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Companies with VUSE ties awarded $3.8 million in grants


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Six early-stage companies with ties to School of Engineering faculty, students and alumni have been awarded federal Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer grants and matching funds from Launch Tennessee totaling more than $3.8 million.

Highly competitive, the SBIR and STTR programs encourage domestic small businesses to engage in federal research and development to accelerate technology commercialization, innovation and job creation.

The Wond’ry and the Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization contributed to the startups’ growth in various capacities, from assisting with ideation and R&D to facilitating invention disclosures and commercialization services.

The companies and amounts received are:

ARMS Cyber, co-founded by brothers Brad Potteiger, MS ’16, PhD ’19, and Tim Potteiger, MS ’17. They have pioneered moving target defense, a new method of cybersecurity. The team also includes PhD candidate Patrick Musau, MS ‘20, and Michael Bryant, MBA ‘20, who is CEO. SBIR/STTR: $50,000; LaunchTN: $50,000.

EndoTheia, which was founded by Robert Webster, Richard A. Schroeder Professor of Mechanical Engineering. The company, a collaborative effort among engineers, roboticists and clinicians, is developing next-generation medical devices with more flexibility and dexterity for endoscopy. Patrick Andersen, PhD ‘20, is lead mechanical engineer. SBIR/STTR: $618,000; LaunchTN: $300,000.

HeroWear, which was co-founded by Karl Zelik, associate professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering and physical medicine and rehabilitation. Its first product, Apex, is an exosuit for men and women built to reduce back strain. Matt Yandell, PhD ‘19, is chief innovation officer. SBIR/STTR: $50,000; LaunchTN: $100,000.

SkyNano, founded by Anna Douglas, PhD ‘18. The company’s patented technology relies on electrochemistry, rather than solely catalysis, to efficiently convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into useful functional nanomaterials. SBIR/STTR: $200,000; LaunchTN: $100,000.

Virtuoso Surgical, Inc., co-founded by Webster. The Virtuoso system features a pair of instrument delivery arms that mimic a surgeon’s hands to offer greater control and dexterity to rigid endoscopic surgeries. The needle-size manipulators are nearly 10 times smaller than other robotic instruments.SBIR/STTR: $1.6 million; LaunchTN: $300,000.

YAYA Scientific, founded by Justin Baba, research associate professor of biomedical engineering. develops innovative diagnostic, therapeutic and integrated hardware solutions, including for noninvasive detection and identification of nerves during surgery. SBIR/STTR: $333,000; LaunchTN: $100,000.

CTTC worked with three of the companies, EndoTheia Inc., Virtuoso Surgical Inc. and Yaya Scientific LLC. ARMS Cyber Defense worked with the Wond’ry. HeroWear LLC and SkyNano LLC worked with both the Wond’ry and CTTC.

“Programs like Launch Tennessee’s SBIR/STTR matching fund grants are of immense importance to universities and research institutions in helping to leverage investments made by federal agencies through the SBIR and STTR programs,” said said Peter Rousos, director of economic and new venture development at CTTC. “Matching fund grants have benefitted a significant number of startups that have their roots at Vanderbilt.”

The SBIR and STTR programs are among the largest sources of early-stage, non-dilutive capital for technology commercialization in the U.S. They allow small businesses with strong potential for commercialization to engage in federal research and development. Launch Tennessee is a public-private partnership with a vision to make Tennessee the most startup-friendly state in the nation, offering entrepreneurs what they need to successfully build companies and create jobs in Tennessee.