Redox, UMD, Microsoft, Trans-Tech to Develop Transformational Natural Gas Fuel Cells Through $5 Million in ARPA-E Funding

Redox solid oxide fuel cell

Redox Power Systems LLC, the University of MarylandMicrosoft Corporation and Trans-Tech Inc. (a subsidiary of Skyworks Solutions Inc.) are teaming to develop transformational fuel cells through a $5 million cooperative agreement funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) Reliable Electricity Based on ELectrochemical Systems (REBELS) program, company and university officials jointly announce today.

The goal of the project is to further advance Redox’s high-performance fuel cells and drive them to market-readiness for a broad range of applications, including low-cost distributed power generation and heating and cooling for homes, and for Microsoft—which is providing additional support for the project—energy-efficient datacenters.

These new markets complement Redox’s existing 25 kW product, known as “The Cube,” which is designed for larger commercial structures and can comfortably power a gas station, moderately sized grocery store or small shopping plaza.

The technological advances resulting from this project will also open the door for additional applications such as transportation.

“This project will finally make fuel cells an affordable technology,” said Professor Eric Wachsman, Director of the University of Maryland Energy Research Center (UMERC) in the A. James Clark School of Engineering, who is also a Redox co-founder. “All of the elements we are going to work on—lower temperature, higher power density, faster startup time and load following—these will make fuel cells easier to sell by bringing their cost down even further. It accelerates everything.”

Fuel cells—or devices that convert the chemical energy of a fuel source into electrical energy—are optimal for distributed power generation systems, which generate power close to where it is used, according to ARPA-E. Distributed generation systems offer an alternative to the large, centralized power generation facilities or power plants that are currently commonplace.

Those systems, powered by natural gas (or a wide variety of alternative fuel sources, including liquid fuels such as gasoline and diesel) through Redox’s solid oxide fuel cells, could become a reality if this project is successful.

Led by Fulton, Md.-based Redox, the three-year ARPA-E agreement has UMD partnering with the company to improve its solid oxide fuel cells by the following minimum requirements:

  • Reduce the operating temperatures of their record high-power-density fuel cells from an already industry-leading 650 degrees Celsius to the 300-500 °C range;
  • Enable a start-up time of less than ten minutes; and
  • Respond to electrical load changes, from 10-90 percent power in less than one minute.

“This will be a major advancement in our fuel cell technology,” said Bryan Blackburn, Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Redox. “It will not be incremental. We are working on every aspect of the cell—the anode, the cathode, the electrolyte. The materials will be different. Every single aspect will synergistically come together to form our highest performing, lowest-cost fuel cell.”

Solid Oxide Fuel Cell

View a high-resolution diagram of the Redox solid oxide fuel cell depicting how it works.

Trans-Tech Inc., based in Adamstown, Md., will work with Redox and UMD to ramp up the commercial production of new cell materials. They will also work with Redox to manufacture the improved fuel cells, establishing ways to reduce production costs. By bringing a large manufacturer like Trans-Tech into the development process early on and working with fuel cells produced using industrial processes, the required time-to-market for new generations of enhanced cells will decrease.

Redox will also redesign its fuel cell stacks to achieve ARPA-E performance targets and reduce costs even further, after which they go to Microsoft for integration and independent live testing in the company’s server racks.

“Our vision is to bring the power plant directly into the datacenter by integrating fuel cell stacks into every server cabinet, effectively eliminating energy loss that otherwise occurs in the energy supply chain and doubling the efficiency of traditional datacenters,” said Sean James, Senior Research Program Manager for Microsoft Global Foundation Services. “We expect to effectively double our efficiency, from fuel to load, while cutting out many points of failure. The resulting system could be significantly less expensive than traditional datacenter designs. Overall, we believe the advancements being made in fuel cells will someday change the game in terms of how energy is delivered and managed.”

Microsoft is also a powerful buyer.

“In this case the partner is also the potential customer,” explained Blackburn. “If Microsoft adopts these fuel cell systems at a large scale, they could provide just the right initial market and critical mass to drive the cost of our fuel cells down even further.”

The Redox-led project is one of 13 funded by the REBELS program, which ARPA-E announced on June 19, 2014, worth a total of $33 million.

“These 13 REBELS projects are an excellent example of how ARPA-E is developing innovative technology options to transform and modernize America’s evolving electric grid,” said ARPA-E Acting Director Dr. Cheryl Martin. “Distributed generation technologies like these could fundamentally change the way America generates and stores energy.”

Redox, initially co-founded by Wachsman and Blackburn after the former spent 25 years developing industry-leading solid oxide fuel cells, was a winner in the 2012 University of Maryland $75K Business Plan Competition, run by the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech). After winning the competition, the company entered Mtech’s VentureAccelerator Program, which helps University of Maryland inventors get their research out of laboratories and into industry by creating successful companies.

Three months later, the company was reformed along with an outside investment and management team and moved to Fulton, Md.

