Keeping elders safe at home
A Drexel University professor came up with an idea that our team developed into a first of kind passive monitoring system for elders living at home alone. Our team of database experts, application specialists, hardware and firmware developers, and leading eldercare medical professionals, brought to market a system of motion detectors and machine learning algorithms that measured the normal activities of seniors and recognized the changes when they became ill and automatically notified their caregivers. We saved many lives, and gave piece of mind to thousands; eventually selling the company to GE Healthcare. Our investors did well too.
Why four hours?
We optioned from Princeton University the rights to a highly sensitive device for measuring gaseous ammonia. Originally this device was used to measure ammonia in the atmosphere for environmental studies. We recognized an alternative use - measuring microscopic amounts of ammonia found in human breath. Measuring ammonia in human blood has many complications but it is a valuable measurement for diagnosing familial hyperammonemia, a rare genetic disorder and measuring the level of conditioning of professional athletes.
We identified the driving commercial opportunity as "real-time" monitoring of the progress of dialysis. Most patients have three dialysis sessions per week, for 3-4 hours per session. The efficacy of dialysis is measured using blood tests that track the reduction of nitrogen waste products in blood.
Several clinical studies have shown that ammonia levels in breath correlate closely with the amount of nitrogenous waste products in blood, suggesting that an ammonia breath test to could be used to measure dialysis efficacy in real time. Further, several groups found evidence that some patients might be over-doing their dialysis and didn't need to undergo a full 3-4 hour session. Ending a session early would save patients time and discomfort, and could be a big cost savings to dialysis centers.
In conjunction with our due diligence we simultaneously developed sources for device components, assemblers, and a range of strategic partners.
In one memorable due diligence meeting late in the process, a senior expert brought us to an Medicare advisory panel that informed us that the Medicare was moving away from using measurements of nitrogen waste in blood as the primary measurement for dialysis efficacy - instead moving to measuring amount of excess fluid removed from the patent. Thus our breath test would be no longer fit the standard of care. Even with investors ready to invest, we decided that the market had changed. Better to have learned earlier rather than later.
After nearly a year of effort, we let our IP rights expire and provided the Princeton Office of Technology Licensing with all of our corporate presentation materials, and 40+ page review on this technology and its utility in a range of commercial applications.
Reducing the carbon footprint, black to green to grey
Sometimes the best green technologies cannot compete economically. We were brought in to help turn around a green energy company that was converting wood pellets into high octane gasoline. The process was too complicated and likely would never scale commercially. Bringing our scientific and market expertise to bear, we helped refocus technology development, turn the company from a green fuel producer to a “grey” hydrocarbon producer, positioned the company as a niche provider of small scale production, and negotiated commercial supply and offtake agreements for new plants throughout North America.
Fantastic technology…too small of a market at this time
There are more than a few smart people working at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratories. So, we partnered with a couple particle physicists (you know, the guys who work on fusion!) to develop a technology for a new type of flowmeter that could measure the flow rate of conductive fluids without tapping into the pipe. Their invention worked in the lab and was able to measure the flow rate of liquids with great accuracy and at a fraction of the cost of traditional flow meters (an $8 billion market). The only issue was that the liquids in their lab were liquid metals, with very high conductivity, and there aren’t exactly a lot of people who need to measure the flow rate of liquid metals. We knew we needed to tap into larger markets, and that meant getting the technology to work with more common materials. After building a test system and several prototypes, we were unable to demonstrate the ability of the technology to work with less conductive fluids, like acids and other aqueous solutions. Thus, we deemed that there was not enough of a market to further pursue. It was still fun to work with some of the smartest people on the planet.