Executive Interview: cycleWood Solutions

This month we interviewed Kevin Oden, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of cycleWood  Solutions.  cycleWood Solutions specializes in biodegradable and compostable thermoplastic that can be applied in a variety of commercial plastics, including cups, plates, and bags.

cycleWood Solutions has recently introduced their innovative new resin called Xylomer. Why Xylomer?

  • Various Applications: Xylomer can be applied in a variety of commercial plastics, including flexible films and injection molded applications.  It can be blended with compostable polymers to be 100% biodegradable.  Or, it can be blended with other plastics, which create more environmentally friendly plastic substitutes.
  • Sustainability: Xylomer is composed of modified lignin, a part of the tree that has thus far been discarded by the paper manufacturing industry.  Utilizing an abundant byproduct rather than cutting down trees makes Xylomer very sustainable.
  • Environmental Impacts: Compostable materials using Xylomer fully break down in 90 days once in a composting facility.  Other blends decrease our dependence on oil-based plastics.
  • Government Regulation: Our technology can be adopted to make products compliant with ongoing government efforts to improve the environmental impacts of plastics.

Q.  Can you give our readers a brief overview of how cycleWood Solutions began?

A.  CycleWood Solutions Inc. was founded on the idea and the guiding principle that sustainable alternatives can be substituted for materials produced from fossil fuels. Today, cycleWood is the global leader in commercialized modified lignin with a strong intellectual property portfolio consisting of process and product trade secrets, 6 allowed patents, 2 pending patents, and 3 registered trademarks.  The company began working with lignin modifications in the fall of 2011 and developed a commercially scalable process by the end of 2013. The following year this technology was brought on-line with partner production facilities, and by the end of 2014 cycleWood’s compostable trash bag, the Xylobag™, was on retail store shelves and available online.  In less than three years, cycleWood has taken an idea from concept to development to commercialization.  CycleWood also garnered several awards and accolades along the way, including a Bronze Edison Award in 2012.  Most importantly, the National Science Foundation recognized the significance of cycleWood’s work by awarding the company Phase I and Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grants totaling nearly $900k.  In addition to these grants, cycleWood is also eligible for a Phase IIB award that provides a 50% match to outside investment up to $1 million dollars.

Q.  I see on your website a case study of your product in Houston, Texas. What other cities and groups are embracing your technology?

A.   Over the past 2 years, cycleWood has worked with the Retail Products Group (RPG), a division of NCH Corporation, to conceptualize, develop, and launch several modified lignin-based products, most notably the Greenpups™ pet waste bags.

We are also working with Carts and Parts to expand our XylobagTM line into other markets and retail chains.

Q.  What are your visions for cycleWood Solutions over the next 5-10 years?

A. We envision cycleWood’s technology to be incorporated into many products as the market for bioplastics grows over the next 5-10 years. We see a great opportunity for collaboration with one of our partners by incorporating our technology into their production processes allowing us to create a low cost, plastic alternative.

Q.  Are you currently raising capital?

A.  CycleWood is currently raising an additional round of funding to finance operations through 2016. CycleWood is currently raising an additional round of funding to finance operations through 2016.

Q.  Any additional comments?

A.  Lignin is a waste product of the paper making process. Historically, this natural polymer has low value in paper manufacturing or specialty chemicals, generally viewed as byproduct in material processing.  Lignin is a hydrophobic, organic polymer naturally occurring in the cell walls of plants.  Numerous methods have been developed to remove lignin from plant fibers, which generally gets burned to generate electricity.  CycleWood has used a significant portion of their funding to re-engineer the chemistry related to creating the modified lignin.  Part of the BPI compostable certification process was qualifying cycleWood’s modified lignin as a natural material.  This was done through a biobased carbon analysis, ASTM D6866-12 Method B.  The testing was done by a certified independent lab, and the analysis showed that the modified lignin carbon composition was 96% or greater biobased carbon.  This illustrates how minor a modification cycleWood’s process makes to the original lignin.

