ASU announces new Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative cohort

May 25, 2012

Brent Sebold, venture manager for ASU’s Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, got to do what he loves best this week. On Monday, he sent out 20 emails notifying anxious startup founders that they had survived the final round of judging and were being invited into the Edson Accelerator Program at ASU SkySong. That prestigious invitation brings with it up to $20,000 in seed funding, a year’s worth of office space in the SkySong facility and an intensive, mentor-led acceleration program. 

The Edson Initiative is one of the largest privately funded student entrepreneurship competitions at a U.S. university.   Download Full Image

This year, 340 startup teams, representing more than 1,000 ASU students from all university disciplines, applied to be accepted into this year’s cohort. Those 340 were narrowed down to the top 30, who then pitched to an independent panel of judges comprised of Valley business leaders and successful entrepreneurs. The judges then chose the top 20 companies to receive funding and support via the Edson program during the next 12 months.

“We could not have funded such a dynamic cohort of startups without the tremendous support of our large cadre of first-round judges and our dedicated finalist judging panel,” Sebold said. “Not only did these folks give up a lot of their personal time to review first round proposals, they also provided an unprecedented amount of valuable, practical feedback to these aspiring entrepreneurs.” Sebold also gave a nod of approval to the Kauffman Foundation’s iStart platform which provided an efficient, online environment to manage the entire application and judging process.

The 26 startups in the previous Edson cohort will be wrapping up their time in the program on June 30. These companies have amassed several impressive accolades in their tenure in the Edson Accelerator. Their accolades include: Entrepreneur Magazine’s College Entrepreneur of the Year winner, Inc. Magazine’s Coolest College Startup in America winner, Sweden’s “Idea to Product” global entrepreneurship competition winner, and Department of Energy Phase I SBIR award recipient, to name just a few. 

The startups are finding business success as well, with nearly one-third of the companies in revenue and a combined total of $300,000 raised in additional funding and grants.

With those big shoes to fill, the 2012-2013 Edson Cohort has a lot to live up to, and Gordon McConnell, executive director of Venture Acceleration for ASU Venture Catalyst, thinks the incoming group will do just that.

“There is a fantastic mix of problem-solving concepts represented in this year’s group," McConnell said. "ASU’s student-run ventures are increasingly showing a real maturity in terms of solving the bigger issues that the world is currently facing. The wide variety of business models, products and services this year also highlights the wide diversity of applicants. This is a student venture competition that sees student teams enter from all four ASU campuses, from undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs throughout all disciplines and programs of study.”

While the companies who received the congratulatory email from Sebold are busy celebrating, he contends that the work is just beginning. “The hard work for the companies who were selected for funding has only just begun,” said Sebold. “I warned them that they were going to be asked to work harder than they’ve ever worked before.  And if anyone wants to help us crack the whip,” Sebold adds, “call me!  We are always looking for well-qualified mentors to work with these student startups on an ongoing basis.”

Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative’s 2012-2013

AlphaStripe is a global, online networking platform for military service members, military families, civilians and humanitarian organizations to share war-time and conflict zone stories in video, photo, audio and journal formats. Open to military personnel and civilians the world over, AlphaStripe has developed a detailed database of military branches and service units, enhancing the social connections made when their members create profiles and upload content. AlphaStripe gives their members an opportunity to save history, record memories and make connections through their unique combination of popular social media outlets.

BlockLight aims to become the leading software provider in educational and professional performing arts by improving current methods of preparation and practice. Its first product, Stage Minion, is an iPad application for performers, directors, choreographers and stage managers that will revolutionize the way that show plans are created, documented and shared.

Custom Aeroponics manufactures and sells aeroponic components to urban agriculture growers, from restaurants to individuals, who want to reduce waste water, fertilizers and increase food quality while minimizing growth time. Unlike AgriHouse or Aerofarms, we use FDA and USDA approved recyclable materials, bacteria and bio-film resistant components, and increase plant density through our unique design, giving our users a more reliable, efficient and eco-friendly  system.

FlashFood is a smartphone application and website designed to reduce food waste and feed the hungry. When the manager of a business has leftover food at the end of the night, she can create a post on our network which will notify a group of volunteer drivers to pick up the donation and deliver it to a local community center, such as a school or church. Meanwhile, qualifying subscribers to the network will receive a text alert of when and where they can pick up the donated meals.

G3Box sells medical clinics made out of converted steel shipping containers to nonprofits and NGOs that work in healthcare development and disaster response who want on-demand, fully-functional medical space for their needs. Unlike container conversion companies and nonprofits that convert containers to clinics, we capture a health care market, do not rely on a volunteer and fundraising model, and have a scalable and standardized manufacturing plan.

Innovative Healthcare Technology sells EZ PT, a virtual physical therapy program using Kinect technology, to therapists, physicians and patients who will benefit from a home therapy program that provides feedback and tracks patient compliance and performance accuracy.  Unlike the status quo, EZ PT provides immediate and consistent feedback, resulting in a more effective physical therapy delivery program, with significant cost savings.

