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February 25, 2014 | Tom Ballard

2014 “East Tennessee Venture Match” launches at Proton Therapy Center

Venture MatchBy Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

It was not a typical entrepreneurial crowd that turned out Tuesday evening for the inaugural session of the 2014 “East Tennessee Venture Match” series.

The 60 attendees ranged from youthful entrepreneurs dressed in jeans, those that you typically see at these events, to gray-haired business executives in coats and ties. The audience’s composition of more professionals than normal was probably a reflection of the evening’s focus on medical devices and imaging.

Over a 90-minute period, the crowd heard presentations on everything from a non-invasive monitoring system for neonates to a method to improve the lives of individuals suffering from hydrocephalus and a device to manage wound care in animals.

Host for the event was Terry Douglass and his colleagues at the new Proton Therapy Center in Dowell Springs. After the presentations, attendees were offered a tour of the facility that opened a little more than a month ago.

“We have very strong IP (intellectual property), industries, and academic support in these three areas,” Launch Tennessee’s Jill Van Beke said in opening the session. The areas that she was referencing are the topics of the 2014 “East Tennessee Venture Match” series. In addition to medical devices and imaging, the next sessions will focus on data analytics and visualization (March 25) and advanced manufacturing (April 29).

“There is no cure,” Chad Seaver, Chief Executive Officer of Arkis BioSciences, told the attendees in describing hydrocephalus, a disease that afflicts more than one million citizens in the United States.

“We are developing a portfolio of products that will dramatically improve treatment,” he added. The four-product “Surgeon’s Toolkit” includes a distal valve and two surgical tools. Arkis, previously profiled on, has already filed more than 20 patent applications.

In the second presentation, Michael Johnson described a joint venture involving the University of Tennessee’s (UT) Graduate School of Medicine and TechMah to provide better monitoring for the 15 million pre-term births that occur annually in this country.

“The problem with the current monitoring devices is they were designed for adults,” he explained, adding the likelihood of infection is significantly increased. The hardware platform of sensors that TechMah and UT are developing is in its early stage.

Karen Tobias, a Professor in UT’s College of Veterinary Medicine, acknowledged that her goal is to have a company manage an invention that she calls the “UT Clip.” The device, which has gone through several iterations, would make it easier to address the very expensive costs associated with managing wounds in animals.

The device can be used to secure dressings, particularly over uneven surfaces, as well as secure catheters and tubes or to provide a rapid, but temporary way to close wounds.

Tobias’ work was also previously profiled on

Shige Eda, another UT Professor, shared the work that he and a colleague are doing to develop a point-of-care diagnostic tool capable of using biomarkers to detect health issues like diabetes, various cancers, infectious diseases, and even Alzheimer’s.

The final presentation was made by Ken Tobin, a Research Division Director at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The long-time scientist talked about working with the lab and cited a number of companies started around lab technology, including Hubble Telemedicine where he is a Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer.

The three-session series is sponsored by Bass Berry & Sims and organized by Launch Tennessee, ORNL, Tech 20/20 and UT.

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