A talented vascular surgeon’s idea is now one of three dialysis devices – and the only one on the East Coast – part of the federal Food and Drug Administration's innovative fast-track approval program.
The doctoral work of a Clemson University advanced materials Ph.D. is giving wounded U.S. soldiers better control and ability with prosthetic devices.
Both are new technology ventures in South Carolina, and both received cash infusions from SC Launch at critical times that allowed them to move forward with innovative product development.
SC Launch, a collaboration of the South Carolina Research Authority and research institutions in the Palmetto State, assists startup companies with counseling, seed funding and access to a network of resources.
Forbes magazine in 2010 recognized SC Launch as one of the top five programs in the nation that support entrepreneurship, and in 2011 it was named nonprofit organization of the year by the American Business Awards for leading collaborative entrepreneurial and economic development efforts.
With Clemson University, the University of South Carolina, and the Medical College of South Carolina – combined with the South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA), state-of-the art laboratories and business acceleration facilities – fledgling businesses have powerful tools for technology development and commercialization.
Bridging the Gap
CreatiVasc Medical, which is working closely with the FDA, received two $200,000 grants from SC Launch. The first allowed the company to build a network of investors and raise $3.5 million in private equity. The second meant product enhancements and the start of human clinical trials.
“Their infusions came at a very critical time where the company could have gone either way,” says CEO Steve Johnson.
SensorTech is another success story. The company develops smart polymers that boost the ability of other devices by conducting electricity through embedded sensors. Applications include medical devices and consumer electronics – the patent-pending technology, which can measure force, pressure, torque or impact, can be made into any shape or size.
“What SC Launch does is help young companies begin to build the infrastructure they need, identify and develop a management team and physical presence,” says David Myers, SensorTech’s CEO. "That initial development is really critical to help get a company off the ground.”
SensorTech and CreatiVasc, both based in Greenville, were among the first companies to receive seed money from SC Launch. Since its start in 2006, the agency has made grants to or investments in 251 companies across six sectors: advanced materials, life sciences, information technology, energy, transportation and chemical and engineering process.
Those companies have raised $167 million in angel, venture and other capital. Receiving SC Launch funding means a young company already has met important benchmarks and sends a strong signal to other potential investors, Myers says.
SCRA itself is an applied research and commercialization services corporation started by the state legislature in 1983 to help develop technology-based industries in South Carolina.
It has evolved into a self-sustaining organization that wins research contracts from the U.S. government and private corporations and uses proceeds to invest in state-grown new technology. Its status as a federal contractor, especially with the Department of Defense and Department of Energy, allows qualification of SC Launch companies as federal subcontractors, creating a win-win-win for all parties involved, says Bill Mahoney, CEO of SCRA.
“We have a happier end customer, we earn incremental revenue and non-diluted cash,” Mahoney says. “It is like an ecosystem. We’ve built a technology-based economic development program on a business footing. The thing pays for itself.”