University of Maryland, National Institute of Standards and Technology to Host First National Summit on Biosimilars

Biomanufacturing Summit 2014

The University of Maryland and the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) will host the first national symposium to discuss biosimilar therapeutics on June 13, 2014, at the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research in Rockville, Md.

The event, “Emerging Strategies for the Production and Characterization of Biosimilars,” kicks off the first annual UMD/NIST Biomanufacturing Technology Summit, which pulls together company, government and academic thought leaders from around the world each year to discuss strategies, trends and issues in biotechnology products and manufacturing.

“The University of Maryland and NIST are proud to host this conference on one of the most important topics facing the biotechnology industry today,” said Ben Woodard, Director of the Biotechnology Research and Education Program at UMD, co-organizer of the symposium. “Biosimilars present a unique challenge: while they could mean more affordable drugs for consumers, they also require unique standards and regulations to ensure their efficacy and safety. We are pleased to bring together thought leaders from biopharmaceutical companies, academe, and standards and regulations officials all to the same table to discuss strategies for producing these therapeutics.”

The Emerging Strategies for the Production and Characterization of Biosimilars symposium features morning sessions on the Bioanalytical Characterization of Biosimilars. Speakers include:

  • Dr. Michael J. Tarlov, Division Chief, Biomolecular Measurement, NIST
  • Dr. William E. Bentley, Robert E. Fischell Distinguished Professor and Chair, Department of Bioengineering, University of Maryland, College Park

The symposium’s afternoon sessions cover Biopharmaceutical Industry Perspectives of Biosimilar Characterization. Speakers include:

  • Dr. Patrick Liu, Global Head of Bioanalytical Sciences and Technologies, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
  • Dr. Alistair Kippen, Director, Analytical Biotechnology, MedImmune (AZ)
  • Dr. Jennifer Liu, Director of Analytical Sciences, Biosimilars Process Development, Amgen Inc.

Both the morning and afternoon sessions will feature panel discussions following individual presentations.

Biosimilars, also called follow-on biologics, are structurally similar versions of commercial therapeutics that tests show are sufficiently similar both architecturally and clinically. The promise is cheaper therapeutics for consumers after an initial drug’s patent expires.

But biosimilars are biologics, or drugs created using biological processes (not chemically synthesized), and they are more complex to manufacture. Even small changes to the way they are made can change the drug’s safety and efficacy, which presents a unique challenge to standards and regulation agencies such as NIST and the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA gained the authority to approve biosimilars as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010, but none have yet been approved.

This summit brings together, for the first time in the region, biopharmaceutical companies, academe, and government standards and regulation officials to discuss the potential and challenges of biosimilars.

For more information and to register for the 2014 Biomanufacturing Summit: Emerging Strategies for the Production and Characterization of Biosimilars, visit:

UMD Alumni Hatch Sub-$300 Consumer 3D Printer, Raise $3.3 Million on Kickstarter

The Micro 1

Two University of Maryland graduates have designed The Micro, a consumer-friendly, sub-$300 3D printer, and are quickly staging one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of all-time to produce it, hauling in $3.3 million with more than 10,000 backers.

The Micro raced past its $50,000 goal in just 11 minutes and hit the $1 million mark in 25 hours, faster than the Pebble watch, which took 28 hours.

Now, with less than 24 hours to go in a 30-day campaign, this is the last chance to order from the first batch of The Micro 3D printers on Kickstarter, a Web-based funding platform for creative projects.

3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a computer-generated digital model.

“A 3D printer is a magical box that creates things,” said Michael Armani (B.S., mechanical engineering, 2005 and Ph.D., bioengineering, 2010), co-founder ofM3D, the company he launched with David Jones (B.S., computer science, 2006). “It’s that simple. There is nothing on your desk one second, and the next you have it.”

The Micro 2

Weighing just two pounds, medium watermelon-sized and box-shaped, The Micro can be used to create anything from custom jewellery, cookie cutters, everyday objects around the house, and even real engineering and artistic prototypes, according to the company. Much like a paper printer, The Micro attaches to a computer, through which users download or create models using M3D’s software, which company officials say is as interactive and enjoyable as playing a game. Once a model is selected, users hit print and the object is made.

“Starting with a seamless design, we created the Micro by preserving the best features of existing printers and redesigning everything else,” said Jones. “What’s more, we kept the cost of The Micro low by ensuring that it’s both space and power efficient, using as much power as a tablet would use. We are excited to be a part of the 3D printing revolution, and hope that The Micro will play its part in changing the way people build, innovate and create.”

Not only did Armani, Jones and the M3D team, which includes four others with UMD affiliations, create the most affordable 3D printer, they also claim 15 additional innovations over current models:

  1. Most space-efficient 3D printer ever made
  2. Lightweight, portable design fits nicely on a desk
  3. Micro motion chip provides completely automatic leveling and calibration
  4. Most quiet 3D printer ever made
  5. Lowest power consumption 3D printer ever made
  6. Carbon fiber rods: light, sturdy, self-lubricating and long-lasting
  7. Ceramic heater for rapid heat-up, power efficiency, reliability and safety
  8. Available in bold colors: silver, black, blue, red, orange and green
  9. New filament materials like Chameleon PLA.
  10. Inspirational Micro filament spools
  11. Modernized touch-capable software
  12. Replaceable print beds for alternative materials
  13. Replaceable nozzles for experimenters
  14. Designed for fast assembly in the U.S. for quality control
  15. An ABS-based print bed allows you to print larger ABS parts.

