By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates. P.C.
Imagine being so passionate about the potential of a detection technology that you were willing to change professions to make commercialization a reality.
That’s just exactly what Jake Livesay and Brandon Mason did to be able to execute a license with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for a use of a novel approach that allows electro-conducting fabric to be widely used for some critical applications.
“We believed in it so much we gave up our careers,” Mason told teknovation.biz in an interview. Both he and Livesay were researchers working for different divisions at ORNL several years ago.
“We received $200,000 in federal funding to develop the technology,” he said, explaining that the electro-conducting fabric “has a lot of properties beneficial to a lot of industries.” In addition, the fabric, which has been around for 50 to 60 years, is cheap.
The duo “found a way to detect leaks, tears and pressure” when the material is used. Livesay and Mason disclosed the invention to ORNL officials who pursued a patent. Recognizing that “there’s a higher level of scrutiny” of license agreements that involve the inventors themselves, Mason said he and his business partner elected a different path.
“We had an opportunity to leave the lab, start a consulting business, and license the technology,” he explained. They formed Mason Livesay in October 2012 to provide project management and other services to a variety of sectors including nuclear, electrical and biomedical applications.
Earlier this fall, ML Technologies, a separate company founded by Mason and Livesay, executed the license with ORNL for the detection technology.
Since co-founding the company, Mason has spent most of his time focused on getting the license executed, while Livesay has been working on a project for a federal agency. They added Sharon Gleason as Chief Operations Officer earlier this year.
More recently, Mason told us that Gleason has purchased the consulting business, where Livesay works full-time. Mason is transitioning from his role as Chief Executive Officer of Mason Livesay to devote his full attention to commercializing the technology he worked so hard to license.
So, what markets does he see as promising candidates for combining the detection technology with the low cost material? Initially, it was in one area – healthcare – but he recently shifted focus to a different market.
“Healthcare is low hanging fruit,” Mason told us in the summer. He cited ways that it can be used in hospitals and nursing homes to address patients with bed sores. Their detection approach would enable an already inexpensive material to provide an effective treatment in a disposable product and alert a healthcare worker when a breach occurs.
“People who really get affected by this are the nursing assistants” who treat the patients, Mason said.
Other sectors Mason has been exploring include oil and gas pipelines and warehousing.
Now, ML Technologies is focused on athletic wear platform technology that detects, records, and wirelessly transmits information regarding performance, movement, moisture and localization.
“It’s the same base technology, but we are applying it to a much larger market,” Mason says. “It’s also suited for coordinated mission critical activities providing triage and indoor positioning in GPS-denied environments.”
ML Technologies has also added Greg Needham to the team. He has experience in private equity and technology development, capabilities that will help as ML Technologies completes its business plan and works to raise capital.
As far as product, Mason says he hopes to have a “marketable prototype” within six to eight months.
As he continues his journey, Mason offered special thanks to John Morris and the team at Tech 20/20 for its help.