Tim Draper backs Boston robot software company Neurala

Neurala--580x331

Neurala CEO Max Versace

Local robotics software company Neurala announced Thursday that it has received $750,000 in seed funding from a group of investors including well known Silicon Valley investor Tim Draper of Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Draper Associates.

The company is built by Boston University alums (that’s right, MIT doesn’t have the market cornered on robotics innovation!) and was a participant in last year’s Techstars Boston cohort.

Founded in 2006 by BU doctoral students Massamiliano Versace, Heather Ames, and Anatoli Gorshechnikov, Neurala aims to bring our understanding of biology, specifically how the brain works, to the software development of robots.

The company uses what it calls “deep learning algorithms” to make robots learn more like humans do. The company’s goal is to create software that enables people to tell a robot what to do, and not how to do it.

Neurala has contracts from NASA and the US Air Force to develop smart learning systems. The company says potential applications include collision avoidance systems for drones on Earth, and autonomous navigation systems for robots on Mars.

Draper is a key investor in companies like Skype, Hotmail, Twitter, and SpaceX. Robolution Capital, a Paris-based venture capital firm focused on robotics, also took part in this round of funding.

Originally published by BetaBoston on December 10, 2014 see here.

Dennis Keohane  @DBKeohane

 

BOSTON UNIVERSITY RECEIVES NSF FUNDING TO DEVELOP “SMART CITY” CLOUD PLATFORM

BOSTON UNIVERSITY RECEIVES NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION FUNDING TO DEVELOP “SMART CITY” CLOUD PLATFORM

SCOPE: A Smart-City Cloud-based Open Platform to bring services to Boston and State

(Boston) – Boston University’s Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering today announced it has received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a “smart-city” cloud platform designed to streamline and strengthen multiple municipal functions. Called SCOPE: A Smart-city Cloud-based Open Platform & Eco-system, the project is designed to improve transportation, energy, public safety, asset management, and social services in the City of Boston and across Massachusetts.

“Today’s cities are increasingly being challenged – to respond to diverse needs of their citizens, to prepare for major environmental changes, to improve urban quality of life, and to foster economic development,” says Azer Bestavros, Director of the Hariri Institute and SCOPE’s principal investigator. “So called ‘smart cities’ are closing these gaps through the use of technology to connect people with resources, to guide changes in collective behavior, and to foster innovation and economic growth.”

Spearheaded by the Hariri Institute, SCOPE is led by a multi-disciplinary team of investigators from the BU Departments of Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Earth and Environment, Strategy and Innovation, and City Planning & Urban Affairs, and the Office of Technology Development. Industry partners include Schneider Electric, International Data Corporation (IDC), Integrated Technical Systems, Inc., Connected Bits, and CrowdComfort. Public partners are MassIT, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ lead state agency for technology led by the Commonwealth CIO, the MassTech Collaborative, the City of Boston, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization.

In collaboration with these stakeholders, SCOPE investigators will develop and implement smart-city services that aim to improve the quality of urban life. For example, transportation and mobility services to reduce traffic congestion, save time and fuel, and reduce pollution; energy and environmental services that will monitor and estimate greenhouse gas emissions; public safety and security services for big-data-driven dispatch of police and traffic details, snow removal, coordinated public works scheduling, and municipal repairs; tools to manage city assets by mining large amounts of data and crowd-sourced coordination of asset use; and social, institutional and behavioral tools that will enable the adoption of new services, such as incentive programs and community report cards that promote transparency and sustainability.

Once developed, these services will be offered through the Massachusetts Open Cloud (MOC), a new public cloud designed and implemented through the Massachusetts Green High-Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC) and supported by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

“The SCOPE project highlights the collaborative efforts between the state, industry and academia that help make Massachusetts the leading innovation state,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “Through our Massachusetts Big Data Initiative, we’ve made open government a priority, opening data sets across multiple state agencies, improving access by researchers and the public.”

Adding further, “the project complements our ongoing efforts in state government to use data to continually increase transparency and drive constituent engagement,” said Commonwealth CIO Bill Oates. “I am excited about our partnership with the SCOPE team and look forward to the opportunities the Mass Open Cloud will create for leveraging public sector data in new ways. This important work will open doors for ongoing innovation in the delivery of services to constituents.”

“Partnerships between academics and practitioners can be the source of great innovation,” said Nigel Jacob and Chris Osgood, Co-Chairs of Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. “This particular grant can strengthen the City’s collaboration with Boston University; we are looking forward to see how, together, we can tackle some long-standing challenges in new ways.”

SCOPE will leverage already existing Boston University projects, including the use of sensor networking for traffic light control applications (by co-PI Christos Cassandras), fusing data from multiple sources for route planning and public works scheduling (by co-PI Evimaria Terzi), and environmental monitoring of carbon emissions in urban settings (by co-PI Lucy Hutyra). This also includes the Open Cloud eXchange (OCX), SCOPE’s enabling technology, a plug-and-play architecture that is the basis for the MOC. “OCX allows many partners, not just a single provider, to compete and cooperate on the same cloud infrastructure, effectively creating a multi-sided cloud marketplace in which innovation can flourish in support of new applications that are currently under-served by prevailing public cloud operators,” says Bestavros.

“No single company can accomplish a smart city on their own – we need to approach this opportunity collaboratively – with city government as leader, citizens at the center, technology as an enabler, and private sector partners to help make the vision a reality,” said Laurent Vernerey, President and CEO, North America Operations, Schneider Electric. “We see the SCOPE project as an exciting opportunity to demonstrate how these stakeholders can work together to develop innovative services intended to deliver substantial value to the people who live and work in the City of Boston and Massachusetts.”