The Micro is powered by what the company collectively calls Micro Motion Technology™, a series of next generation innovations that together create precision at a fraction of the cost.

M3D plans to assemble its printers in the U.S. and is seeking manufacturing space in Montgomery County, Md. The company is based in Bethesda.
Armani and Jones met at UMD in 2002 while auditing a biology class that neither of them needed to graduate. Their friendship has grown ever since.

A serial entrepreneur, Armani won $5,000 in Mtech’s UMD $75K Business Plan Competition in 2010 for CloudSolar, a company he launched to develop solar energy technologies.

Additional UMD-affiliated M3D team members include: Danny Lee (B.S., 1989), Su Lee (economics, 2011), Aliaksandr Mamonau (electrical and computer engineering and computer science, expected fall 2015), and Syed Rahman (mechanical engineering, expected 2015).

High-resolution screenshots, logos and headshots are available here. For more information, please visit The Micro’s website here and M3D’s website here.

University of Maryland Unveils Master’s Degree Program in Technology Entrepreneurship

University of Maryland

The University of Maryland, a national leader in entrepreneurship education and venture creation, today announces it will offer a new master’s degree program in technology entrepreneurship starting this fall.

The 30-credit, 15-month Master of Technology Entrepreneurship, available online to current and aspiring entrepreneurs worldwide, features the university’s most advanced and comprehensive entrepreneurship curriculum to date, taking students from concept development and prototyping to business model generation and customer validation, as well as legal aspects of entrepreneurship, financial and innovation management, and effective growth strategies.

“As a pioneer in online education and new venture creation, the University of Maryland is empowering the next generation of technology entrepreneurs through this innovative master’s program,” said Dr. James V. Green, director of entrepreneurship education at the A. James Clark School of Engineering’s Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech), which is offering the master’s program through the UMD Office of Extended Studies. “In addition to our most rigorous academic entrepreneurship track, for the first time, we are pairing this enriching academic experience with the skills and relationships of the university’s acclaimed startup incubators.”

The Master of Technology Entrepreneurship can be completed in 15-months, with students enrolling in two 3-credit courses over five 12-week terms. The degree program is designed to fit both full-time and part-time students from anywhere in the world.

The following courses, each available online (descriptions available here), will be offered:

  • Innovative Ideas and Concept Development
  • Strategies for Managing Innovation
  • Business Modeling and Customer Validation
  • Innovative Thinking
  • Creative Design, Prototyping, and Testing
  • Market Development and Commercialization
  • Legal Aspects of Entrepreneurship
  • Financial Management and New Venture Financing
  • Corporate Technology Entrepreneurship
  • Fundamentals of Technology Startup Ventures

In addition, students in the Master of Technology Entrepreneurship program will have access to Mtech’s first online incubator, leveraging the experience and expertise in new venture formation and launch of the successful Technology Advancement Program incubator and Venture Accelerator Program.
The online incubator will include activities such as video-based coaching and advising, mentoring, networking and connecting promising startups with additional support, which could include funding introductions.

Mtech incubator graduates and success stories include two billion-dollar companies (Martek Biosciences and Digene Corporation), hybrid engine inventor PAICE Corporation, Squarespace, and more than a hundred additional technology-based ventures.

The University of Maryland has a long history of producing successful entrepreneurs, with alumni launching industry-leading companies such as Google, Under Armour, Sirius XM Radio and Polycom.

The approximate cost of the master’s program is $19,500, plus books and fees, payable in five installments over the 15-month period.

The Master of Technology Entrepreneurship launches in September 2014. Learn more at:

MIPS Program Approves 15 Technology Product Development Projects Teaming Maryland Faculty and Companies Worth $4.1 Million

Green technologies, oyster farming, Chesapeake Bay-saving and medical inventions dominate round

Pictured, left to right, from A&G Pharmaceutical: Jun Hayashi, co-founder and VP of research & development; Ginette Serrero, co-founder and CEO, and Michael Keefe, chief operating officer. A&G is conducting a prospective clinical study to examine the potential of the company's GP88 biomarker as a blood test for early breast cancer screening through its MIPS grant.

Pictured, left to right, from A&G Pharmaceutical: Jun Hayashi, co-founder and VP of research & development; Ginette Serrero, co-founder and CEO, and Michael Keefe, chief operating officer. A&G is conducting a prospective clinical study to examine the potential of the company’s GP88 biomarker as a blood test for early breast cancer screening through its MIPS grant.

The Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) program, an initiative of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) in the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, has approved 15 research projects worth $4.1 million to teams combining Maryland companies with state university researchers to bring technology products closer to market, program officials announce today.

