focus on academic community needs, stimulate research, advise novice researchers, evolve standards of conduct and lead STEM outreach. ASU’s Interplanetary Initiative recently convened a second meeting of the Council to advance plans for channeling academic research onto Orbital Reef in a way that reaches underserved sectors and is conducted under a robust ethical framework. NASA also turned to a group from The University of Arizona to help solve a mystery. At first, it was presumed that a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket booster was on a course to hit the moon earlier this month. It turned out to be a Chinese booster from a rocket launch in 2014, the UArizona team confirmed.
In a bit of a reversal, Northern Arizona University researchers are interested in data that NASA will be gathering as part of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, the world’s first full-scale planetary defense test designed to demonstrate asteroid deflection technology. In layman’s terms, the NAU team is helping develop a strategy that could protect Earth if an asteroid came our way. Learn more about this project and other developments from beyond the clouds inside this issue of TechConnect. It’s encouraging to see a new generation leading us to a future even beyond our own imaginations!
IT TAKES A VILLAGE Community helps Arizona Spaceport Alliance find its orbit “Like The Jetsons or something?”
MacVean is co-founder of the Arizona Spaceport Alliance launched, if you will, in 2018 to promote the development of a network of spaceports here and advocate the needs of commercial space businesses. She says the idea for the nonprofit actually started with fellow co-founder Benjamin Hernandez, who “would hear that access to space was necessary for new space companies to develop.” With their backgrounds in real estate, it’s no surprise the adage “location, location, location” helped them connect the dots since Arizona’s space comes with ideal climate and lack of natural disasters. Add a savvy business community, MacVean says, to the mix of “all those things that would be very beneficial to a spaceport.” It makes sense that the Alliance’s primary mission was to support an effort to bring an FAA-approved spaceport to the state since others already are taking shape around the globe, including Spaceport America in New Mexico. “But since we knew that (approval) would eventually happen, we had to have another focus,” she says. “That other focus was to support space-related companies with an organization, and really champion and focus on educational opportunities in the state.” MacVean is very familiar with what a space economy can offer. Having family in Houston has shown her what a place like the NASA Johnson Space Center can mean to job creation. “With that access and representation in the state, I thought it would mean that even my kids would be educated here, get a job here and be able to participate,” she says.
With this is mind, MacVean and Hernandez set out to find others who shared their vision, as well as a fondness for The Jetsons. As they were getting some traction, the pandemic brought their plans to a halt when the lockdown happened. While some efforts would end right there, not this one. “We got to see how the aerospace and new space sector responded,” MacVean says. “And for the majority of the people that we talked to, it was still full speed ahead.” She realized that the Alliance and its new network even in their infancy had struck a chord despite a world that had changed. “That’s where the personal contacts really helped. Being able to say, ‘Hey, is there anything that we can help you with? Are you running into supply chain issues? Is there something that we can point you toward in order to keep everything moving?’” MacVean says. “For the most part with respect to engineers that group of people knows how to come up against a problem and figure out a way to keep things moving.” Even more, the idea of creating spaceports is taking hold, especially in rural Arizona. MacVean points to the Greater Yuma Economic Development Corp.’s studying whether there is a fit for its region while the decision makers and stakeholders in Coolidge are examining the concept for the city’s master plan. Talking with MacVean, her enthusiasm for the Alliance and its potential impact is readily evident. One would think it’s her fulltime job. “That would be a dream come true,” she says. Those interested in helping her dream and those of others in the commercial space industry come true can learn more at azspaceport.org.
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Karyn MacVean has grown used to that type of response. After all, she’s pitching the future. Arizona’s future. And it’s OK if getting someone to grasp what she’s talking about means that person recalls meeting George and his boy, Elroy, as a kid.
MISSION CRITICAL Life support is focus of system being created for return to moon Imagine having guests who traveled all day in the harsh summer heat to reach your home for an overnight stay. You would want to make sure that the air conditioning and all else in the guest room is just right so they can rest well before continuing their long road trip.
According to NASA, the HALO module will be roughly the size of a small apartment and able to accommodate short-duration stays for crews arriving on the Orion spacecraft and preparing for their trip to the lunar surface. The ECLSS will provide a comfortable, shirt-sleeve environment for the visiting crew members during their stay at the Lunar Gateway.
That captures the idea behind Tucson-based Paragon Space Development Corporation’s life support system it is charged with creating for the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) crew module that will be part of NASA’s Lunar Gateway as man returns to the moon.
