Two companies from the Enterprise Development Center (EDC) at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) won prominent business awards at the New Jersey Technology Council’s (NJTC) 2004 Venture Fair held at the Liberty Science Center. The awards recognize new companies whose products show innovation and promise.
Great American Technologies Inc. (GAT), a company that designed the first hands-free, infrared earpiece for the hands-free cell phone market, was named best communications company. The earpiece is designed to communicate with electronic devices such as cell phones, computers, stereos, CD players, MP3 players and televisions. Wireless and battery-operated, the device works without radio waves and is completely radiation free. It works remotely, allowing users to talk without speaking into a boom microphone for up to 100 hours. The device also has high fidelity sound that funnels out all ambient noise.
Urovalve, a company that invented a device to be used by men who have urination problems, was named most socially responsive company by the NJTC. Urovalve, also housed at NJIT’s business incubator, holds a patent on a silicone catheter that is implanted into the urethra during a simple procedure performed in a doctor’s office or by a nurse in the patient's home. The device contains a metal valve the user can open by a pocket-sized magnetic wand.
Chronic urinary retention problems result when spinal cord injury, surgery or congenital defects damage nerves and make it impossible for men to urinate. Most men with urine retention have to rely on an indwelling catheter connected to a urine-collection bag or the frequent use of intermittent catheters.
“We’re thrilled to see this year that two EDC companies receiving recognition, said Stash Lisowski, EDC director. “Much hard work goes into growing a company and it always feels good to know that we are not the only ones who think a technology is terrific. One of our firms won an award last year so that makes three winners in two years.”
The two companies competed against 60 companies that represent New Jersey’s freshest investors and entrepreneurs. The companies that exhibited in the NJTC’s Venture Fair included firms from software and information technology, life sciences and biotechnology, communications, electronics and advanced materials and nanotechnology. More than $15 million in funding has been secured in total by last year's exhibitors. Past venture capital leaders who have attended Venture Fair include Apax Partners, Edison Venture Fund, and Landmark Capital.
Founded in 1988, EDC addresses problems that young technology-based businesses have in obtaining appropriate technology, market information, management assistance and access to capital by providing, on a non-exclusive basis, reasonably priced office space, shared services to reduce overhead costs, and business, technical and financing assistance. The program provides a broad base of support and acts as a proving ground in conjunction with the NJIT campus, faculty, management, alumni and students for new and developing high-tech products.
Vincent Sette, of Red Bank, director of sales and marketing for GAT, said, “it was the first time we presented our products to the public and we won for the award for Best Communications Company. Now we must live up to that prestigious award.”
In addition to designing the first infrared earpiece, which is due to go to market in four months, GAT is preparing to launch MailCall® - a technology that provides a convenient and easy method of accessing and managing e-mails from any telephone in the world. The automated system reads electronic mail in English or Spanish using state-of-the-art computerized text-to-speech technology. MailCall is the only service to allow a user to read attached files or HTML files page by page.
GAT own two patents and has four patent applications for voice over infrared to a battery operated receiver and transmitter device. The patents have been filed in the United States., Canada, Europe and Australia.
Phillip Davis, of Belleville, chief technology officer of Urovalve, said he was happy his device was recognized by NJTC, especially since innovations in the field have been slow in coming.
“The last major innovation in urinary catheters was in 1940 with the invention of the Foley catheter,” said Davis. “We are long overdue for an improvement, and I think the award anticipates the quality of life and health gains that will come from this device."
Davis said the idea for the device was born of necessity. While on a family vacation in Samoa in 1987, an accident left Davis with a broken back. He fell just eight feet, from a rocky slope to a beach, but the impact fractured his spine. After a long medical journey that began with a 10-day stay in a rudimentary hospital, followed by a medical airlift to Hawaii, then expert surgery in Hawaii and Massachusetts, Davis was eventually able to walk. But the nerves that controlled urination remained damaged.
An MIT graduate and mechanical engineer, Davis felt there must be an engineering solution to his problem. He later designed the device that became Urovalve. Davis and Harvey Homan, of Basking Ridge, President and CEO of Urovalve, are now using the resources of the EDC to help them get the device to market. They are working with the Veterans Administration Hospital in Hines, Illinois, to perform the first clinical trial of Urovalve. This hospital has the largest spinal cord injury unit in the Veterans Administration hospital system.
The initial target population for Urovalve in America will be the many thousands of men with spinal injuries, multiple sclerosis, or other conditions, all of whom would need the device for long-term use. A future goal is to make the device available for the millions of men with other conditions such as prostrate hypertrophy or defects in the urethra who would need the device for short term use.
The award comes at a good time for Urovalve. The new company is seeking a backer willing to invest two million dollars to get the device into the marketplace. Davis and Homan are determined to succeed.
“Most people are not familiar with all the peripheral problems of spinal injury and disease, such as having to catheterize yourself daily,” Davis said. “This brings home the lesson of why NJIT supports the EDC: It has the potential to make life better for many people through technology.”