A technology acceleration program, MIPS grants money—matched with company funds—to faculty engaged in each project.

For this round of funding, companies are contributing $2.8 million and MIPS $1.3 million to the jointly funded projects. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency provided additional funding.

This round of funding partners faculty with 11 startups, one medium-sized and three small companies. Four projects, the most ever for a single MIPS round, include companies from the Maryland Eastern Shore. Three involve oyster-farming technologies, eight are green technologies, and four could result in a cleaner Chesapeake Bay.

“MIPS is a great value for the State of Maryland and serves as a national model of how to leverage the intellectual power of our universities to drive innovation and the economy,” said MIPS Director Joseph Naft. “The program attracts Maryland’s entrepreneurs, enabling them to multiply their R&D efforts by engaging world-class faculty and graduate students to do real-world research. Take a step back and look at the $28.1 billion in revenue generated by MIPS-supported products, add in tax revenue, and you have a return on investment of 30 to 1. More than 5,000 current jobs have resulted from MIPS projects, many of them from big-impact companies such as MedImmune, Hughes Network Systems, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. MIPS is an example of how companies, academe and government can all work together to propel our state forward.”

Winning projects, segmented by institution, include:

Frostburg State University

  • ($625,000) George Rinard, professor, department of computer science and information technologies, teams with Hagerstown-based vCalc LLC to develop the company’s free on-line mathematics system, which provides a large and growing library of equations and data items that are used daily in academia, industry and society.

St. Mary’s College of Maryland

  • ($114,094) Robert Paul, professor, department of biology, partners with Tall Timbers-based Shore Thing Shellfish to develop “in situ” or “on site” methods for seeding oysters without using land-based tanks.

Salisbury University

  • ($153,575) Samuel Geleta, associate professor, department of biological sciences, works with Rock Hall-based GreatGrow Maryland LLC to test the company’s soil amendment, which could dramatically increase crop yields and reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and chemical pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

University of Maryland, Baltimore

  • ($203,161) Katherine Tkaczuk, professor of medicine, works with Columbia-based A&G Pharmaceutical Inc. to conduct a prospective clinical study to examine the potential of the company’s GP88 biomarker as a blood test for early breast cancer screening.
  • ($158,000) Jill Whitall, professor, department of physical therapy and rehabilitation science, teams with Baltimore-based Rehabtics LLC to develop a software system for physical rehabilitation using customized, motion-controlled rehabilitation video games.

University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

  • ($256,274) Donald Meritt, principal agent, Horn Point Laboratory, partners with Crisfield-based Metompkin Seafood Inc. to develop an automated spat-on-shell oyster production system.

University of Maryland, College Park

  • ($166,428) Allen Davis, professor, department of civil and environmental engineering, teams with Church Hill-based High Impact Environmental Inc. to provide research and development support for the company’s Agricultural Stormwater Cascade System to manage and reduce runoff from agricultural field systems.
  • ($151,001) Jonathan Dinman, professor, department of cell biology and molecular genetics, partners with Towson-based Birich Technologies LLC to develop gene-silencing technology as both a research tool and potential cancer therapeutic.
  • ($1,109,320) Jungho Kim, professor, department of mechanical engineering, works with Germantown-based Earth Networks to extend the company’s WeatherBug® Home residential energy efficiency product, which integrates key weather variables into home energy management and demand response programs.
  • ($162,736) Stephanie Lansing, assistant professor, department of environmental science and technology, partners with Halethorpe-based Fiberight LLC to develop a technology platform for the conversion of non-recycled, organic municipal solid waste (MSW) streams into advanced biofuels, including digester biogas.
  • ($157,330) Isaak Mayergoyz, professor, department of electrical and computer engineering, works with College Park-based CoolCAD Electronics LLC to build a novel, compact and highly efficient Silicon Carbide (SiC)-based on-board charger for the next generation of plug-in electric vehicles.
  • ($241,980) Reinhard Radermacher, professor, department of mechanical engineering, works with Annapolis-based XChanger Companies Inc. to evaluate the energy-saving potential and thermal comfort of the company’s air delivery unit, which initial studies have shown yield potential HVAC operating savings of between 18-31 percent.
  • ($133,651) Srinivasa Raghavan, professor, department of chemical and biomolecular engineering, partners with College Park-based Remedium Technologies Inc. to develop a hemostatic putty for treating battlefield wounds.
  • ($134,864) Charles Schwartz, professor, department of civil and environmental engineering works with Waldorf-based Pothole Pros LLC to integrate quality assurance into the company’s infrared pavement repair technology.
  • ($334,500) Yang Tao, professor, Fischell Department of Bioengineering, teams with Fishing Creek-based Hoopers Island Oyster Aquaculture Co. to develop oyster sorting and grading technologies to support and expand the oyster industry in Maryland.

Projects are subject to final contract negotiations.

Pictured, the Shore Thing Shellfish team, from front to back: Mandy Burch, Brian Russell and Sheldon Russell planting oyster shells in the Chesapeake Bay. Photo courtesy of Shore Thing Shellfish.