The Gateway, a vital component of NASA’s Artemis program, will serve as a multi-purpose outpost orbiting the Moon that provides needed support for long-term human return to the lunar surface and serves as a staging point for deep space exploration.
HALO will be deployed in lunar orbit as the first crew module of NASA’s Lunar Gateway. HALO will serve as both a crew habitat and docking station for spacecraft that will routinely travel between the Earth and the moon.
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Finger, Paragon’s vice president of engineering. “It is part of an international commitment to deep space exploration—and we are proud to be a part of the program.”
Under a contract with Northrop Grumman that is valued at more than $100 million, Paragon is responsible for the design, build, test and delivery of the HALO Environment Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), which provides a livable, safe and comfortable environment for visiting crew members at the Lunar Gateway. Paragon’s ECLSS will safely and reliably purify and condition the atmosphere by continuously maintaining the air temperature, removing trace contaminants such as carbon dioxide and odors, and controlling oxygen and humidity. The ECLSS will provide all necessary operational data to the crew and mission control required for monitoring and operation— operations that are expected to span more than 15 years. “HALO is vital to NASA’s and its international partners’ efforts to get back to the moon and eventually to Mars,” says Barry
HALO will provide command, control and data-handling capabilities; energy storage and power distribution; thermal control; communications and tracking capabilities; and the ECLSS to augment the Orion and support crew members. It also will have several docking ports for visiting vehicles and future modules, as well as space for science and stowage. Based on the terms of the contract, the Paragon/Northrop Grumman team will work towards a critical design review in the second quarter of 2022 with delivery of the HALO module to the launch site slated for 2024. Paragon’s expertise in engineering, design, analysis and manufacturing combined with its patented ECLSS Human-Rating Facility and Testing Facilities position the company as a leader in the development of innovative and affordable life support and thermal control solutions. Paragon has worked on every major human space flight program since 1999 and its hardware has flown on NASA spacecraft (Orion, Space Shuttle and the International Space Station), foreign spacecraft (Soyuz and Mir), as well as commercial spacecraft.
NO SPACESUITS NEEDED Capsule being prepared to carry passengers to stratosphere
two crew members. And if Nature calls, a lavatory also is onboard.
Space. Tourism. More than 60 years after the first U.S. space flight, it’s hard to imagine those two words going together. Two generations already have seen handpicked heroes head to the stars and realize most of us are destined to only share packed flights from Point A to Point B.
All will ascend early in the morning when the winds are calm. At 15 minutes after takeoff, passengers will begin to see the curvature of Earth. After two hours, they will reach apogee—the highest point in the flight—at about 100,000 feet. World View’s proprietary stratospheric navigation system will keep them at this cruising altitude for six to eight hours with a view of the horizon that stretches more than 1,000 miles in every direction.
The team at World View very much believes “space tourism” is not just a possibility. The company is already accepting $500 deposits on flights that will carry select groups of passengers to an altitude of nearly 19 miles as they reach the stratosphere. While not quite a trip among the stars, it’s pretty darn close. Admittedly, the deposit equals only 1% of one passenger fare. Still, with nearly 22 million millionaires in the United States alone, some of them no doubt can afford to spring for the entire $400,000 price tag covering themselves and seven friends in an Explorer Stratospheric Capsule carried aloft by a Strato-Balloon. According to World View, the price per passenger will include the flight to the stratosphere and VIP access to a launch site spaceport, the central hub that will include onsite activities to entertain passengers, as well as lounges, bars and restaurants. The company’s first two spaceports—the Grand Canyon and Great Barrier Reef—are estimated to be ready in 2024. The spaceport will come in handy since each group needs to be ready to spend up to five days nearby. That’s because ideal weather conditions may limit launch windows for flights, so the odds are at least one window will open during the five days. Once aboard the capsule, the passengers will have plenty of room to stand up and walk around the interior during the flight for viewing from different vantage points. Joining them will be
What can passengers expect to see at that height? When the earth is enveloped by darkness before dawn, they will see a blanket of stars as they look up. After sunrise, they will be able to use the on-board telescope and a stargazing app to spot distant galaxies, star clusters and constellations. For the skeptics who wonder whether this experience can be called a “trip to space,” consider that the capsule is categorized a spacecraft by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) because of the high altitude reached. This means each flight is classified as a space flight, with regulations to obey and oversight by governing bodies such as the FAA. When it’s time to go home, the descent to Earth will be slow. For those feeling a little nervous about putting their lives in the hands of a balloon, consider this is not the same type seen hovering over the desert for sunrises and sunsets. The company reports it already has lifted five large-mass test payloads in flights considered comparable to the Explorer capsules. Once the atmosphere gets thicker during the gentle descent, the capsule will deploy a patented parafoil system and separate from the balloon. The parafoil system will be navigated to steer the capsule to a pre-designated landing zone near the spaceport. Because ascent and descent are vertical, there is minimal horizontal trajectory, which means landing near the departure site. Because of the gliding landing of the parafoil and airbag systems, it is expected feel very similar to landing on a commercial airplane if not gentler. Maybe space isn’t the final frontier after all. It could be the next stop for future tourists.
