By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
The Co-Founders of T & T Scientific, the top cash winner in the latest “Boyd Venture Fund Challenge” at the University of Tennessee (UT), connected on the first day that one of the “Ts” started his doctoral work on campus.
Chattanooga-native Graham Taylor says he met Nima Tamaddoni four years ago when the former returned to Knoxville after several years working for a large medical device company (Medtronic) and another well-known enterprise (Merit Medical Systems) based just outside in Salt Lake City. Taylor had earned his undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering from UT in 2007. Meanwhile, Tamaddoni had started his academic pursuits at UT in 2006, focusing on mechanical engineering.
Both Co-Founders will be graduating with their doctorates in May.
Today, their company that was founded just six months ago is launching its revolutionary LipX extrusion product via an online marketing presence. It is designed to provide a time-saving, higher quality, and single-use option to existing products available to researchers for extruding liposomes.
“We do the extrusion in a couple of minutes,” Taylor says, noting that the leading device used now requires 15 to 20 minutes to assemble it and another 15 to 20 minutes for cleaning after use, adding cost to a process that takes just about 120 seconds.
Whereas the market leader that Taylor describes as the gold standard has about a dozen components that must be assembled before usage, the LipX is ready to use out of the package, requiring only the installation of needles at each end.
“They (the market leader) also have to use harsh cleansers like chloroform,” Tamaddoni says. “This can create contamination,” whereas T & T Scientific’s cost-comparable disposable device eliminates that risk.
The extrusion procedure is performed by researchers about a million times a year, so the market size is significant. At this stage, it is not considered a medical device, since it is used for research, so there are no U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulatory hoops.
Taylor says that they plan to explore the medical market later, once they are generating solid revenues. For now however, the two “Ts” are content to scale their company carefully.
“We know a dozen scientists in Knoxville alone who extrude frequently, and they would use up to 50 of these devices each week,” Taylor says.
The “Boyd Venture Fund” is designed to help student start-ups advance, and that’s what T & T Scientific will be doing with the top cash prize.
“We asked for $20,000 and got it,” Taylor says.
The funding pays for an injection mold and will allow the start-up to purchase raw molded components required to assemble 10,000 of the devices from its Chinese manufacturer as well as the components they add to it before the finished LipX extruders are sold to researchers. It also is paying for a small assembly line that is installed in Tamaddoni’s apartment.
“We have a device that works,” Taylor says. “We just need to get it out there.”
As doctoral candidates, Taylor and Tamaddoni only started discussing the product opportunity less than a year ago. They bring complementary skills to the venture – biomedical engineering (Taylor) and mechanical engineering (Tamaddoni). They also have divided their roles.
Tamaddoni is Chief Executive Officer, while Taylor is President and Chief Technology Officer.
They have plans for a number of products and intend to help grow their research and product development by securing Small Business Innovation Research awards.