Lab entrepreneurial event links startups with investors

(Download Image) Michael Feeney spoke about near infrared imaging and his company's product, Vein-Eye. Vein-Eye uses light-emitting diodes to to make it easier to find veins in patients. Photo by Julie Russell/LLNL

Six startups born out of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory technologies made presentations at a recent entrepreneurial event to attract investors.

The companies -- which have licensed technologies in biotech, renewable energy, sensors, infrared imaging and health care -- showcased their capabilities at the Entrepreneurs-in-Readiness (EIR) event at the Livermore Valley Open Campus'High Performance Computing Innovation Center. 

The event was part of an EIR program developed by the Lab's Industrial Partnerships Office (IPO) to connect nascent companies with entrepreneurs and investors. The idea is to engage a diverse group of entrepreneurs and industry experts from Silicon Valley to help nurture promising new early stage Lab technology companies toward commercialization.

"These companies are in the very early stages and we want to introduce them to people who can help our entrepreneurs further their businesses," said Roger Werne, IPO's deputy director.

The startups -- DNA TREK, Global Renewable Energy ENgines Inc., MicroMetrics, Near Infrared Imaging, Nzyme2HC and Test It -- sought business advice and investors from a diverse audience of roughly 50 people.

"My goal was to invite the angel investor community, the venture capital community and the corporate technology scout community because these are the people who recognize the value of technology," Werne said.

Here's information about the companies and their Lab technologies.


DNA TREK is using a cutting-edge LLNL technology, known as DNATrax, used to trace food back to its origins. DNATrax is a biological barcode approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food additive that can be applied directly on or in theproduct. Manufacturers can spray DNATrax on food products to track contaminated, fraudulent or adulterated samples back to their source in about an hour. The current food traceability method uses a complex system of hands-off and trace-back investigations that frequently take about several weeks to complete.

In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 3,000 deaths in the U.S. are caused each year by  foodborne illness. The FDA estimates that the total annual cost of foodborne illnesses to the industry, including recalls and other costs, exceeds $70 billion. Food fraud is becoming a very serious problem and its annual cost to the global food industry is estimated to be $15 billion. A key factor for the rapid containment of foodborne outbreaks, food fraud and adulteration is traceability.

Global Renewable Energy ENgines Inc. (GREEN)

Global Renewable Energy ENgines Inc.(GREEN) is an alternative energy company that provides affordable, flexible and reliable renewable energy using combined heat and power (CHP) systems for on-site installations. GREEN's thermal energy system combines several key emerging energy technologies, including distributed CHP, solar collection, energy storage and cheap and abundant natural gas. These technologies help overcome the drawbacks -- high costs and intermittent production -- of other forms of alternative energy, such as solar panels and wind power.

GREEN's innovative energy system uses a breakthrough Lab technology known as a GyroSole engine. This patented and proprietary engine can use a variety of traditional or renewable fuels to create steam that in turn drives an electric generator and captures the residual or waste heat for other on-site uses. This dual or co-generation energy capability is very flexible, efficient and affordable, providing a five-year payback to users.


MicroMetrics (MMI) is building sensors for personal devices, industrial products and sporting goods using a micro-electromechanical system (MEMS)-based Contact Stress Sensor (CSS) invented at the Lab. Developed 10 years ago for stockpile stewardship applications, CSS measures contact stress or the squeezing force between two surfaces. Its applications have since expanded to other areas.

These sensors can be used in products such as wearable fitness devices, footwear, helmets, batteries, robotics, automotive, semiconductor equipment, etc. For example, a sensor embedded in a football helmet can measure the impact of a collision. The technology is highly accurate with no recalibration needed over its 30-year design life.

Near Infrared Imaging

Near Infrared Imaging is using the Lab's Vein-Eye technology to advance the field of vein illumination and vein visualization, which allows health care providers to see a patient's veins through the skin.Finding veins is especially challenging and painful for patients who have dark skin, are obese, or are very young or elderly.

Vein-Eye allows medical practitioners to insert a needle for
intravenous therapy or draw blood in a safe and timely manner, avoiding unnecessary and accidental sticks.The company has developed a Vein-Eye prototype that uses a light-emitting diode (LED) instead of lasers, which can be harmful for patients.

Vein-Eye is a noninvasive technology that's also capable of detecting small objects, such as tumors near the surface of the skin. This diagnostic tool can detect and monitor brain injuries and malignant cancers, as well as identify neural and cardiovascular diseases.


Nzyme2HC is further developing a Lab technology known as NanoLipoprotein Particles (NLPs) to enable biological production of hydrogen gas or H2. NLPs are small particles resembling good cholesterol particles or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) circulating in the blood. They can be produced in the laboratory. Under the right conditions, NLPs can provide a stable environment for direct biological H2 production. Once collected, H2 can be used to generate energy for a variety of applications such as transportation fuel or industrial power supply using fuel-cell technology.

Nzyme2HC's use of this NLP-based energy source has advantages over other H2 production methods such as steam methane reforming (SMR), water electrolysis and bio-hydrogen production using algae. Unlike SMR, it doesn't depend on fossil fuel feedstocks; it does not require a lot of energy to split water like electrolysis; and finally, unlike in vivo enzymatic methods, it doesn't need a lot of real estate like algae farms. In addition to being clean, green and renewable, it's also less expensive.

Test It

Test It plans to use LLNL's lateral flow technology to build over-the-counter home kits to test for up to six sexually transmitted diseases (STD). This technologyis designed to detect the presence (or absence) of a target analyte in a sample (matrix) without the need for specialized and costly equipment. Test It plans to use urine in its simple home exams - similar to a pregnancy test - that will produce results in less than an hour. The company hopes itsinexpensive, accurate and disposable home STD kits will remove barriers to testing such as cost and embarrassment.

In 2009, the CDC reported more than 1.6 million new STD cases in the U.S. The actual number of STDs is significantly higher because of underreporting. The agency is recommending that all sexually active women 26 and younger receive annual chlamydia screenings and estimates that there are 2.8 million new cases of chlamydia and 700,000 cases of gonorrhea in the general population annually.