NMSU’s Arrowhead Center announces Launch competition awardees

March 28, 2014 by Samuel Horstman, NMSU News Center

New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center has named its 2014 Launch competition grant winners from the university.

The NMSU faculty members selected to participate in technology commercialization through the Launch proof of concept program will receive mentoring, market analyses, demonstration-validation services, access to investment networks and up to $25,000 in cash investment in their technology. This support allows campus inventors to work on technology development while exploring commercial markets for the products of their research.

Zhen Chai, an assistant professor in the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders at NMSU, will use the grant to help develop “Touch Sound,” an iPad application that incorporates constant time delay procedures to improve phonological awareness skills in children with disabilities or those who are at risk for reading difficulties.

“I am very excited about getting this grant,” Chai said. “I believe with the help of this Launch Grant, every child who needs help to improve reading skills will be benefit from ‘Touch Sound’ in the near future.”

A second grant was awarded to Jay Misra for the development of a wireless electro-optic sensing system for disturbed environmental monitoring. Misra, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at NMSU, created a “lab-on-a-chip” device for use in real-time monitoring of sensor networks. This allows field testing of samples, eliminating the time and inconvenience of transporting samples to a laboratory setting.

“This grant will allow us to move forward with the prototype designs, testing and iterative development so we can finalize the sensor’s design,” Misra said.

The last grant was awarded to a team working on NMX1, a provisionally patented organic pesticide made up of an essential oil, two natural emulsifying agents, a natural protein, and a detergent. The team includes NMSU faculty members Geoffrey Smith, a professor of biology, and Soum Sanogo, an associate professor of entomology, plant pathology and weed science, along with Hugo Morales, a faculty member at Universidad Chihuahua, and Smith’s son, Luke Smith, an NMSU accounting student and owner of EcoSeal, a company that provides environmentally safe pesticide.

“We’re eager to put this funding to use,” Luke Smith said. “It will enable EcoSeal to register NMX-1 with the Organic Material Review Institute and to continue field validation tests in New Mexico and California.”

In greenhouse and field tests, NMX-1 has been shown to be effective in combating chile root rot, chile wilt and bacterial spot disease.

“Launch provides an opportunity for NMSU’s award-winning researchers to collaborate with a diverse team of professionals at the earliest stages of development,” said Jason Koenig, the director of Launch at Arrowhead Center. “These collaborative efforts will dramatically increase the likelihood that the discoveries realize their potential in the marketplace. The Launch awardees showcase the amazing innovations of NMSU faculty and students.”

A panel of judges, including representatives from Sun Mountain Capital, Seed Worthy, Hamilton Brook Smith Reynolds, Joseph Advisory Services and Arrowhead Center, was recruited to determine the commercial potential of the submitted projects. Judges reviewed the applications, listened to the presentations and held question-and-answer sessions to determine the winners.

Launch, Arrowhead Center’s proof of concept center, is supported by an i6 Challenge grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. Since 2012, four teams and one individual have been awarded funding and support through Launch.

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