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One Tucson company is on the verge of changing that.
Each year, the Arizona Commerce Authority’s Arizona Innovation Challenge (AIC) awards up to $150,000 to the most innovative companies seeking to commercialize new technology that creates sustainable and growing businesses in the state of Arizona. Winning companies leverage their awards to grow their businesses and facilitate the state’s economic development goals. The AIC has been serving Arizona’s startup ecosystem since 2011, resulting in more than 2,000 applications and 110 awarded companies that are striving to become the industry giants of tomorrow.
In this edition of TechConnect, we showcase five awardees of the 2021 Arizona Innovation Challenge in the Bio and Life Sciences sector. Another five will be featured in the next issue.
The company differs from most AIC winners in that it neither developed groundbreaking software or a new product. Its service, however, fills a vital niche. “We have a compelling story. Almost everyone can relate to feeling lost or scared when navigating health care,” Bhatti says. The timing was also good. The stress of the pandemic caused many nurses to walk away from bedside care. “This allows nurses to practice in a way that is relevant. The social impact is a significant component of why they picked us,” she says.
Navi Nurses co-founders Ayan Said (left) and Jasmine Bhatti
Navi Nurses: Helping patients navigate the health care system
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As a night shift charge nurse, Jasmine Bhatti would often take calls from patients who had left the hospital that day. They had their discharge papers in hand but were overwhelmed and couldn’t absorb all the information. Some were taking medications that interfered with their ability to think clearly. They needed help. A decade later, while working on her doctorate at Arizona State University, the memory of those nights came back during a discussion about how she would change health care. Navi Nurses was born not long after to send nurses to people’s homes to help them after a hospital discharge. Two years later, it’s an awardee in the Arizona Innovation Challenge (AIC), the Arizona Commerce Authority’s business-plan competition for innovative startups.
Navi Nurses provides concierge nursing care. Clients can have a nurse come to their home from one hour to around-the-clock care. They provide high-quality nursing services while also educating the patient, helping with medication, assessing the social and home environment, and communicating with the medical team as needed. The nurses are independent contractors actively employed in a clinical setting, and Navi Nurses matches a nurse’s expertise to the patient. “If we have a patient who just had plastic surgery, we’ll send a nurse familiar with plastic surgery. If the patient is recovering from a heart attack, we’ll send a cardiac nurse,” Bhatti says. Bhatti is grateful for mentorship from the Arizona Commerce Authority and the AIC. “It’s helpful in filling in gaps in our knowledge. I’ve learned so much. I have greater clarity in how I present what I’m doing. I’m learning about capital and how to approach investors,” which she’ll begin doing this year. The award that goes with winning the Innovation Challenge will be used to hire business and marketing experts. “We’re clinical experts,” Bhatti says. “We know we need other people to accelerate our growth.”
She has big goals. Navi Nurses has grown from two to 100 nurses in a year, largely through word of mouth and digital marketing. Surgeons also refer clients to the company.
Eherenfeldt and Benjamin Knapp developed the product as undergraduate biomedical engineering students at Tulane University.
To date, Navi Nurses has captured 0.1% of the Phoenix market, leaving plenty of room for growth. Bhatti already is looking to the day when the company is a nationally known name, providing nurses, nurse assistants, and nurse practitioners.
“I’d seen a lot of my colleagues go to large device firms where they work on small pieces of a project,” Eherenfeldt says. “I was more interested in solving problems from beginning to end.”
“We’re helping people stay at home, preventing readmissions and providing a better quality of life. We’re decreasing the burden on adult children,” Bhatti says. “More than anything, we’re helping nurses. At our holiday party, I had five husbands approach me and say they’d never seen their wives so happy. It’s an incredible feeling to benefit everyone involved.”