Pictured, the Shore Thing Shellfish team, from front to back: Mandy Burch, Brian Russell and Sheldon Russell planting oyster shells in the Chesapeake Bay. Photo courtesy of Shore Thing Shellfish. Three projects, the most for any MIPS round in 26 years, involved the development of better oyster-farming technologies.

This is the 53rd round of MIPS grants. The program has supported research projects with more than 500 different Maryland companies since 1987.

Commercial products benefiting from MIPS have generated more than $28.1 billion in revenue, added more than 5,000 jobs to the region, and contributed to successful products such as Martek Biosciences’ nutritional oils, Hughes Communications’ HughesNet™, MedImmune’s Synagis®, and Black & Decker’s Bullet® Speed Tip Masonry Drill Bit, WellDoc’s mobile diabetes management platform, and CSA Medical’s diseased-tissue ablation platform.

For information about the historical economic impact of the MIPS program, an independent study titled “An Analysis of the Impacts of MIPS Program Spending and the Commercialization of MIPS Funded Projects on the State of Maryland,” by Richard Clinch, from the Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore, is available online.

Pictured: Two-month-old oyster spat on shell. Spat are oysters less than 25 mm (0.98 in) long. Photo courtesy of Shore Thing Shellfish.

Pictured: Two-month-old oyster spat on shell. Spat are oysters less than 25 mm (0.98 in) long. Photo courtesy of Shore Thing Shellfish.

About the Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) Program
MIPS, a program of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) in the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, supports university-based research projects to help Maryland companies develop technology-based products. Commercial products benefiting from MIPS projects have generated more than $28.1 billion in revenue, added thousands of jobs to the region, and contributed to successful products such as Martek Biosciences’ nutritional oils, Hughes Communications’ HughesNet™, MedImmune’s Synagis®, and Black & Decker’s Bullet® Speed Tip Masonry Drill Bit.

CoolCAD Launches Kickstarter Campaign for Security Keychain that Locks Your Computer When You Are Away

GateKeeper Chain

CoolCAD Electronics LLC, a University of Maryland-based electronics design company, just launched a 30-day Kickstarter campaign for its new GateKeeper Chain security product, a small, colorful key fob that automatically locks your computer when you leave and unlocks it when you return, university officials announce today.

The GateKeeper Chain works over Bluetooth 4.0 (Bluetooth SMART) wireless technology, combining a personal sensor with an encrypted connection that allows only its unique key to unlock your computer. The password is encrypted and stored on your PC, not the GK-Chain—so no one can steal it. The result is effortless security for your computer when you walk away, and easy access when you return.

“Our goal is provide people who use computers with optimal security and convenience,” said Electrical and Computer Engineering graduate Dr. Siddharth Potbhare (M.S. 2005, Ph.D. 2008), who co-founded CoolCAD. “It’s easy to forget to lock your computer when you leave your desk, and it’s a chore to log back in when you get back. GateKeeper takes care of both.”

As an extra layer of security, CoolCAD offers a companion smartphone application that lets you manage and track your keys, but more importantly—warns you when you leave your keys behind.

Initial prototypes work with PCs and Android phones, although the company is creating Macintosh and iOS versions as well.

Rewards for backers of the GateKeeper Chain Kickstarter campaign include access to pre-production-run prototypes, custom gold or silver key fobs, laboratory tours with CoolCAD’s engineers and designers, and up to 50 hours of one-on-one consulting to create customized products, which could include logos, additional branding and optional form factors.

CoolCAD plans to use its Kickstarter funding to take the patent-pending GateKeeper Chain from a fully functional prototype to a 200-unit pilot production run, which the company will use to obtain FCC certification and conduct comprehensive reliability testing and failure analysis tests.

Full production runs for the GateKeeper Chain are slated for June, with an expected delivery of the first 4,000 devices in July.

GateKeeper Chain

CoolCAD’s ten-member team includes Co-Founders UMD Electrical and Computer Engineering and Institute for Systems Research Professor Neil Goldsman, and Vice President and UMD alumnus Dr. Akin Akturk, who earned his Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2006.

CoolCAD is a member of the Technology Advancement Program incubator, an initiative of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) in the A. James Clark School of Engineering, whose graduates include Martek Biosciences and Digene Corporation, both of whom were acquired for more than $1 billion. The company’s headquarters are in Mtech’s Technology Ventures Building, located off-campus near the College Park Metrorail station.

CoolCAD has acquired research and development projects and subcontracts totaling over $4 million over the past five years, including Phase I and Phase II SBIRs/STTRs and four Mtech Maryland Industrial Partnerships program grants with two different UMD professors.

Joseph Naft Named Director of UMD Maryland Industrial Partnerships Program

Joseph Naft, director of the Maryland Industrial Partnerships program.

Joseph Naft, director of the Maryland Industrial Partnerships program.