Since lignin is produced during the paper manufacturing process, no additional trees or plants need to be harvested to access this abundant raw material.  CycleWood’s technology makes more efficient use of existing natural resources.  The compostable Xylobag™ is cycleWood’s flagship product, and it demonstrates one of the many applications in which lignin can be used as a substitute for traditional petroleum based plastics.  However, the modified lignin can be used in a variety of applications and processing methods.  For example, cycleWood’s modified lignin can be incorporated into a masterbatch as a lower cost renewable and compostable functional additive.  It is compatible with various common polymers such as polypropylene (PP) and linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE).  When combined with fossil fuel based polymers, it reduces the carbon impact of the polymer system.  Depending on the application, it can be used at loadings of 30-50%.  It is also compatible with biodegradable aliphatic polyesters to create a renewable, biodegradable plastic solution.  The material has higher compatibility with aliphatic polyesters with load rates of 40-60% for certain applications.  The resulting materials maintain good elasticity and appear to have improved tear resistance.  Lignin also improves the flexural modulus or stiffness of the resulting product, and lignin adds some UV protection and antioxidant properties.

 

 

Myomo: Offering Myoelectric Orthotics

Myomo is a Cambridge, Massachusetts based startup that specializes in offering myoelectric orthotics to those with neurological disorders including neuromuscular conditions resulting from a stroke, ALS, brain or spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis or brachial plexus injury.

The Myomo technology was first established at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in partnership with medical specialists from Harvard Medical School. The company’s first device was the e100 System approved by the FDA back in 2007, followed by the mPower 1000 myoelectric system in 2012. The same year (2012) also saw the introduction of the third generation of Myomo’s MyoPro custom fit orthosis.

Myomo’s technology works on the basis of sensors attached to the arm braces that it offers. Typically, those affected by strokes or other afflictions with similar consequences, suffer from particularly weak muscles and nerve signals. This renders the affected limbs to be partially paralyzed. Once Myomo’s arm braces are attached, picking up nerve signals becomes much easier. These nerve signals in turn switch on a motor near the elbow that puts the brace into motion, letting users to flex their arms with ease.

Eventually – in line with the mission of the company, those afflicted by neuromuscular disability can perform basic functions at home, at the workplace or in the community, once they have the arm brace attached. Thus reduced healthcare costs and a vastly improved quality of life are the primary value propositions offered by Myomo.

The management team at Myomo is led by Paul R. Gudonis as its CEO with Steve Kelly serving as its Chairman, President and Chief Operating Officer. Both Paul and Steve are core members of the Board of Directors at Myomo as well.

Interest and awareness around Myomo has been significant within a fairly short time frame. This in turn has helped Myomo to garner funding for itself with reasonable ease. In 2013 it raised $7 million, which was followed by $1.7 million in 2014 and $5 million in 2015. Nashville based Mountain Group Capital a prominent venture capital firm specializing in medical devices and technology investments has been the frontrunner in most investments made in Myomo till date.

This is after initial hiccups faced by the company when sales weren’t to the level that was expected; for instance, back in 2009, only three medical centers across the United States had actually purchased its devices. This straightaway led to a situation where Myomo had to drastically cut back on costs, reducing its staff by 66 percent and also adapting a business model that was more inclined to the virtual.

Current trends though clearly point towards a massive comeback where both sales and funding have come with ease. This has also led to numerous partnerships that Myomo has formed with relevant entities. For instance, in May 2015, Myomo partnered with United Spinal Association to raise awareness around the wide range of benefits that came with Myomo’s MyoPro myoelectric upper limb orthosis. Then in July 2015, Myomo partnered with YoungStroke, a nonprofit that strives to create awareness around young adult stroke survivors, addressing their unique needs as well as that of their caregivers.

In conclusion, it must be said that Myomo has an excellent product offering with a potential target group that exceeds millions in the domestic market alone, given the number of Americans afflicted with ALS, multiple sclerosis, brain or spinal cord injury, brachial plexus injury, and strokes. Together with the potential that it has globally for its arm braces, Myomo is clearly poised for prolific growth in ensuing times.

