Reporter with Silicon Hills News
University of Texas at Austin Chemistry Professor Livia Eberlin is creating a better way for surgeons to rapidly perform and diagnose cancer biopsies.
With a new pen-like medical device with a mass spectrometer, surgeons can extract molecules from tissue and test samples in real time. The sample is analyzed through a database to identify patterns of molecules that would match positively with different types of cancers. Eberlin is currently testing the device with thyroid, lung and ovarian cancer.
Eberlin spoke last Thursday evening at the monthly StART Studio put on by the Innovation Center at the University of Texas at Austin and held at the Ernest Cockrell Jr. Building on campus. She was one of three professor-led startups with plans to commercialize technology spinning out of their labs.
The monthly gatherings are sponsored by the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, the University of Texas at Austin Office of Technology Commercialization and WeWork Austin.
With the MasSpec Pen, the idea is to make the fully automated disposal pens cheaply, Eberlin said. She received a $200,000 grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas earlier this year to develop the device, software and database. Her team has also received funding from the National Institutes of Health.
The MasSpec Pen would be considered a new medical device and it would require U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. The device has a 97 percent accuracy rate. That compares to the method surgeons use right now in which they have a 22 percent error rate by taking a tissue sample, Eberlin said. Her team is evaluating whether to form their own startup or license the technology to a company that makes spectrometers.
Next up, Professor of Chemical Engineering Roger Bonnecaze, co-director of NASCENT, presented Sandbox Semiconductor, which just won the Idea to Product Competition at the University of Texas at Austin. He serves as Chief Technology Officer of the company and UT Graduate Student Meghali Chopra serves as Chief Executive Officer. Her twin sister, UT Graduate Student Sonali Chopra is the company’s Chief Operating Officer. The company’s product is RODeo, which provides rapid recipe development for plasma etching. With RODEo, creating an etch process is up to three times faster than traditional methods. It is also much less expensive and more accurate.Lastly, Professor of Mechanical Engineering Preston Wilson introduced AdBm Technologies, an underwater noise abatement company. The initial research for the startup spun out of research Professor Wilson did in 2008 for the U.S. Navy on detecting sea mines during the first Gulf War.
Mark S. Wochner, a Phd student in Professor Wilson’s lab, now serves as president and chief executive of AdBm. In 2014, the startup, which is a portfolio company of the Austin Technology Incubator, received $1.3 million in financing from the Central Texas Angel Network, known as CTAN. The company has also received grants from Shell, NASA and others.
AdBm has created a noise abatement system that allows businesses to meet underwater noise regulations while installing offshore oil rigs, wind turbines, foundations for bridges and other applications. The system is an air bubble curtain that mitigates subsurface noise that can be harmful to marine animals.
The company’s next step is to do a full-scale demonstration of its technology, Wochner said. So far, it has done three smaller scale demonstrations with two in the North Sea and one in Alaska, he said. During tests, AdBm’s technology has resulted in underwater noise reduction of 50 decibels, Wochner said.