That led her to Tulane’s Center for Advanced Medical Simulation, where she worked with surgeons seeking a better way to train residents. Teaching methods involving cadavers, pigs or pig guts hadn’t changed in a century, making a resident’s first human surgery a high-stakes affair. ReSuture seeks to change that and become the new gold standard for surgical education.
ReSuture founder Hannah Eherenfeldt
ReSuture: A new model for surgical training ReSuture took root in New Orleans. It bloomed in Phoenix. The startup, a 2021 winner of the Arizona Innovation Challenge (AIC), invented and manufactures realistic vascular models to train surgeons and test medical devices. Founders Hannah
The models can also be used to test new medical devices, which is one reason the founders brought the company to Arizona. “We thought Phoenix had a better medical-business infrastructure,” Eherenfeldt says. “And (medical device companies) W.L. Gore and BD are here. We knew they would be potential customers.” Both companies, as well as Endologix and Teleflex, use ReSuture’s products to test new devices. Tulane, Mayo Clinic Hospital in Rochester and Canada’s McMaster University use ReSuture to train surgical residents. The company won a highly competitive National Science Foundation grant for $273,462 and is now a winner of the AIC. Not bad for two founders who graduated from college in 2019. “We’re incredibly passionate about what we’re doing,” Eherenfeldt says. “The problem we’re trying to solve is quite
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Eherenfeldt and Knapp used new 3D printing materials to create realistic synthetic veins and arteries that pump simulated blood. They can add plaque or aneurysms to the models to create realistic scenarios. Most importantly—and what sets them apart from competitors—the models include sensors that track the resident’s movement, use of force or damage to surrounding tissues. This takes subjectivity out of assessing performance.
compelling. And because we’re young, we have to go that extra step to prove we belong in certain spaces. It helps us stand out against people who rely on their experience rather than their effort.” Applying for the AIC also helped. Eherenfeldt was seeking grants and preparing for a $500,000 seed round at the same time. The AIC helped her focus on refining pricing, learning where to focus and telling her story. The AIC award money will help the company scale up manufacturing as more orders come in. Eherenfeldt is planning for expansion as she positions the company to be the new gold standard in training. “We’re already moving into trauma and emergency medicine. That opens up the military as a customer segment,” she says. “The sensing technology can apply to all different kinds of surgery. There are multiple health-care verticals we can move into.”
passing through the airways into the lungs, creating a more comfortable treatment experience overall. The technology is the brainchild of Dr. Sai Parthasarathy, chief of pulmonology at Banner University Hospital in Tucson. While Heliox is not new in the medical field, it is expensive, which has put limitations on its widespread use. To address that issue, SaiOx developed a closed-loop rebreather to conserve the Heliox, making it more cost-effective and attainable for the public.
SaiOx CEO Manny Teran
SaiOx: Assisting people living with COPD breathe easier For people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), each breath can be a struggle.
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COPD is a chronic lung disease that obstructs airflow from the lungs, causing tightness in the chest and making breathing extremely difficult. More than 16 million Americans—and 65 million people worldwide—live with this condition that is typically caused by long-term exposure to irritating fumes, most often cigarette smoke. SaiOx, an Arizona-based medical device startup, has developed a new technology to help those with COPD breathe easier in the convenience of their own home. Current therapies available to those living with this condition are often ineffective, inconvenient and uncomfortable. SaiOx introduced a new technology that both changes the treatment experience and effectiveness. Current COPD therapies involve forcing extremely high-pressure oxygen into the lungs, which can be very uncomfortable, verging on painful. SaiOx’s new technology uses Heliox, a breathing gas combination of helium and oxygen—which is significantly less dense air—and ultimately produces less resistance when
In 2020, through the Tech Launch Arizona program at The University of Arizona, Sai and Manny Teran, CEO of SaiOx, joined forces to patent this cutting-edge technology. “We recognized that there is a gap in the marketplace for this particular type of therapy for people living with COPD,” Teran says. “Our goal is to address that unmet market need by offering a cost-effective solution that is readily available and will ultimately help improve the quality of life for those living this life-long condition.” SaiOx was named a 2021 awardee of the Arizona Innovation Challenge (AIC). Hosted by the Arizona Commerce Authority, the AIC is one of the largest national business-plan competitions for emerging tech-and-innovation startups. With the AIC grant of $150,000 awarded to SaiOx, the company is squarely focused on its efforts of finalizing FDA approval and bolstering the business with the right talent to build momentum and awareness to meet its go-to-market timeline within the next 12 to 14 months. As a startup, SaiOx found the Arizona Innovation Challenge to be an invaluable learning experience that forged important relationships with other emerging companies. “Working with the Arizona Commerce Authority throughout this process has been an eye-opening experience,” Teran says. “It afforded us an opportunity to build relationships with business leaders, experts in the medical-device field, as well as like-minded entrepreneurs, who brought new ideas and perspectives to the table that helped us build a more robust and refined business plan.”