Joseph Naft, entrepreneur, aerospace engineer, physicist, computer scientist, CAD/IT expert, undergraduate research program director and consultant, long a behind-the-scenes pillar at the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech), has been named director of the Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) program, institute officials announce today.

The MIPS program accelerates innovation in Maryland by funding collaborative R&D projects between companies and University System of Maryland faculty to bring technology products closer to market. MIPS grants money, matched with company funds, to faculty engaged in each project.

Since 1987, MIPS funds have advanced more than 500 companies in Maryland and spurred successful commercial products such as Martek Biosciences’ nutritional oils, Hughes Communications’ HughesNet™, MedImmune’s Synagis®, Black & Decker’s Bullet® Speed Tip Masonry Drill Bit, WellDoc’s mobile diabetes management platform, and CSA Medical’s diseased-tissue ablation platform. MIPS-supported products have generated more than $25 billion in revenue.

Naft takes the reins after serving as associate director of MIPS since 2006. He replaces Martha Connolly, who was recently named director of bioentrepreneurship for UM Ventures at the University of Maryland, leveraging Mtech’s expertise across campuses.

“Joseph Naft has guided long-standing initiatives supporting faculty, students, entrepreneurs and companies both at the university and in the region,” said Mtech Director Peter Sandborn. “He is a proponent of MIPS, understands the inner workings of the program, and is a tireless advocate for companies and faculty researchers. His appointment is well-deserved.

Naft understands research and entrepreneurs. He’s started two high-tech companies and was vice president of a third.

The first, Ramsearch, Naft co-founded with UMD Professor Michael Pecht, director of the Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering (CALCE). Ramsearch created and delivered to the U.S. Air Force a systems engineering software tool incorporating reliability and maintainability analyses. The company won $2 million in contracts. Naft sold the company to a partner.

The second company, Naftware, developed natural language information extraction systems for the NASA Ames Research Center and the National Science Foundation under three SBIR contracts.

“An important part of my preparation for MIPS is my entrepreneurial experience,” said Naft. “You have 12 people on your staff and you have to make payroll every two weeks. I know the pressure you are under. I know what it is like to do a pro forma and go to a bank and get a line of credit for operating funds, and put your home up as collateral.”

Naft also served as vice president for manufacturing software development for Fairmont, W.Va.-based Tygart Technologies, a role he took on part-time from 1994-1998. There, he conceived and created the architecture for GRIP, a Java/web-based intelligent purchasing and electronic commerce system for minimizing supply-chain subcontracting costs and enterprise-level manufacturing process planning.

He has also consulted for Fairmont-based ManTech International Corporation and Baltimore, Md.-based Environmental Elements Corporation.

Naft knows universities. He has no fewer than four academic degrees, including a B.S. in aerospace engineering and B.A. in psychology from Case Western Reserve University, an M.S. in physics from Vanderbilt University, and a B.S. in computer science from the University of Maryland.

Naft joined the University of Maryland Engineering Research Center (now Mtech) in 1984 after stints as a mechanical engineering group leader for the Boeing Company and as an assistant professor of physics at Nashville State Technical Institute. At first, he led a new computer-aided design laboratory to support UMD researchers, but soon became the center’s director of information technology.

In 1998, Naft was selected to lead a program to fund undergraduate research called ASPIRE, short for A Scholars Program for Industry-Oriented Research in Engineering. Since then, the initiative has supported nearly 500 undergraduate engineering students through direct involvement in real-world engineering projects.

When MIPS started in 1987, Naft helped coordinate reviews of high-tech proposals, sometimes managing as many as ten at a time. He later designed and guided the development of the successful MIPS web-based proposal and review system, MIPStrack. In 2006, he was named associate director of MIPS.

“I want to grow the program,” said Naft. “The MIPS model works wonderfully, putting the vast expertise and facilities of Maryland’s public universities to work for Maryland businesses. I want to maintain that outstanding record of success and grow it into a larger program. Maryland’s vibrant entrepreneurial sector presents us with great opportunities that warrant doubling the funding MIPS provides for technology-based product development. We are leaving too many promising projects on the table, projects with terrific commercial potential for our state with companies that are ready to contribute to the cost of those projects to develop new and innovative products.”

About the Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) Program
MIPS, a program of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) in the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, supports university-based research projects to help Maryland companies develop technology-based products. Commercial products benefiting from MIPS projects have generated more than $25.2 billion in revenue, added thousands of jobs to the region, and contributed to successful products such as Martek Biosciences’ nutritional oils, Hughes Communications’ HughesNet™, MedImmune’s Synagis®, and Black & Decker’s Bullet® Speed Tip Masonry Drill Bit.

WellDoc Closes $20 Million in Strategic Financing


Mtech Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) funding recipient WellDoc®, developer of the first FDA cleared mobile prescription therapy, BlueStar, recently announced that it received funding from its first institutional investors, Merck Global Health Innovation Fund and Windham Venture Partners, as part of a $20 million round of financing that now broadens its capitalization beyond its initial group of angel investors. For a limited time, WellDoc and its investors will also explore the possibility of adding co-investors that bring strategic value to the company.

