Firms receive $900,000 in grants for jobs, tech development

SBIR-STTR program pushes start-up, other small tech companies; 6 in Lexington, one in Nicholasville

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Nine innovative Kentucky companies will receive a total of $900,000 in state matching grants to support high-paying jobs and technology development in the commonwealth, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday.

The grants are part of the commonwealth’s nationally recognized Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Matching Funds Program. The Kentucky grants match, in part, $5.12 million in federal grants the businesses will collectively receive.

“Kentucky is fortunate to have so many individuals and companies committed to developing a better tomorrow for us all, and ensuring they are in an environment to succeed is extremely important,” said Gov. Beshear. “This program helps Kentucky companies to develop cutting-edge, life-improving technology while also creating jobs in some of our country’s most high-paying fields. Kentucky is coming off a record-breaking economic year in 2021, and I look forward to the continued success and growth of the commonwealth moving forward.”

The program, overseen by KY Innovation within the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, provides critical non-dilutive capital for promising early stage tech companies by matching all or part of federal SBIR/STTR awards received by Kentucky-based businesses or companies committed to relocating to the state.

To date, KY SBIR companies have received $8 in federal or private capital for every $1 leveraged through the state’s matching funds program. These businesses also have created 715 well-paying jobs – 45% with annual salaries over $50,000 – and filed 218 patents. KY SBIR match recipients have more than $42 million in sales and licensing revenue.

The nine Kentucky-based businesses awarded matching funds are using technology to advance multiple fields, from battery technology to diabetic and cancer care. Recipient companies are:

AmDx PrognostX Inc. (Pewee Valley):
AmDx PrognostX is addressing the significant problem of identifying which prediabetic patients are at high risk for developing progressive diabetes-associated chronic diseases. They are developing a new and disruptive clinical diagnostic test that would identify and stratify prediabetic patients through a personalized approach who are at the highest risk of developing advanced diabetes-associated chronic diseases of the kidney, heart and brain.

Bluegrass Advanced Materials LLC (Lexington):
Bluegrass Advanced Materials is developing EnviroFloc, a smart flocculant system proposed to easily remove per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from drinking water and wastewater effluents, minimizing settling times and the limited regeneration ability found in current flocculant technology. The novelty of the EnviroFloc is that it combines a thermoresponsive compound (N-isopropylacrylamide (NIPAAm)) with cationic and fluorinated co-monomers, dimethylaminoethyl acrylate (DMAEA), trifluoroethyl acrylate (TFEA) and dodecafluoroheptyl acrylate (DDFHA), respectively.

Carina Medical LLC (Lexington):
Carina Medical is creating a software product to significantly increase the efficiency and reduce the cost in the planning process of cancer treatment with radiation therapy. It will build upon the patented, artificial intelligence-based techniques to perform automatic organ segmentation from medical images, to assist radiation oncologists and medical physicists in the clinical workflow. It will have a strong impact to human health and personalized medicine with better treatment outcomes and fewer side effects for many different types of cancers.

Hexalayer LLC (Louisville):
Hexalayer is focused on development and commercialization of next-generation, high-performance lithium-ion battery (LIB) technology. The goal is to overcome the challenges of adapting high-capacity graphene anode into rechargeable battery chemistry and manufacture high energy density LIBs. Commercialization of powerful batteries would have a significant worldwide impact on the energy density of current and emerging batteries in both consumer and military markets.

Hummingbird Nano Inc. (Nicholasville):
Hummingbird Nano provides advanced manufacturing of precision plastic parts with a focus on life science and biotechnology applications. Hummingbird Nano is a leading developer of configurable liquid molding (CLM) technology that replaces the hard mold with a smart liquid that can be shaped into desired forms. The company’s existing technology focuses on using the smart liquid in a static state (non-flowing) to mold precision micro-channels, micro-chambers and other micro-scale features into lab-on-a-chip systems that can be applied to very small particles to lead the way in the treatment and diagnosis of brain tumors and other brain illnesses.

Lepidext Inc. (Lexington):
Pesticide resistance is a serious threat to U.S. agriculture. Insects such as the corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea) evolve resistance so rapidly that many insecticides are already ineffective. Resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxins expressed in transgenic crops are a threat to food and fiber security. New agents and methods to combat Bt resistance are desperately needed. Lepidext has identified one such agent: InsterusHz, a sterilizing insect virus that can be a viable biocontrol against outbreaks of Bt-resistant corn earworm.

RalphVR Inc. (Lexington):
RalphVR is creating a digital therapeutic virtual reality tool to address social isolation and improve geriatric care. The innovation focus is within mHealth, a subset of digital health that uses mobile and wireless devices to improve health outcomes, health care services and health research. The VRTogether platform is a multi-user networked virtual reality application that uses proprietary algorithms to foster high levels of co-presence to mitigate the health and economic effects of social isolation and loneliness.

Signal Solutions LLC (Lexington):
Signal Solutions is developing EpiZode, a noninvasive seizure and tremor monitoring system for use in animal research, with applications for anti-epileptic and anti-tremor drug discovery. Epilepsy research traditionally uses implanted electrodes that track brain activity during seizure events, requiring invasive monitoring for several months. To date, most tremors reported in animal disease models are qualitative visual observations of the presence or absence of tremors. Signal Solutions is applying its cage-based noninvasive sensor platform to detect seizures and tremors by collecting seizure and tremor data in different rat and mouse disease models and then developing algorithms that detect specific motor output. The process is based on piezoelectric signal signatures of validated seizure or tremor events, obtained from sensors in the animal’s cage, both promoting animal welfare and reducing the cost and labor of research and drug discovery.

Synaptek LLC (Lexington):
Synaptek’s technology demonstrates the feasibility of remotely monitoring concussion symptoms using smartphone technology. Using real-time monitoring and machine learning to track and understand concussion symptoms is a completely novel technique in this field and has the potential to transform and improve clinical care by reducing the burden on patient and clinician, while also improving clinical outcomes. This technology can improve concussion rehabilitation and recovery trajectories, addressing a key need in the market.

More information on Kentucky’s SBIR/STTR Matching Funds Program is available at kyinnovation.com/sbir.

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