TapRoot co-founder Scarlett Spring
time. But the need is far more than she can meet manually. She turned to Spring for help. The result was Ella, AI software that in four simple steps guides a caregiver to the intervention most likely to calm a client. It does this by matching the person’s profile to Buscemi’s behavioral science solutions.
Scarlett Spring cheered on Arizona’s entrepreneurs when she served as COO and executive vice president of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. Now she finds herself in their midst as co-founder of a startup that aims to solve a problem perplexing long-term care communities. “It’s a little surreal to be one of the companies we talked about 10 to 12 years ago,” she says, referring to the push to diversify Arizona’s economy with tech companies after the Great Recession. “Being in the fire gives me an interesting insight.” Providing insight is the mission of TapRoot, the company Spring co-founded with psychologist Dr. Linda Buscemi. It’s an awardee of the Arizona Innovation Challenge (AIC), the Arizona Commerce Authority’s business-plan competition for innovative startups. The startup uses artificial intelligence to help caregivers decrease problematic episodes, avoid unnecessary medications and reduce costs while looking after people with Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments. It is common for persons with dementia/Alzheimer’s to exhibit behaviors, which TapRoot refers to as “reactions,” such as throwing their food, resisting showers and becoming aggressive with caregivers. The wrong response can make matters worse or lead to the overprescribing of mood-alerting medicines. Buscemi’s work over the past 10 to 15 years has focused on finding the best techniques to de-escalate adverse behaviors based on the individual’s history and unmet needs. She has consulted with communities, helping one person at a
“A new caregiver, a temp employee, even someone who’s been around can quickly come up to speed with the residents in that unit and know something personal about them that can create a connection,” Spring says. “We look at it as, ‘How are we helping that caregiver be more successful in delivering the activities of daily living?’” That’s TapRoot’s niche. Because of the size of the market, multiple companies are creating resources for aging, longterm care communities and families of seniors. TapRoot is unique in addressing caregivers. “This sliver (of the market) is difficult to do,” Spring says. Long-term care community operators and owners benefit, too. Happier residents result in happier families. Healthier residents avoid emergency room or hospital visits. Outcome data generally is lacking, and the quality-care metrics that Ella seamlessly tracks can help a community make the case for higher federal or health-insurance reimbursements. Eleven units are using Ella now, providing data to help the AI learn and give feedback on how it can be improved. The fourperson company is poised for a big sales effort this year. Spring, in addition to her past GPEC position, brings extensive corporate executive experience to TapRoot, as well as having guided another health-related startup. Yet she found the AIC experience invaluable. “The coaches are good thought partners. They don’t just ask about your revenue growth plan —that’s easy—but about product market fit and then they offer insights to get there quicker,” Spring says. “I’ve been in corporate America for a long time, but I want someone to coach and challenge me. It’s not about me; it’s about how the world needs Ella.”
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TapRoot’s ‘Ella℠’ aids long-term caregivers with real-time solutions
The Patient Company founder and CEO Andrew Heuerman
A patient transport manager asked for help in reducing injuries. Heuerman took the lead, developed SimPull and started the company.
The Patient Company: Improving the way patients are moved within a hospital Hospitals are among the most hazardous places to work in the United States, and moving patients is a leading cause of injury. Work-related injuries are costly in many ways. Injuries can be demoralizing for staffers, cost American hospitals $2 billion a year in workers compensation losses, and put patients at risk for falls, fractures, bruises and skin tears. Andrew Heuerman is on a quest to revolutionize workplace safety in hospital systems. His startup, The Patient Company, has developed a machine that safely moves patients from one flat surface to another—such as a bed to a gurney—in less time than a manual transfer and without physical exertion by the clinician. The SimPull technology is the first step toward Heuerman’s goal of reimagining how patients are moved in the health-care system.
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medicine. He changed majors and landed a position on the innovation team at Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Health, tasked with cultivating ideas from the hospital’s staff.
