October 18-20 | Tucson, AZ

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Venture fund puts $6 million into UCSD inventions

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October 18-20, 2023 / Tucson, AZ
The annual summit for research institution gap fund and accelerator programs, including proof of concept programs, startup accelerators, and university venture funds

The Story

Two technologies from UC San Diego – a saliva diagnostics sensor and foam that can generate power – have been selected for up to $6 million in funding by local start-up investor NextWave Venture Partners.

The deals highlight NextWave’s business model of licensing promising technologies from universities and research institutes. It has named its latest investments MouthSense and SmartFoam.

MouthSense, invented by nanoengineering professor Joseph Wang and electrical/computer engineering professor Patrick Mercier, is a saliva-based diagnostic sensor that reads bio-markers for a variety of health conditions.”We’re looking to develop a suite of products,” said Sean Clottu, chief marketing officer at NextWave. “For consumers, we’re focused on telemedicine.”

NextWave envisions a test where patients could place the sensor on their tongue to get readings on blood oxygen, blood glucose and uric acid – potential indicators of diabetes and gout. The technology also could be used to monitor athletes’ hydration or stress levels in soldiers and pilots.

Wang and Mercier are part of UCSD’s Center for Wearable Sensors. They remain as advisers to the company.

SmartFoam taps motion to generate an electrical charge. It’s made of piezoelectric nanoparticles and a silicon-based organic polymer and was invented by nanoengineering professor Donald Sirbuly.

SmartFoam could power sensors in running shoes to give more accurate readings of steps, pressure points and balance. It also could be used in the $14 billion mattresses industry for measuring sleep patterns. Sirbuly is an adviser to the company.

“Developing imaginative and problem-solving products at our public university is an obligation we have to those who invest in us,” said Paul Roben, associate vice chancellor for innovation at UCSD. “These inventions, among many others, are an indication that our innovation ecosystem is thriving.”

There’s still a lot of work to do before MouthSense and SmartFoam show up in products. But NextWave is patient. It typically holds its companies for six to nine years.

“We invest in technologies across the nation, but we’re really excited about the level of talent and ideas being developed right here in San Diego,” said Jeff Slosar, founder and managing partner of NextWave.

To keep costs down, NextWave’s core executives provide pooled finance, marketing, technology and other services to its young firms until they generate meaningful sales. Then NextWave hires outside executives to take the reins.

Founded in 2010, NextWave raised $20 million in its initial fund, with Quad Geometrics its top investment. Spun out of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Quad Geometrics measures sea-floor gravity and surface elevation changes for the offshore oil drilling industry.

NextWave is raising a second, $150 million fund, which it expects to invest in up to 30 technologies over the next two years. So far, it has raised about $26 million in the second fund. It is targeting investments toward bio-printing, artificial intelligence, connected health, sensing, advanced materials, digital software and nanostructures. Fred Luddy, founder of publicly traded software firm ServiceNow, is one of the initial investors.

Source: Venture fund puts $6 million into UCSD inventions

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