KVZ Sports LLC is a fully integrated design and manufacturing company that provides apparel products, on demand, to action sports clients who are looking for unique ways to promote their destination or brand and lower their inventory costs. Unlike our competitors we manufacture most of our products here in the United States with much shorter lead times and the ability to deliver mid-season re-orders. Stocking inventory for them is no longer a "one-shot-deal" that needs to be finalized pre-season.

Late Living provides video tours of assisted living facilities to senior citizens and their families who want the ability to search for assisted living care without leaving the comfort of their own home.Unlike the current approach and other online directories, Late Living is the first to offer full video walkthrough tours, room availability, Facebook integration, and direct facility contact wrapped into an easy to use website. Our approach saves time, lowers stress, and aids the facilities in locating new patients they would have never otherwise found.

Mercury Innovative™ creates unique language arts and analysis software for kids & their parents, educators, and researchers. Our Text in Motion (TIM) software makes reading and writing fun and interactive for children. Our other software, called Rhetoristics®, allows communications researchers to create and analyze language models of audiences and communities.

PhycoLogial produces omega-3 enriched algae and algae oil for people who want health hearts and healthy pets. Unlike omega-3 from fish-oil our omega-3 production is sustainable and mercury free and is produced from waste nutrients using natural sunlight to lower cost.

Pollination Providers provides artificial pollination to growers who want more control over pollination and yields. Unlike bee pollination, our process does not rely on weather or healthy bee hives to create substantial agricultural yields.

Quester Galleries is a downloadable photo slide show software that creates embeddable image galleries for use in digital news venues. This technology is designed by photojournalists for photojournalists. Quester Galleries provides a simple, clean and functional option for online news companies to display compelling photography, allowing the user to focus on an image - not a poorly designed gallery. Because the technology is integrated into each website’s html, the gallery also can improve search engine optimization and web traffic analytics.

SafeSIPP is a more-than-profit venture simultaneously solving two problems facing rural communities in the developing world: transportation and purification of drinking water. SafeSIPP has designed a portable water purification system to sell to non-profit organizations and social enterprises that have established connections and relationships with rural communities in the developing world. Unlike others in the market, who only transport water, SafeSIPP adds value by both transporting and purifying large amounts contaminated water.

Seymour Enterprises provides Ella’s Monitor, a revolutionary, low-cost device that will save infants from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Unlike existing inaccurate home sensors, Ella’s Monitor will offer the accuracy of hospital grade equipment in an affordable, convenient, and easy to use package.

SmrtEn provides a subscription service to homeowners to save them 20+% on their energy bill by continuously programming WiFi home thermostats. Unlike Nest Labs, we are a cloud based service whose Artificial Algorithms are extensible to other home appliances.

Solar Stream Innovation sells packaged solar solutions to Hotels, Multifamily Housing, Elderly Care Facilities, and Hospitals who want the renewable benefits of Solar Energy with a faster return on investment and back-up power generation.  Unlike direct competition concentrating solar power technologies, we use primarily low cost, mass manufactured components to reduce installation and maintenance costs in providing valuable performance.  Also, unlike substitute photovoltaic competitors, we offer low cost reliable back-up power generation.

Sonoran Biosciences, Inc. is developing antimicrobial technology for hospitals burdened with the high cost of surgical site infections. Our proprietary product's unmatched combination of liquid properties and sustained release will provide greatly improved protection against infection.

Vantage Realized improves the quality of life for people with disabilities. Through its first product, the Mechaddy, a lever-operated device that uses a chest press motion to propel a mechanical wheelchair, it will improve mobility for manual wheelchair users who want to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome as well as joint damage from occurring to their rotator cuffs.

Veterans Now provides comprehensive and integrated student-Veteran housing communities featuring programs and services to universities who want to recruit, support, and retain Veterans. By providing student-Veteran housing, VETERANS NOW creates a strong Veteran cohort, which facilitates Veteran success as defined by higher university retention and graduation rates.

Viomics sells the next generation lung cancer test for doctors and their patients who want to detect it while it is still treatable. Viomics can detect lung cancer early enough to treat, and often cure it, substantially increasing a patient’s chances of survival.

Earlier detection of bone loss may be in future

May 28, 2012

NASA-funded research at ASU looks to isotope analysis rather than X-ray for measurement

Are your bones getting stronger or weaker? Right now, it’s hard to know. Scientists at Arizona State University and NASA are taking on this medical challenge by developing and applying a technique that originated in the earth sciences. In a new study, this technique was more sensitive in detecting bone loss than the X-ray method used today, with less risk to patients. Eventually, it may find use in clinical settings, and could pave the way for additional innovative biosignatures to detect disease. Illustration of abnormal bone density in osteoporosis Download Full Image

“Osteoporosis, a disease in which bones grow weaker, threatens more than half of Americans over age 50,” explained Ariel Anbar, senior author of the study and a professor in ASU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the School of Earth and Space Exploration in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“Bone loss also occurs in a number of cancers in their advanced stages. By the time these changes can be detected by X-rays, as a loss of bone density, significant damage has already occurred,” Anbar said. “Also, X-rays aren’t risk-free. We think there might be a better way.”

