Apps Don’t Rock the World

When I read about startups and technology in the DC region is cursed with a poor excuse for a Tech Press, you know, Technically DC and DCInno. The “journalists” at these rags would have you believe that some of the silliest Apps are changing the world. I’ve got information for you lazy bit vomiters… an app that helps people find the best happy hour is not going to change the world… in fact, it’s not going to be in business 6 months from now.  In 3 years, the only people who will remember MemoryWell will be the investors who write it off on their taxes. Some of these apps may have merit for instance, I hear there’s a guy who has an app that connects to a water bottle that tells you how much-flavored water you drank… you know a phone connected Kool-Aid dispenser called LifeFuels (I sure wish Jonathon Perrelli would declare victory and tell us that LifeFuels was acquired so he could start another company that I could make fun of).

If you read these tech rags, you’d think that nothing important was going on in DMV. But if these “journalistic” clowns would get on the beltway and drive to College Park, MD, they might find legitimate world-changing innovation. I’m talking billion dollar innovations that will save and significantly improve the quality of life of the citizens of the world.

Like what Mr. Cranky, you say? How about?

  1. Growing Human Livers in Pigs – Millions of people are on waiting lists for life-saving organ transplants. Right now in the United States alone, there are 17,000 people waiting for a compatible liver. Once they receive a transplant, they must submit themselves to medications that compromise their immune systems to fend off rejection. Today, researchers at Maryland are using Crisper to grow DNA matched livers in pigs. This not only increases the supply but because the livers are a DNA match to the recipient, they are likely to be accepted by the body without the need for anti-rejection medication. No word yet if a Halal/Kosher version is under development.
  2. Parasitic Cures – Parasites damage billions of dollars of crops, cattle, pets, and humans. As an example, Leishmaniasis is transferred to humans by a sandfly.  Traditional treatment involves toxic medications that may eradicate the parasite and do damage to the patient. In addition, these parasites are becoming resistant to traditional treatments. Most parasites feed on the Hema in our blood (the stuff that makes our blood red or the Hema in Hematology). One researcher at the University of Maryland has discovered the doorway that parasites use to get access to the Hema. Instead of killing the parasite with poison, this cure closes that door cutting off access and in effect starving the parasite. Maybe we should have used this on the bloodsuckers at Trustify?
  3. A Cure For Multiple Sclerosis – Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is caused by a malfunctioning immune system that mistakes myelin (a substance in the brain that promotes efficient transmission of nerve impulses) as an antigen or foreign invader. The body then sends T-cells to destroy the myelin. Researchers at the University of Maryland have successfully inserted a nano-device in the lymph node of mice that are paralyzed by MS. This device trains the lymph nodes to reprogram the T-cells to protect and not destroy the myelin. This treatment is a one and done treatment cure for MS in mice. After a few weeks, the mouse regains their mobility. This methodology is being tested for other autoimmune diseases like Diabetes.  The company is seeking a CEO to help raise money and lead it through human trials via the FDA approval process. Do you think that trumps any app that helps you find the best happy hour (check out the video below, they do a better job explaining than I do)

Life Sciences isn’t the only technology of note coming out of the University. For instance, here are two companies that are a little further along where we successfully matched local business people with Maryland Researchers to form a company. They include:

  1. Airgility – Airgility deigns and manufactures drones differentiated from the typical multi-rotor models by incorporating the verticle take-off and landing capability of a helicopter with the speed, endurance, and payload capacity of a traditional lifting body aircraft. Designed by the University of Maryland Professor, Evandro Valenti and with serial entrepreneur and with Promode Raheja running the business end, the company is progressing nicely. The design lends itself to multiple missions and configurations. Components can be 3D printed in the field. Here’s a look at the large model.
  2. Plate Vision is a baseball home plate that can detect the position and speed that a baseball crosses their patented home plate and display the position and speed of the ball on a smartphone. Developed by two University of Maryland Professors, Dr. Chris Davis, Dr. John Rzasa, the company was formed in cooperation with the help of the University of Maryland, UM Ventures OTC. OTC helped Davis and Rzasa find the resources to create a business plan, find a CEO, Todd Levitt and garner investment from TEDCO, the State of Maryland’s, early-stage investment arm. The company recently won Best of Show at the 2019 American Coaches Association National Convention.

The big difference between these innovative products is that they represent real breakthroughs in science. Many aspects of these products are patented and it will take more than a bunch of bored kids with a few extra hours of time and a laptop to create a viable competitive product.

In my work with UM Ventures, I help these researches plan a path to take their research into companies. I work with these researches to access the commerciality of their products. I assess the investors and determine if they are willing to do what it takes to build a great company. If they are, I match them with business people who are willing to work for sweat equity and manage the business of taking these products to market.

The match between entrepreneur and University of Maryland technology was made through a partnership between the University of Maryland’s (UMD) Office of Technology Commercialization, headed by Julie Lenzor and Mindshare. Ms. Lenzer is the UMD’s, Chief Innovation Officer.

If you have experience in life sciences and are interested in working with these or other researchers… drop me a line. I’d love to hook you up.  You can contact me here by pressing that little green button.