“Moving patients should not be a clinician’s priority; taking care of them and using their clinical knowledge should be,” Heuerman says. “Unfortunately, we’ve turned clinicians into people movers, and it’s leading to their injury.” The company has had early success. It raised $1 million in a seed round and was an awardee of the 2021 Arizona Innovation Challenge (AIC), the Arizona Commerce Authority’s business-plan competition for innovative startups. The road to the award was as circuitous as Heuerman’s career path. The son of a dentist, he was a pre-med student at Grand Valley State University in Michigan when he realized he was more interested in developing health-care products than practicing
“I learned to speak the language of product development,” he says. “I know what investors are looking for, I can listen to what the clinician needs and I understand the engineers.” He came to Arizona to scale the company. “There’s something special happening in Phoenix in health-care development,” he says, noting a great interest in testing and scaling biotech in the Valley. He also wanted to connect with what he describes as “one of the best health-care systems of all time,” the Mayo Clinic. And he was looking for geographic diversity, figuring that if a device worked well in western Michigan, Phoenix and rural Arizona, it would work anywhere. Validation testing at Mayo and other hospitals is underway, with a market-release goal in the second quarter of 2022. Heuerman’s next step is improving the way hospitals “prone” patients – turning them from lying on their back to lying face down, and vice versa, an important procedure for treating COVID. The leading device currently is a two-sided bed that costs $1,200 per day. “We can do it with tweaks to our device at a lower price point,” he says. “We’re looking at all patient-transport practices and asking if they should be reimagined.” His AIC experience has been helpful. “The judges showed me what in my pitch was not easily understood. It helped us refine our messaging as well as our plans,” Heuerman says. The money that comes with being an awardee will help the company continue to scale. It’s also timely, coming as the company starts a second $1 million funding round. “All investors feel validated when they see undiluted funding coming in,” he says of the AIC investment.
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BY KERRY BENNETT
ON THE DEFENSE Team’s observations may lead to protecting Earth from asteroids
According to NASA, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which launched on Nov. 23, 2021, is “a planetary defense-driven test of technologies for preventing an impact of Earth by a hazardous asteroid.” The mission is the first demonstration of the agency’s “kinetic impactor technique” to change the motion of an asteroid in space.
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DART’s goal? To demonstrate that a spacecraft can autonomously navigate to a target asteroid, intentionally collide with it at roughly 4 miles per second and change its orbital speed. DART’s target is the satellite asteroid Dimorphos, which orbits the larger asteroid Didymos. As part of NASA’s planetary defense coordination office, DART will simultaneously test new technologies and provide important data to enhance modeling and predictive capabilities, helping scientists better prepare for an asteroid that might pose a threat to Earth, should one be discovered. Cristina Thomas, planetary astronomer and assistant professor at Northern Arizona University, is the lead of the DART Observations Working Group. She and her international team have been working for years to determine a precise preimpact orbit of Dimorphos around Didymos.
Launch of DART Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
precisely constrained the characteristics of the orbit and the position of Dimorphos in the orbit at the time of impact in late September 2022. By taking repeated images of the same object, they can observe dips in brightness, or mutual events, which are caused by Dimorphos passing in front of or behind Didymos. The timing of these mutual events enables the scientists to determine the orbital period of Dimorphos. “This is essentially thinking of the satellite Dimorphos as a clock, which will return to its position in front of or behind Didymos at consistent intervals,” Thomas says. “Our working group will begin observations again in the months prior to the DART impact. We want to have the most complete picture of the current orbit before we change it through impact.”
After the spacecraft slams into Dimorphos and successfully changes its speed, a version of DART could one day be used to protect Earth, should an asteroid or comet come too close. Because she is one of NASA’s “Guaranteed Time Observers,” Thomas and her team will be able to observe the impact using the James Webb Space Telescope. They will continue their observations using ground-based telescopes after the collision to find the new orbital period and determine how much it changed because of the spacecraft’s impact.
“DART is a critical next step for planetary defense,” Thomas says. “It is, on the surface, a simple test, but we won’t completely understand what will happen until we do it.”
A Latina scientist, Thomas was recently named a 2022 Emerging Scholar by the education magazine Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. The publication annually recognizes an interdisciplinary group of early-career minority scholars who represent the best of U.S. academia.