“Our new investors share WellDoc’s vision of fundamentally changing how people manage their chronic diseases to improve outcomes and reduce costs,” said Ryan Sysko, co-founder and CEO of WellDoc. “This investment will help WellDoc launch and commercialize BlueStar, the world’s first Mobile Prescription Therapy for type 2 diabetes, on a nationwide basis.”

WellDoc’s flagship product, BlueStar, is a first-in-class, patient-centered product cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in July 2010 for use by adults living with type 2 diabetes. BlueStar requires a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider and can be dispensed and reimbursed through a pharmacy. The new product is powered by WellDoc’s proprietary Automated Expert Analytics System and enables patients to self-manage their diabetes through real-time motivational, behavioral and educational coaching. BlueStar coordinates care by helping patients adhere to their treatment plan while also providing clinical decision support to the patient’s healthcare provider to optimize treatment decisions.

WellDoc’s 2008 MIPS project teamed the company with Charlene Quinn, associate professor, University of Maryland School of Medicine, for clinical trials to demonstrate the effectiveness of the company’s DiabetesManager product (now BlueStar). The company also wanted to prove that its easy-to-use diabetes management system could be implemented on a large scale.

Quinn and WellDoc evaluated the effectiveness of a patient-to-provider interactive diabetes management system that could be utilized with readily available personal electronic devices. In the MIPS phase one project, patient diabetes management algorithms were revised to test the effectiveness of the WellDoc intervention for a larger, randomized control trial (RCT) conducted in the phase 2 MIPS project.  The randomized control trial involved 30 patients, who were given WellDoc’s cell phone-based diabetes management software, which securely captured data and provided real-time diabetes management feedback. In addition, WellDoc’s system analyzed patient data and provided suggested action plans to patients’ healthcare providers (HCPs). The solution promoted patient self-management and enhanced communication between patients and their HCPs.

The MIPS study showed that adults with type 2 diabetes using WellDoc’s software achieved a 2.03-point reduction in A1c, an indicator used to identify the average blood glucose level of a diabetic over a 12-week time period. Every one-point drop reduces the risk of diabetes complications (e.g., amputations blindness) by as much as 40 percent. The top ten diabetes drugs in the U.S., on average, reduce A1c by about one point. The results of this trial were published in Diabetes Technologies and Therapeutics, Volume 10, 2008.

Dr. Quinn then conducted the first, one-year randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a mobile phone-based diabetes coaching and decision support intervention, the results of which were published in Diabetes Care, the world’s preeminent diabetes-focused scientific journal, published by the American Diabetes Association. The trial met its primary endpoint of reducing blood glucose levels over one-year, demonstrating patients using the WellDoc system plus their usual care had an average decline in A1c of 1.9 percentage points compared to a 0.7-percentage-point decline seen among patients treated with usual care alone (control group).

“Maryland Industrial Partnerships was really instrumental in helping us build the evidence associated with our product,” said Ryan Sysko, co-founder and CEO of WellDoc. “There were two specific areas where we used the MIPS grants. The first was looking at our clinical trial data and analyzing it to understand the impact of our system on patients. Second was looking at how we could start to evolve into more complex and advanced analytics to truly begin to personalize our system so we could begin to tailor our messaging and support to patients based upon their particular set of issues.”

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), more than 45 percent of all Americans suffer from at least one chronic disease and 25.8 million people in the U.S. (approximately 8.3 percent of the population) suffer from diabetes. The ADA estimates the total annual cost of diagnosed diabetes in 2012 was $245 billion, including $176 billion in direct medical costs and an additional $69 billion from reduced productivity.

“I would say MIPS validated us,” said Suzanne Sysko Clough, Founder & Chief Medical Officer of WellDoc. “Here we are, two people knocking on the doors of Fortune 100, Fortune, Fortune 300 companies, public payers, private payers, partners, and until we had that endorsement from a MIPS grant, it was hard. It really did help us open doors by saying we are MIPS-endorsed. It made a big difference in our ability to get traction.”

About the Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) Program
MIPS, a program of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) in the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, supports university-based research projects to help Maryland companies develop technology-based products. Commercial products benefiting from MIPS projects have generated more than $25.2 billion in revenue, added thousands of jobs to the region, and contributed to successful products such as Martek Biosciences’ nutritional oils, Hughes Communications’ HughesNet™, MedImmune’s Synagis®, and Black & Decker’s Bullet® Speed Tip Masonry Drill Bit.

UMD Alumnus Company Squarespace to Run Inaugural Big Game Ad

Ten years ago, in a small dorm room at the University of Maryland, Anthony Casalena set out with a $30,000 loan from his father to change the way websites were built and make it easy for anyone to create one.

Squarespace was born.

Now an industry leading, all-in-one website publishing platform provider, the company marks a milestone this Sunday with its first Super Bowl advertisement, titled “A Better Web Awaits.” Read more about the ad and preview it in The Official Squarespace Blog, or on YouTube.