With the new technique, bone loss is detected by carefully analyzing the isotopes of the chemical element calcium that are naturally present in urine. Isotopes are atoms of an element that differ in their masses. Patients do not need to ingest any artificial tracers and are not exposed to any radiation, so there is virtually no risk, the authors noted.

The findings are presented in a paper published in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) the week of May 28. It is titled “Rapidly assessing changes in bone mineral balance using natural stable calcium isotopes.”

“The paper suggests an exciting new approach to the problem,” said Rafael Fonseca, chair of the Department of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, and a specialist in the bone-destroying disease multiple myeloma. Fonseca was not associated with the study but is partnering with the ASU team on collaborative research based on the findings.

“Right now, pain is usually the first indication that cancer is affecting bones. If we could detect it earlier by an analysis of urine or blood in high-risk patients, it could significantly improve their care,” Fonseca said.

The new technique makes use of a fact well known to earth scientists, but seldom used in biomedicine: Different isotopes of a chemical element can react at slightly different rates. When bones form, the lighter isotopes of calcium enter bone a little faster than the heavier isotopes. That difference, called “isotope fractionation,” is the key.

“Instead of isotopes of calcium, think about jelly beans,” explained Jennifer Morgan, lead author of the study. “We all have our favorite. Imagine a huge pile of jelly beans with equal amounts of six different kinds. You get to make your own personal pile, picking out the ones you want. Maybe you pick two black ones for every one of another color because you really like licorice. It’s easy to see that your pile will wind up with more black jelly beans than any other color. Therefore, the ratio of black to red or black to green will be higher in your pile than in the big one. That’s similar to what happens with calcium isotopes when bones form. Bone favors lighter calcium isotopes and picks them over the heavier ones.”

Other factors, especially bone destruction, also come into play, making the human body more complicated than the jelly bean analogy. But 15 years ago, corresponding author Joseph Skulan, now an adjunct professor at ASU, combined all the factors into a mathematical model that predicted that calcium isotope ratios in blood and urine should be extremely sensitive to bone mineral balance.

“Bone is continuously being formed and destroyed,” Skulan explained. “In healthy, active humans, these processes are in balance. But if a disease throws the balance off then you ought to see a shift in the calcium isotope ratios.”

The predicted effect on calcium isotopes is very small, but can be measured using sensitive mass spectrometry methods developed by Morgan as part of her doctoral work with Anbar, Skulan and co-author Gwyneth Gordon, an associate research scientist in the W.M. Keck Foundation Laboratory for Environmental Biogeochemistry at ASU. Co-author Stephen Romaniello, currently a doctoral student with Anbar at ASU, contributed an updated mathematical model.

The new study, funded by NASA, examined calcium isotopes in the urine of a dozen healthy subjects confined to bed (“bed rest”) for 30 days at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston’s Institute for Translational Sciences–Clinical Research Center. Whenever a person lies down, the weight-bearing bones of the body, such as those in the spine and leg, are relieved of their burden, a condition known as “skeletal unloading”. With skeletal unloading, bones start to deteriorate due to increased destruction. Extended periods of bed rest induce bone loss similar to that experienced by osteoporosis patients, and astronauts.

“NASA conducts these studies because astronauts in microgravity experience skeletal unloading and suffer bone loss,” said co-author Scott M. Smith, NASA nutritionist. “It’s one of the major problems in human spaceflight, and we need to find better ways to monitor and counteract it. But the methods used to detect the effects of skeletal unloading in astronauts are also relevant to general medicine.”

Lab analysis of the subjects’ urine samples at ASU revealed that the new technique can detect bone loss after as little as one week of bed rest, long before changes in bone density are detectable by the conventional approach, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA).

Importantly, it is the only method, other than DEXA, that directly measures net bone loss.

“What we really want to know is whether the amount of bone in the body is increasing or decreasing”, said Morgan.

Calcium isotope measurements seem poised to assume an important role in detecting bone disease – in space, and on Earth. The team is working now to evaluate the technique in samples from cancer patients.

“This is a ‘proof-of-concept’ paper,” explained Anbar “We showed that the concept works as expected in healthy people in a well-defined experiment. The next step is to see if it works as expected in patients with bone-altering diseases. That would open the door to clinical applications.”

However, the concept extends even beyond bone and calcium, the authors noted. Many diseases may cause subtle changes in element isotope abundances, or in the concentrations of elements. These sorts of signatures have not been systematically explored in the development of biosignatures of cancers and other diseases.

“The concept of inorganic signatures represents a new and exciting approach to diagnosing, treating and monitoring complex diseases such as cancer,” stated Anna Barker, director of Transformative Healthcare Networks and co-director of the Complex Adaptive Systems Initiative in the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU. Barker, who came to ASU after being deputy director of the National Cancer Institute, emphasized the simplicity of the approach compared to the challenges of deciphering complex genome-derived data, adding “there is an opportunity to create an entirely new generation of diagnostics for cancer and other diseases.”

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Human Research Program and specifically the Human Health and Countermeasures Element and the Flight Analogs Project supported this work. Bed rest studies were supported in part by the National Center for Research Resources, National Institutes of Health.

Written by Jenny Green.

Ariel Anbar,
Joseph Skulan,

Carol Hughes,