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UNM startups receive funding from Technology Research Collaborative

March 15, 2016

Four startups at the University of New Mexico, including three at the UNM’s Center for High Technology Materials (CHTM), were among six startup companies benefiting from $300,000 in first-round funding in an initiative announced by Gov. Susan Martinez on March 14.

The initiative will help develop and commercialize several innovative products that are the result of partnerships between researchers at New Mexico’s laboratories and universities and the private sector. It is through the Technology Research Collaborative, which Martinez reestablished in 2013. It allows teams of researchers to compete for funding to bring their ideas and products into the marketplace.

“The technology we develop and create in our labs and universities is truly incredible,” Martinez said. “We need to take full advantage of these opportunities by bringing them into the private sector. I am confident that with this funding, we can continue to invest in New Mexico’s bright technological future. And by doing so, we will create jobs, strengthen our institutions and diversify our economy.”

“The whole impetus is to promote technology that is invented in universities and labs and actually commercialize that technology for the marketplace,” said Sanjay Krishna, UNM electrical and computer engineering professor and CHTM director. “UNM received four of the six awards announced by Gov. Martinez, with three of those projects at the Center for High Technology Materials in the area of photonics."

One of UNM’s startups, Skinfrared Inc. received $62,000 as part of the TRC funding and is collaborating with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). Skinfrared Inc. was founded by Krishna, the chief technology officer, and his wife, UNM cancer biologist Sanchita Krishna, who is the chief operating officer.

Skinfrared uses infrared sensing technology developed at CHTM to develop a camera to measure heat through the skin to determine whether a lesion is malignant or benign in a non-invasive manner, with the potential to replace biopsies in the detection of skin cancer. The funding from the TRC will be used to help and support Skinfrared its development of a strategic business plan and to help Skinfrared develop its products for the market.

“Skinfrared is in a very exciting stage,” said Sanjay Krishna. “The idea was to develop these detectors for dual-use applications that can be used in a wide variety of operations, such as commercial, military, medical and others. This is really a win-win because the Air Force sees their money going towards a particular product with Skinfrared delivering the goals of the project. The TRC funds will help Skinfrared make a dua- use product.

"This is really in line with our mission which is research, creativity and innovation combined with interdisciplinary education, training and outreach in support of entrepreneurship and economic development.”

In addition to Skinfrared, the five other projects include:

• UNM will collaborate with Sandia National Laboratory and Dynamic Photonics through a $60,000 award to develop a significantly cheaper way to produce optical receivers which are used in laser-based fiber optic communications

• Through a $50,000 award, UNM will work with Pressure Analysis Corporation and Albuquerque’s own Duke City Gladiators to develop football helmets designed to lower the risk of head injuries.

 With $40,000, UNM will collaborate with the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies and OptiPulse, Inc. to commercialize new approaches to growing and expanding wireless broadband.

 With $50,000, New Mexico State University will collaborate with NMX Organic Pesticides to develop pesticide and fertilizer products to provide organic farmers with more natural options to protect their crops.

 New Mexico Tech and Los Alamos National Laboratory will use a $38,000 award to develop arsenic removal technology to purify water used in the oil and gas industry.

Gov. Martinez enacted legislation reestablishing the Technology Research Collaborative in 2013. The collaborative is made up of presidents of New Mexico’s three research universities: the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, as well several other appointees.

Together, the group works to identify projects that are of interest to New Mexico’s labs, universities, and private-sector companies, and provide them with funding to bring these ideas to the private sector.

“Commercialization is really important – it starts from the bi-plan,” Sanjay Krishna said. “The bi-plan is research and education. We need to invest in the infrastructure where companies can come in and do rapid development, but also to compete with the best, both on a national and global scale. We need to have the best infrastructure. We need to keep investing in technologies like this.”

“With tools like these, we ensure that the ideas of tomorrow are developed, made, and sold to the world – from right here in New Mexico,” Gov. Martinez concluded.