Executive Interview: TypeZero Technologies

Q:  Can you explain what TypeZero is doing?

A:  TypeZero is a healthcare technology company based in Charlottesville that revolutionizes the way the world manages and treats Diabetes. The company’s core technology, the inControl Diabetes Intelligence Platform, consists of a proprietary software “engine” that makes use of mobile electronics to integrate the medical devices used in the treatment of diabetes (Insulin pumps, CGMs and SMBG meters) into an effective, interoperable network that enables safer, more effective blood glucose management.

One of the most powerful implementations of this solution, commonly referred to as “artificial pancreas” technology, transforms a patient’s role in managing his or her blood glucose from hour-to-hour, active decision-making and modification to periodic supervision of a trustworthy, automated, and intelligent closed-loop system. In addition to its Artificial Pancreas software platform, TypeZero is developing a suite of cloud based applications and analytical services, which utilize its core algorithms to provide risk analysis, prediction, clinician advice, patient support and training for patients, caregivers, clinicians and insurers.

TypeZero’s team coalesced while developing the world’s most advanced research-focused  “artificial pancreas” program at UVA’s Center for Diabetes Technology.

All of TypeZero’s technologies are designed to empower patients, clinicians, and caregivers by dramatically improving glycemic control.  By successfully delivering on this goal TypeZero can practically eliminate the human and economic costs associated with the diabetes epidemic, which accounts for more than $240 billion in health care costs annually in the U.S. alone.

TypeZero’s business model reflects the flexibility of its core technology, combining direct revenues from applications and service subscriptions, royalties from partner products and white-labeled data services.

Q:  When and how did your company get its start?

A:  TypeZero was founded in 2013 when Chad Rogers, a serial entrepreneur in the software and medical device industry, was introduced to a number of leaders at UVA’s Center for Diabetes Technology (CDT).  Dr. Kovatchev, Dr. Patek, Dr. Breton and Dr. Keith-Hynes, the inventors of TypeZero’s technology assets and intellectual property, had spent more than a decade working on advancing the field of diabetes management, most specifically Artificial Pancreas (AP) solutions.  The founding team recognized the incredible progress made from more than 7 years of clinical trials in this field and the maturity of the software platform and decided to revolutionize the treatment and management of diabetes by starting a new company to commercialize this groundbreaking research.

Core technology is based on 10+ years of research and development at the UVA Center for Diabetes Technology.

Stats:

  • NIH, JDRF, UVA, Helmsley, and others have invested more than $12.5 million
  • Technology has been subject to over 134,000 hours of human clinical trials with over 425 patients
  • 24 FDA-approved IDE trials at 9 sites worldwide
  • 18 patents issued or pending

Q:  What are your visions for TypeZero over the next 5-10 years?

A:  First, we need to ensure that our diabetes management technology works seamlessly with all devices currently available in the market in order to provide end-users the choice to select the devices they desire based on their very own lifestyle. Fulfilling this goal will require strong partnerships with current device makers and standardization of data management standards, all of which requires a coordinated and combined effort from everyone involved in the industry.

Second, we seek to extend the flexibility of our capabilities to also cater to Type 2 Diabetic patients. This will require us to work together with existing payors to tackle the growing challenge of Type 2 and helping improve patient lifestyle through actionable data analytics.

Finally, we believe that we are merely scratching the surface of what data management and processing can do for healthcare. We will continue to research and develop our technological capabilities to cover a wider range of chronic diseases, with the aim to improve healthcare management.

Q:  Are you currently raising capital?

A:  To date, TypeZero has raised seed capital and been awarded an SBIR Phase 1 grant and can leverage more than $20 million of NIH funding to run future clinical trials but in order to capitalize on this opportunity TypeZero will need to raise its Series A.  The company is looking close its Series A in fall 2015 and is looking to close approximately $5.0 million to produce the first commercially viable version of its inControl Diabetes Intelligence Platform.

Q:  Do you have any additional comments?

A:  Anyone wishing to contact TypeZero for investment opportunities should contact Chad Rogers, CEO at rogers@typezero.com.

