Dayton startups land $100K+ for prototype development

April 30, 2019

Two Dayton startups have been awarded $100K+ in state funding for prototype development.

Caroline Cao, founder of Endo Guidance Technologies, was awarded $150K last week for prototype development for her radiation-free alternative to X-ray imaging during endovascular surgery.

Seth Hummel, CEO & President of Strong Plastics, LLC was awarded $100K for the development and commercialization of a strong load-bearing plastic to replace aluminum.

The funding was awarded through the Ohio Third Frontier Commission’s Technology Validation and Start-up Fund, which provides grants to Ohio institutions of higher education and other nonprofit research institutions. The funding is to be used to demonstrate that a technology is commercially viable through activities such as testing and prototyping.

In total, the commission last week approved $2.25 million to develop new technologies and move them out of the lab and into the marketplace.

“Ohio’s world-class research and medical institutions are developing breakthrough technologies,” Ohio Third Frontier Commission chair & Ohio Development Services Agency director Lydia L. Mihalik said. “We are helping get these products to market where they can make a difference.”

Endo Guidance Technologies

Caroline, Wright State University professor of biomedical, industrial and human factors engineering by day, is working on the prototype of a lightweight, optical fiber shape sensor that would allow physicians in the operating room to track tools in real time for image-guided surgery, without exposing themselves or their patients to the radiation required by current methods.

It’s the first tech she has worked to commercialize.

“Things we invent in the lab don’t usually get to this point,” she said. “But this is both innovative and useful. It will change the way surgeons do work and will be a great benefit to the patient. And we’ll all become patients someday.”

Born in Vietnam, Caroline grew up in a stereotypical Asian education system heavily focused on math, she recalled. When she started university in Vancouver, Canada, her goal was to become a dentist.

While she was in university, her father had an aneurysm and fell into a coma. He eventually woke up and recovered, but she spent a lot of time in the hospital with him and his healthcare team.

“That’s when I became interested in med tech,” Caroline said. “I realized I wanted to build things to make a difference, to help people, things that would have a more immediate impact on health.”

She switched her studies, and found herself at the forefront of remote laparoscopic surgery — minimally invasive surgery that uses small tools and cameras to work on a patient, rather than cutting open their whole abdomen.

The first robots to perform laparoscopic surgery appeared in operating rooms in 2001.

Caroline was recruited to Dayton from Boston in 2012.

Boston’s med tech market was very competitive and mature — but Ohio was hungry for startups, she recalled, specifically citing Ohio Third Frontier efforts. In 2016, she attended the first Dayton Startup Week.

“It was amazing, stimulating, energizing. It was my first exposure to a community of entrepreneurs, and they were very open and very passionate. I was surprised at how collaborative they were, sharing partners and contacts,” she said. “That’s when I decided it could happen here.”


Inspired? Check out this year’s Startup Week schedule here!