Using data from 2003 through early 2021, the team has
Kerry Bennett is a science writer for Northern Arizona University
Startup answers need of antenna makers serving satellite industry Startup Paramium Technologies is a case study of how a small company can achieve big things with the help of a strong innovation ecosystem. Started by Christian Davila-Peralta and co-inventor Justin Hyatt, the company was founded to commercialize a precision metal plate-forming technology invented at The University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory. Their early successes come from taking advantage of support systems provided by Tech Launch Arizona (TLA), the UArizona office that commercializes inventions stemming from university research and innovation, and The University of Arizona Center for Innovation (UACI), the business incubator at Tech Parks Arizona. “We were looking for an opportunity to apply some ideas developed in the laboratory towards an industrial application that could be commercially exploited,” says Davila-Peralta. “We presented the case to TLA and with their help we were able to start our innovation journey.” Hyatt and Davila-Peralta developed a method that allows for rapid, inexpensive production of customized curved sheet metal plates perfect for antenna manufacturers. The new molding method allows designers to make small changes without relying on expensive custom molds. Experts in antennas and satellite communications, Hyatt and Davila-Peralta saw a looming problem: With over 2,000 satellites orbiting the earth—and that number projected to grow eight-fold in the next 10 years—the world’s need for ground station antennas is growing fast. “We would have never made it without the amazing support we received from TLA,” says Davila-Peralta. “Their Asset Development program, their guidance, funding and support were invaluable to convert our research results into intellectual property and our ideas into a startup.”
Paramium team members (from left) Christian Davila-Peralta, Justin Hyatt and Roslyn Norman
Step 1: Explore the Opportunities The research team was first introduced to TLA while graduate students working with Ph.D. advisor Roger Angel, a nationally recognized inventor. The office’s commercialization team— made up of experts in industry, intellectual property and entrepreneurship—suggested that the technology had promise but was still early-stage and needed funding to advance it and make it attractive in the marketplace. They also needed to learn how to think less like scientists and more like entrepreneurs.
Step 2: Develop the Innovation, Team and Business Model To fund development of the idea, the team applied for TLA’s Asset Development program, which provides money to help UArizona inventors advance early-stage inventions toward market readiness. TLA also connected them with Steven Wood, an experienced mentor-in-residence with an extensive background in engineering startups. Wood suggested that the team take part in the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps at TLA, a program that teaches academic inventors how to discover who their potential customers might be and how best to position their solutions for success. They also added engineering manager Roslyn Norman, a recent mechanical engineering graduate who contributed experience from work at Paragon Space Development Corporation and NASA’s Artemis Mission.
Step 3: License the Technology and Plan for Growth Finally, they worked with TLA to license the inventions from the UArizona to their startup, Paramium Technologies. The office also helped them apply for a $256,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation. Paramium has now joined UACI, where they will continue to develop their product through a 27-point roadmap and begin taking customer orders. “TLA paved the way for us, mapping out each step to take,” Hyatt says. “We would not be where we are now without their support.” Paul Tumarkin is assistant director, Marketing & Communications at Tech Launch Arizona.
TechConnect | SPRING 2022 | 14
BY PAUL TUMARKIN
CHALLENGE IN THE STARS
BY JOE KULLMAN
FROM HARMFUL TO HELPFUL Carbon capture advances offer hope for countering greenhouse gases
As global challenges go, significantly reducing the amount of harmful greenhouse gases that have accumulated in the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans is certainly among the most daunting. Those gases, especially carbon dioxide, to a large degree are leading to increasingly threatening climate changes, including global warming. Experts warn the combined effects of these changes will have detrimental impacts on the planet’s environmental health and habitability, leading to hardships for much of the world’s population. But some of the actions needed to prevent those dire circumstances would mean upending many conventional practices in economics, commerce and industry, as well as running against the grain of strongly held political and cultural viewpoints. One approach science and engineering organizations are using to calm consternation about such societal disruptions is to focus on achieving the technological advances needed to prevent climatological turmoil.
