GRA’s expansion of R&D capacity at Georgia universities propels the launch of high-tech companies – and creates high-wage jobs
Hog farmers can soon put away the scales and measuring tape: There’s a new high-tech way to calculate the weight of swine.
It’s based on 3D imaging technology and comes in the form of a portable device invented at the University of Georgia. When aimed at a pig, the device can calculate the animal’s weight – a process far more precise and less complex than the current practice of converting length and girth measurements into weight.
A few years ago, GRA invested in the inventive idea through its VentureLab commercialization program. Soon after, a company was born – Body Surface Translations, Inc. – and in 2010, GRA VentureLab provided a loan to help the enterprise build its Georgia-based management team. The company is now poised to answer a challenge confronting the nation’s $15 billion pork industry: How to accurately weigh livestock in real time.
The story illustrates just one way GRA works to help launch science- and tech-based companies out of university laboratories. In a little more than a decade, GRA’s shrewd and strategic investment strategy has propelled more than 175 new enterprises and created thousands of high-wage jobs.
As GRA President Michael Cassidy notes, “Recruiting high-tech, high-wage companies to Georgia is crucial. But it’s just as crucial to grow our own. Georgia needs both strategies.”
Once an idea shows great commercial promise, GRA then provides early-stage investment through GRA VentureLab. The most promising VentureLab companies may get further investment through GRA Venture Fund LLC, a private investment fund.
Here are a few other companies that represent the type of outcomes emerging from GRA’s efforts.
>>> People who need surgery for bone or ligament injuries may have a friend in MedShape Solutions. The company, which received GRA VentureLab seed money, makes orthopedic implants that have “shape memory” technology. Surgeons who use the implants can make smaller incisions, strengthen surgical repairs and promote faster healing of damaged bones and tissues. MedShape’s technology was born in the laboratories of Georgia Tech.
>>> GeoVax (GOVX.OB) exemplifies how GRA can trigger chain reactions that promote economic growth. In 1996, GRA helped bring Rafi Ahmed to Emory University as a GRA Eminent Scholar. Aided by further GRA investment, Ahmed launched the Emory Vaccine Center, where researchers developed a promising vaccine for HIV. That discovery drove the creation of GeoVax, and the company is now testing the vaccine in human clinical trials.
>>> “GRA’s VentureLab kept us afloat early,” says Sentrinsic co-founder Dave Beck. A good thing, too: The Atlanta-based maker of sensing technology secured growth capital in 2010, including one of the first investments by the GRA Venture Fund LLC. Among other benefits, Sentrinsic’s technology promotes energy efficiency in industrial pumps.
>>> In 2004, a medical physicist, a radiation oncologist and a software developer at Emory recognized that the imaging software they developed could improve the planning of radiation therapy. With initial grants from GRA VentureLab, they launched Velocity Medical Solutions. Three years later, Velocity received a VentureLab loan, and today it is a viable company with 80 customers.
>>> Recruiting Jin-Xiong She to Georgia as a GRA Eminent Scholar was considered a coup in 2001: He brought a team of 20 scientists and millions in federal funding to the Georgia Health Sciences University. This year, She developed a new way to process thousands of RNA and DNA samples at high speeds – a feat that led to the launch of Jinfiniti Biosciences. GRA VentureLab provided early seed money, and Jinfiniti has secured multiple contracts for its services.