Three Massachusetts startups named finalists in national inventor contest – Boston Globe

Three of the five finalists for this year’s Cade Award, which will be awarded Thursday, are based in Massachusetts. (But Florida and Texas did a great job, with one finalist each.) The three startups have roots in local universities such as Northeastern University, and are traditionally well-funded tech companies. It highlights how high-potential inventions and commercialization activities occur outside the field. and biotechnology.

One local startup, GenH, wants to make it easier to convert existing dams into sources of electricity. According to the Department of Energy, only 3% of the country’s 90,000 dams generate electricity. And most of them are giant dams like Hoover Dam in Nevada and Grand Coulee in Washington state.

A small hydroelectric generator made by Somerville startup GenH has been tested at a dam in New Hampshire. GenH

Siddharth Paneer, founder of GenH, says that many small dams — “you might drive by on your way to fall foliage in New Hampshire or Vermont” — are used to generate GenH’s modular hydropower. He says it is a candidate site for the aircraft. These generators could then provide renewable power to dozens of nearby homes and businesses, or to the power grid, as well as provide a new source of income for the dam’s owner.

GenH was born in 2016 as Panir’s master’s thesis at Northeastern University. The idea, he says, is simple. The idea is to use plastic pipes to redirect the flow of water through power generation units located on land. “Essentially, we’re installing a water wheel at the end of a huge plumbing project,” Panir said.

Of the 419 components in the system, “386 of them can be purchased at a hardware store,” he says, keeping costs down. The company, based at its Greentown Labs facility in Somerville, is currently building its sixth prototype system and plans to test it in Framingham.

Worcester-based SpadXTech uses a combination of genetically engineered bacteria and biotech manufacturing techniques to produce synthetic leather. The bacteria that SpadXTech uses as a “factory” spits out cellulose (a fiber found in plants), which the company says modulates to make the synthetic leather water-repellent. SpadXTech can also create materials in a variety of leather-like colors, from dark blue to black to reddish-brown.

CEO Lina Gonzalez says many vegan leathers contain plastic made from fossil fuels. “We don’t use any plastic. That’s our biggest advantage,” she said.

SpadXTech operates in an incubator run by Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives and has attracted $1.5 million in grants, including a grant from the National Science Foundation. He said the company is working to scale the production process to commercial scale and find the best way to get bacteria to break down cellulose.

Massachusetts’ third finalist, CranioSense, is developing a device that can accurately measure intracranial pressure, or brain swelling, that can accompany sepsis, the body’s extreme response to a stroke, brain injury, or infection. I’m trying. Today, that pressure is often measured by measuring spinal fluid pressure levels through a catheter or bolt inserted into the skull, or through a lumbar puncture.

Ryan Myers is co-founder of CranioSense, a startup that is developing a minimally invasive method to detect swelling in the brain.Craniosense

CranioSense’s prototype device aims to measure pressure without puncturing by placing three sensors on the skin that can use near-infrared light to “see” what’s happening inside blood vessels. That’s what I mean. (This is similar to how a pulse oximeter measures oxygen levels in the blood.)

Craniosense CEO Ryan Myers said just a few hours of high intracranial pressure can cause patients to suffer permanent neurological damage. Therefore, the company’s goal is to make its device usable by nurses rather than neurologists. One sensor is affixed to the forehead, another is clipped to the patient’s ear, and a third sensor is clipped to the finger. This allows CranioSense’s handheld monitor to compare pressure in the brain to the rest of the body.

The company is currently conducting clinical studies to see how its measurements compare to more invasive tests. CranioSense is one of his 129 startups to earn a spot in this year’s MassChallenge entrepreneurship competition. The company is also raising funds to build its next prototype.

All Cade Award finalists have already won $10,000, plus free legal services and consulting from a venture capital firm. The grand prize winner will receive an additional $50,000 this week. “It doesn’t seem like a lot of money,” Myers said.

But if you’re working without pay to get a company off the ground, “it’s going to be a long journey,” he added.

Contact Scott Kirsner at kirsner@pobox.com.follow him @ScottKirsner.

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