TechConnect | SPRING 2022 | 15
Chemical engineer Matthew Green points, for instance, to the possibilities for capturing carbon in the atmosphere and using it to develop new clean energy sources and fuels. “We are at a tipping point. It won’t be enough to simply take greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere,” says Green, an associate professor in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. “What we need to do is capture both the carbon materials we have already emitted into the atmosphere, trap the carbon dioxide we still emit and transform it so we can use it in new kinds of products and processes that won’t degrade our environment,” he says. Green’s work in this area is about to expand. He recently collaborated with colleagues on two research project proposals that won support from the Research Corporation
Associate Professor Matthew Green is working on advances in technologies to repurpose greenhouse gases and drive innovative industrial processes. Photographer: Erika Gronek/ASU
for Science Advancement (RCSA) and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, with additional support from the Climate Pathfinders Foundation. Green is now a member of two of the eight new Scialog: Negative Emissions Science Teams of engineers and scientists tasked with advancing technologies to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans. RCSA’s Scialog program — the name is short for “science and dialog” — supports projects with the potential to provide innovative solutions to global-scale problems. For one project, he is teaming with Gary Moore, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Molecular Sciences, and Emily Ryan, a Boston University associate professor of mechanical engineering. In the other project, Green’s collaborators are Katherine Hornbostel, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the University of Pittsburgh, and Jenny Yang, a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Irvine. Both projects have the dual focus of creating systems and methods to effectively remove carbon dioxide from the air and seawaters, and to design processes that would convert carbon dioxide into fuels and hydrocarbon materials, which are used in the production of lubricants, plastics, fibers, rubbers, solvents and industrial chemicals, among other manufactured materials. Green says he sees potential for this work to spawn a new field that some already are calling “carbonetics,” which could provide resilient materials for a wide range of uses, and provide a path for industries to operate in ways that promote environmental sustainability “It’s a brand-new area of exploration right now, but I think it is already showing the potential for a tremendous upside,” Green says. “That may take many years to happen, but I’m excited about the possibilities.” Joe Kullman is a science writer for the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.
Transmission of COVID-19 from pet parent to pets documented genetically For the first time in the U.S., the transmission of COVID-19 from pet parent to pet is documented genetically as part of a study by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of City of Hope. The published findings from the ongoing study appear in the journal One Health. This is one of five pilot studies nationwide examining COVID in animals. The TGen study, however, is the only one to include genomic sequencing of the virus from both pet and human samples. This level of testing resulted from TGen’s overall efforts to monitor the virus and its potentially more-dangerous variants by sequencing as many positive human samples of the virus as possible. In the Arizona case study, the pet owner, cat and dog all were infected with the identical strain of coronavirus: B.1.575, an early and unremarkable version of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID. Fewer than 25 documented cases exist of Arizonans infected with this strain, according to information drawn from the COVID variant tracking dashboard that TGen maintains for the CDC and ADHS. To date, nearly 75,000 positive samples of Arizonans with COVID have been sequenced. “This case study was the first example we had from the project that demonstrated the likelihood of virus transmission from a pet owner to animals in the household,” says Hayley Yaglom, a TGen epidemiologist and lead author of the study. Researchers deduced that the virus spread from the pet parent to either the dog or cat, or both. The animals were confined to an apartment and therefore had little-to-no opportunity to be exposed to the virus, and so it was highly unlikely that the pets infected their owner. Plus, in each case examined in the study,
Research team members collect a sample from a dog.
it was the pet parent who exhibited COVID first. Worldwide, there is no documented case of COVID transmission from a pet to its pet parent.
Steps owners should take to protect pets Yaglom said pet owners should protect their pets by getting vaccinated. If they do get COVID, they should wear masks when they are around their pets. Pet owners should avoid cuddling or sleeping with pets, kissing them, or allowing pets to lick their faces. Owners don’t have to completely isolate from their pets, Yaglom says, but they should minimize contact “as best they can” while they exhibit COVID symptoms. In the case study, the pet parent was not yet vaccinated, took little precaution to protect his cat and dog, and entertained guests who were not vaccinated. The owner recovered from COVID, and both his pets were asymptomatic.
More study subjects needed Dog and cat owners who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past two weeks are eligible to participate in the study. The tests are free. Owners must be at least 18, provide consent and fill out a questionnaire. The pet must be vaccinated against rabies, mainly housed indoors, and tolerant of the handling and restraint necessary for routine veterinary care. A veterinarian is present when samples are taken. No animals are harmed in the course of this study. Positive tests will be reported to Arizona’s State Veterinarian’s Office and the Arizona Department of Health Services. For more information or to participate in the study, send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Steve Yozwiak is the senior science writer for TGen. Get Connected: Translational Genomics Research Institute: www.tgen.org
TechConnect | SPRING 2022 | 16
BY STEVE YOZWIAK
A FIRST IN THE U.S.
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Join the business and tech community for the Arizona Technology Council’s 12th annual Tucson Golf Tournament!
2022 Tucson Golf Tournament
LUNCH | NETWORKING | CAMARADERIE | PRIZES A great opportunity to play one of Arizona’s best courses at a discounted price during prime golf season, this tournament brings industry leaders and technologists together for a great day of networking and sportsmanship.
OMNI Tucson National Resort Tucson, Arizona Register: www.aztechcouncil.org/events/tucson-golf-2022/