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TEDCO initiative touts successful 2018 with eye on the future

Airgility was one of seven companies to receive a $150,000 investment from TEDCO's Maryland Innovation Initiative during the 2018 fiscal year. Pictured are Pramod Raheja, Andrew Lent, Carissa Arillo and Evandro Valente. (Submitted photo)

Airgility was one of seven companies to receive a $150,000 investment from TEDCO’s Maryland Innovation Initiative during the 2018 fiscal year. Pictured are Pramod Raheja, Andrew Lent, Carissa Arillo and Evandro Valente. (Submitted photo)

TEDCO’s Maryland Innovation Initiative funded seven startups and 38 technology assessment grants during fiscal year 2018, the fifth year of a program designed to increase startup activity at Maryland’s universities as the program saw its biggest success yet.

The $5.6 million in funding last year also came with the program’s biggest success story to date — the acquisition of Harpoon Medical by Edwards Lifesciences Corp. in a $100 million deal that could end up being worth up to $150 million.

“(The initiative) is a real staple here at TEDCO,” said George Davis, the CEO of TEDCO. “Probably more than any other program here, it encompasses the full aspect of our mission.”

That mission is to discover and foster innovation and technology and develop companies that can stay and grow in Maryland.

An important part of the Harpoon Medical deal was a commitment to keep the company’s Baltimore offices.

The Maryland Innovation Initiative has focused on growing the tech transfer practices at Johns Hopkins University; Morgan State University; the University of Maryland, College Park; the University of Maryland, Baltimore; and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Over the program’s lifespan it has funded $29 million in 56 startups that have attracted $155 million in follow-on funding and five exits. Another 22 companies also spun companies out of technology grants through the program.

The Harpoon acquisition was the biggest success, showing that the initiative can work to create companies that bring jobs and investment to Maryland.

While that deal was proof of a success, TEDCO wants three-to-four Harpoons coming out every year. TEDCO hopes the companies the innovation initiative funded this year with $150,000 investments might enjoy similar success.

Those companies are:

  • Airgility, Inc., the developer of HorseSHU, an unmanned aerial system;
  • CykloBurn Technologies, which is developing a biomass-to-energy solution that could help farms boost profits by generating electricity and capturing heat for chicken houses;
  • Freestate Optics, developing the Pitch Perfect Electronic Home Plate, a baseball training tool that tracks pitch speed, location and trajectory;
  • Living Canopies, the creator of a green patio umbrella that uses live plants to provide smart-green technology solutions for restaurants, hotel patios, street-side seating, parks, backyards and pools;
  • NextStep Robotics, which is developing a robotic device to help stroke patients who develop foot drop;
  • Radiopharmaceutical Imaging and Dosimetry, a precision dosimetry service for the pharmaceutical industry used to develop radiopharmaceutical therapeutics. They are working on developing a commercial software product; and
  • Thermohalt Technology, which is developing a battery management system for batteries used with applications in electric vehicles, aerospace, defense and medical devices.

The program also funded 38 technology assessment grants, used to look at ideas developed by professors at universities and see if they could have a commercialized product on their hands, said Arti Santhanam, the Maryland Innovation Initiative

“We look for a strong (intellectual property),” she said. “We look at whether there’s commercialization potential. It’s not just an idea on the back of napkin. It’s, ‘Does the IP have potential, and does that potential have a market?”’

CykloBurn represented another milestone for the program this year. It was the first company developed out of Morgan State’s tech transfer program. It also received a National Science Foundation grant this month.

The company’s successes are a sign that the Baltimore university is on its way to developing more companies, Santhanam said.

“They established the tech transfer office and, according to them, they are getting two disclosures every other week,” she said.

But the historically black college also represents an opportunity to really grow the diversity of Maryland’s innovation economy, Davis said.

“Part of our mission when I talk about fostering innovation, it needs to be inclusive,” he said. “Some of these institutions, we are thrilled that they are now becoming part of the party.”

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