Announcing 2022 START Winners

by Stacy Swider

June 8, 2022 - It’s that time of year when we announce our new cohort of “START” winners.

Now in its eleventh year, MassVentures’ START Program provides non-dilutive grant funding to Massachusetts-based start-ups to help them convert research developed under SBIR and STTR* contracts into businesses and jobs. It’s a highly effective program that has awarded a total of $31.2 million to 105 companies that have gone on to raise more than $4 billion and employ 2,500+ people in the Commonwealth, since 2012.

Before I unveil this year’s exciting group of winners, I want to say a few words about the process. While I can’t speak for the companies that participate, it’s quite fun for us here at MassVentures. First, we collect, cajole, and corral over 100 successful, talented people to volunteer as independent reviewers and judges. (Thank you judges!) Then we open our applicant portal to a host of impressive small companies who have won an SBIR Phase II.

This year, we had 88 first round (Stage 1) applicants!

After the application deadline, we farm-out applications to our reviewers, who carefully read, consider, and score 7-10 applications each—and the effort and thoughtfulness they put in is quite humbling. The top twenty Stage 1 scorers move on to a Pitch Day, and ten of these companies win awards. The previous Stage 1 and 2 winners are also invited back to give an updated pitch to a panel of judges.

And voila’! Ten new companies Stage 1 are chosen for a $100,000 award, five previous winners are selected to win a $200,000 Stage 2 award, and two third-year participants are selected for a $500,000 Stage 3 award. In all, we disburse 3 million dollars annually to MA-based deep-tech startups. Because federal SBIR grants may only be spent on R&D and overhead, the non-restricted funds are needed for patents, marketing, sales, and other business activities. Thus, START helps convert research into businesses and jobs in MA.

And now….the winners! We are pleased to support this fascinating group of entrepreneurs developing biomedical innovations that save or improve people’s lives, cutting edge AI and cybersecurity, and environmental technologies from biodegradable plastics to advanced energy efficient windows to geothermal power generation.

STAGE 1 (Awards of $100,000)

ActivSignal LLC (Natick): Novel biotechnology research tool (“Multiplex Paired-antibody Amplified Detection”) for analyzing the activity of multiple cell signaling pathways in one reaction. Applications include a surveillance diagnostic for early detection of pancreatic cancer, and a method for tracking COVID-19 proteins in wastewater for community health monitoring.

Aeroshield Materials (Hyde Park): Novel technology for improving the energy efficiency of windows. Aeroshield’s transparent aerogel sheets can be dropped into existing window manufacturing, creating a window that is 50 percent more insulating than traditional double-pane windows with a payback period that is 3 to 5 times faster than a triple-pane of similar performance.  

Ambergen, Inc. (Watertown): Their Miralys reagents will revolutionize disease diagnosis and drug therapy by providing a more powerful method for researchers and clinicians to image biomarkers in tissue.

Eden Geotech (Somerville): Developing a novel and environmentally safer electro-hydraulic fracturing technology that increases geothermal power generation and reduces total water consumption, waste, and carbon emission.

EnVision Endoscopy (Waltham): Developing a novel suturing device for flexible endoscopy for tissue approximation and management of large gastrointestinal defects.

Gradient Technologies (Boston): Cybersecurity software platform, powered by the world’s most secure processors, that prevents breaches and is deployable to any endpoint from IoT devices to on-premises servers, BYOD laptops, and cloud native containerized infrastructure. 

Jaxon, Inc.  (Boston): Developing an AI-powered data labeling and training platform that helps build customized, fully-trained AI models with minimal human supervision. See their press release.

KSE, Inc. (Sunderland): Developing specialized catalysts and reaction systems to improve technologies that cost-effectively convert biomass into renewable fuels and chemicals.  

Pathmaker Neurosystems (Boston): Developing MyoRegulator, the first non-invasive treatment for post-stroke muscle spasticity using neuromodulation. It has been designated by the FDA as a "breakthrough" medical device. (See their press release.)

Radical Plastics, Inc. (Beverly): Developing economically attractive, biodegradable plastics to address the global problem of plastics pollution.

STAGE 2 (Awards of $200,000)

Aclarity (Hadley) Developing electrochemical systems that cost-effectively destroy various contaminants in water and is the first to commercialize a system for permanently destroying PFAS compounds, the “forever chemicals.”

Extend Biosciences (Newton) Technology that improves half-life and bioavailability of peptides. Company's lead product is a long-acting parathyroid hormone for treating hypoparathyroidism.

Leuko Labs Inc., (Boston) The first non-invasive white cell test, enabling frequent at-home monitoring to improve clinical outcomes and quality of life for chemotherapy patients. 

Mesodyne (Somerville) Developing a new type of power generator, Light-Cell, that produces electricity from any fuel, quietly and reliably. These energy-dense, compact power generators increase the endurance of small systems ten times more than batteries, resulting in increased capability and cost savings.

Reveal Pharmaceuticals Inc (Cambridge) Manganese-based, Gadolinium-free, MRI contrast agent designed to improve safety for all patients and provide a platform for precision imaging. 

STAGE 3 (Awards of $500,000)

Kinto (Cambridge) – Offering software enabled care management services (coaching, group support sessions and guided planning) for dementia caregivers. 

Pison Technology, Inc. (Boston) – Leveraging neuromuscular sensing capabilities to create a cutting-edge artificial intelligence platform that enables control of digital systems with micro gestures or even simply the thought of moving a finger.

 

*Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Tech Transfer Research, a federal program administered by the Small Business Administration.


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