University of New Mexico Spinout, Comet Solutions, Raises Additional Venture Capital Funds

Comet Solutions, a software engineering firm which has commercialized technology developed at the University of New Mexico has received another $3.5 million investment to continue developing and marketing its simulation software platform for product design.

The company, which launched in 2004, has now received almost $14 million from venture funds including the New Mexico Angels. Backers include Athenian Venture Partners, Flywheel Ventures, the Tri-State Growth Capital Fund and Sun Mountain Capital.

Comet Solutions markets simulation software for engineering firms that integrates all product development into a single platform. That allows design engineers to fully share information and collectively coordinate product development. Comet Solutions® provides software and services that simplify the complex process of engineering product systems. Comet has developed a suite of powerful and web-deployable SimApps™, which embed expert knowledge and methods, but remove the complexity of general purpose Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) tools. SimApps make design-driven simulation suitable for use by everyone from CAE experts to design engineers. With Comet SimApps, companies exploit the full potential of their existing CAD/CAE/PLM tools and resources by exploring more design alternatives, enabling product innovation and the rapid development of higher quality and more cost-effective products.

Solution-specific Simulation Applications (SimApps) are targeted, easy-to-use applications that drive complex simulation templates, and speak the language of the user/engineer. SimApps allow product designers and engineers, without expertise in the use of simulation tools, to safely and quickly evaluate their designs using complex simulations.

In company press releases Comet Solutions CTO, Malcolm Panthaki said “Simulation has been the exclusive domain of too few for too long. It’s time to put to rest the notion that simulation cannot be safely used unless you have deep expertise in the art of extracting reasonable results from today’s simulation software. Comet SimApps deliver the full power of simulation to everyone who needs it, from a salesman who needs to understand the feasibility and cost of a design that meets customer requirements, to a systems engineer who wishes to accurately compare the relative tradeoffs of various architectures, to design engineers who need accurate and rapid assessments of the change in performance of a design variation, to a junior engineer who is still learning the intricacies of CAE codes.”

Comet has gained market traction with manufacturers in the U.S. and in Asian countries, including aerospace, automotive and electronics firms. Customers include companies such as American Axle & Manufacturing, Magnum Pi Automotive and Intel Corp. The company has made significant market progress in Asia, including in China, where it has five distribution partners and operates a local office. Comet also has a software development team based in India.

 

Executive Interview:  Guy Soreq

This month we interviewed Guy Soreq, Marketing Manager at GlowLit a startup company from Columbia University. GlowLit is the world’s most transparent pricing database community that is changing the way purchasing managers’ plan for their Raw Material purchases.

GlowLit holds a growing database of Raw Material prices. Unlike other pricing data base sites, all of this information is entirely shared by those who know the product best — the purchasing managers. All done anonymously, no other site allows you to see recent delivered prices of Raw Materials in your location.

Q.  Can you explain in layman’s terms what GlowLit does?

GlowLit presents a new business model to the market research industry. Instead of charging money from buyers of raw material, GlowLit offers buyers a free platform to compare raw material prices. By collecting data points from small buyers that up until now did not get served by the market research, GlowLit is able to paint a picture of global supply and demand, information that manufacturers of raw material crave for.

Q.  How did your company get its start?

I have been working as a chemical sales person all of my life. After working at McKinsey and Company, I was hired by Solvay to sell specialty products to unique buyers. It was at that role that I saw the need for information, both from the manufacturer and the seller side. Specific courses at Columbia Business School allowed me to connect several dots and build what GlowLit is today.

Q.  What are your potential markets?

GlowLit’s services are applicable to any B2B company that buys raw materials. Among the industries the platform currently serves are Plastics, Petrochemicals, Oil and Gas, Pharmaceutical products and food manufacturing.

Q. What are your visions for GlowLit over the next 5-10 years?

Many industries today have a transparent pricing system. A customer that goes into BestBuy can check with a flick of a finger what the new gadget will cost them if they bought it from Amazon. GlowLit will offer that level of service but to purchases worth millions of dollars, in every manufacturing industry, in every corner of the earth.