“Our goal was to create a spot that was appropriate for the Super Bowl while also communicating our values,” said Casalena, CEO and founder of Squarespace. “The ad clearly establishes our mission as a company: Squarespace helps sets your website apart from the clutter we commonly find all over the web.”

Anthony Casalena, UMD Hinman CEOs alumnus and founder and CEO of Squarespace.

Anthony Casalena, UMD Hinman CEOs alumnus and founder and CEO of Squarespace.

Casalena was a member of one of the first cohorts of the Hinman CEOs Program, the nation’s first living-learning entrepreneurship initiative, which places entrepreneurial students from all technical and non-technical academic disciplines together in a unique community where they live together, learn about entrepreneurship, and can launch new ventures.

“The Hinman Program is a great facilitator of ideas,” said Casalena. “The program can connect you with the people you need to meet. It fosters a more professional way of thinking about a business and exposes you to things you wouldn’t see otherwise, such as venture capitalists or evaluating business plans. It is valuable for you to see how all of these things work in the real world.”

With 259 employees and offices in New York and Dublin, Squarespace is one of the biggest publishing platforms on the Internet, serving as a basis for millions of websites. Its user-friendly interface underlies a rich and deep publishing platform with a broad set of features.

In addition to dozens of fully customizable templates, each with a unique mobile experience, Squarespace offers simple drag-and-drop website management, blogging capability, modern ecommerce and donation capabilities, social media integration, a full suite of content block types such as photo galleries and events calendars (and no need for plugins), as well as special features for bloggers, photographers, musicians, restaurants and more.

Squarespace frontsite

Squarespace offers four mobile applications to complement its web-based service, including blogging app Squarespace Blog, photo gallery app Squarespace Portfolio, analytics app Squarespace Metrics, and idea app Squarespace Note.

From a team of one, Casalena built an award-winning company, as evidenced by:

Bootstrapped for six years, Squarespace completed a $38.5 million minority investment from Index Ventures and Accel Partners in 2010. Since then, the company released a complete overhaul of its publishing platform with Squarespace 6, more than doubled is staff and added dozens of features to its system, including its mobile apps.

After the Super Bowl, Squarespace’s ad campaign will be expanded nationwide and include TV, digital, social, and out-of-home components. The commercials, created in 60-second and 30-second formats, can be viewed at starting February 2.

About the Hinman CEOs Program
Hinman CEOs, a program of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) in the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, is the nation’s first living-learning entrepreneurship initiative, placing entrepreneurially-minded students from all technical and non-technical academic disciplines in a unique community. Students live together, learn about entrepreneurship, and can launch new ventures. The mission of Hinman CEOs is to foster an entrepreneurial spirit, create a sense of community and cooperation, and develop ethical leaders. All undergraduates from the University of Maryland, College Park are invited to apply for this competitive program. Brian Hinman, University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering alumnus and successful entrepreneur, provided funding to initiate and support the Program.

Mtech TAP Incubator Graduate Neuralstem Inc. Closes $20 Million Investment


Neuralstem Inc., a 2001 graduate of the Mtech Technology Advancement Program (TAP) incubator, announced that it closed on a $20 million investment from leading institutional and accredited investors in a registered direct placement of 6,872,859 shares of common stock at a price of $2.91 per share.

neuralstem_logoBased in Rockville, Md., Neuralstem, now a publicly traded biotherapeutics company, features a patented technology that enables the production of neural stem cells of the brain and spinal cord in commercial quantities, and the ability to control the differentiation of these cells constitutively into mature, physiologically relevant human neurons and glial cells.

“We are very pleased to have raised the capital in this offering from leading institutional investors, including dedicated institutional healthcare investors. With the proceeds strengthening our cash balance, we have the resources to further advance our cell therapy and small molecule clinical trial programs,” said Richard Garr, President and Chief Executive Officer of Neuralstem.

Neuralstem’s NSI-566 spinal cord-derived stem cell therapy is in Phase II clinical trials for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Neuralstem has been awarded orphan status designation by the FDA for its ALS cell therapy.

Neuralstem was in TAP from April 1997 to December 2001. The company’s office space was accented with large, white canopies over its desks, creating a neural network-looking appearance when taken in aggregate.

In addition to ALS, Neuralstem is also targeting major central nervous system conditions with its NSI-566 cell therapy platform, including spinal cord injury and ischemic stroke. The company has received FDA approval to commence a Phase I safety trial in chronic spinal cord injury.

Neuralstem also maintains the ability to generate stable human neural stem cell lines suitable for the systematic screening of large chemical libraries. Through this proprietary screening technology, Neuralstem has discovered and patented compounds that may stimulate the brain’s capacity to generate neurons, possibly reversing pathologies associated with certain central nervous system conditions.  The company has completed a Phase I safety trial evaluating NSI-189, its first neurogenic small molecule product candidate, for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD). Additional indications might include traumatic brain injury (TBI), Alzheimer’s disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

For more information about Neuralstem, visit or connect with the company on TwitterFacebook or LinkedIn.


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