“The SCOPE project will provide invaluable lessons on how to deploy a cloud-based smart city system that will help inform investment direction, policy decisions and the development of new services,” said Ruthbea Yesner Clarke, Smart City Research Director at IDC. “The potential for replication of the SCOPE model has significant ramifications for all cities and states and IDC is pleased to continue its smart city market research to support institutions like Boston University, municipalities and state government, and the vendors that serve them.”

SCOPE is a National Science Foundation Partnerships for Innovation (NSF PFI) project supported by over $1 million in funding from the NSF and its industry partners. For more information, visit http://www.bu.edu/hic/research/scope/.

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 33,000 students, it is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States. BU consists of 16 schools and colleges, along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes integral to the University’s research and teaching mission. In 2012, BU joined the Association of American Universities (AAU), a consortium of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 23, 2014
CONTACT: Kira Jastive, 617-358-1240 or kjastive@bu.edu

When the Biomedical Industry Can’t Prioritize Diseases, Private Money Can Save Lives​

Read the Wired article here.

Coulter Foundation Translational Partnership

For the past eight years, the mission of the Coulter Translational Partnership (CTP) program has been to promote, develop, and support translational research collaborations between engineers and clinicians in order to accelerate the successful translation of appropriate innovations to improve patient care. For the past 3 years the Coulter Foundation commitment provides $500,000 per year with an equivalent cost share provided by the university.

For 2013-2014 funding was provided to a myriad of projects, which includes renewal and funding of:

  • Point-of-care diagnostic chip for rapid antibiotic susceptibility testing using reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the clinical setting (A. Khalil, M. Klempner, and J. Collins)
  • PharmaCheck: A robust, high-throughput microfluidic platform to detect counterfeit and substandard pharmaceuticals (M. Zaman and C. Gill)
  • Diagnostic Biomarker Localized in the Nose for Non-invasive Lung Cancer Diagnosis and as Enabling Technology for Deciding CT Scan (A. Spira and M. Lenburg)
  • Optical spectroscopy guidance in thyroid surgery: identifying parathyroid and neighboring tissues during thyroid surgery (I. Bigio, J. Rosen, S. Lee, A. Sauer-budge, et al.)
  • PiezoImplant: A non-cylindrical dental implant system for narrow jawbone (A. Sauer-Budge, R. Gyurko, and S. Dibart)
  • Reversible, hydrogel-based aerosolized sealant dressing for burn treatment (M. Grinstaff and F. Brolsch)
  • Biopsy device for calcified breast biopsy harvesting that will streamline workflow and reduce need for capital equipment (J. Brooks and J. McDaniel)

For the 2014-2015 funding year, a total of 27 pre-proposals were received, 12 projects were invited to submit full proposals to the Coulter Oversight Committee and 8 projects were invited to make an oral presentation. The new projects selected for funding include Interpenetrating Phase Ceramic Matrix Composite for Dental Implant Structures by R. Giordano and X. Lin, as well as, Novel Sternal Approximation Device by J. Rosen and K. Karlson.

The renewed applications include a dissolvable, hydrogel-based aerosolized sealant dressing for the treatment of superficial to deep-second degree burns by M. Grinstaff, E. Rodriguez, and A. Nazarian.  Also renewed is a Specialized Breast Biopsy Introducer – Pilot Clinical Study by J. Brooks and J. McDaniel.

Additionally one project was conditionally funded, pending the outcome of a professional marketing study, Development of a Novel LED Device for Producing Vitamin D conducted by M. Holick and T. Moustakas.

Significant translational successes of the Coulter program to date include Boston University’s bihormonal bionic pancreas system has undergone tremendous progress since its support from the Coulter program in 2009-2010. The group has raised a total of $11.9M and the research group has started another clinical trial this summer and plans to follow with a bridge study before they move on to their pivotal study in 2015, and submit for FDA approval in 2016. The group estimates a commercial launch in 2017.  Constant Therapy, a start-up based on an IT project funded by Coulter in 2012-2013 has been given a $150K BUOTD Launch award, and has raised an additional $590K of angel funding.  The anti-tumor technology based on AhR inhibitors for triple negative breast cancer, funded by the Coulter program in 2012-2013, was licensed to the Drug Discovery Factory.

Dorm Room Fund

Two BU students, Kanav Dhir and Alexandrea Mellen, were appointed to Dorm Room Fund Boston.

“Dorm Room Fund (DRF) is a student-run venture firm that invests in student-run companies.  Our team is composed of students from many universities around Boston and our mission is to inspire and support more careers in the startup industry.  We believe that a relatively small amount of capital can help student founders take their ideas from the dorm room to the market.  We are laser-focused on working with the best student talent in the world.  We’re backed by First Round Capital,” said Dhir.

“We’re students that invest in other students,” said Dhir. “We’re not the typical VC [venture capital] firm — we don’t treat ourselves that way. We’re very much a peer-to-peer connection.”[1]

DRF has 24 student investors serving 191,725 students in Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco Bay Area, and Boston.

“My job is to look and find people at BU and other schools who have a passion, who have a drive, who really want to pursue some type of realistic startup and help them with that,” Mellen said. “I see a lot of students around campus who have ideas, but they don’t really know how to pursue them any further.”[2]

DRF undergraduates come from multiple majors:  computer science, philosophy, and chemical engineering.

“Both of us have the same circles and more technical aspects helps us try to bounce ideas off each other about which companies are coming out of BU or which students are working on cool projects that we can approach,” Dhir said. “There’s a sense of building and pushing entrepreneurship in this initiative, and Alexandrea and I being there really helps our potential to find interesting companies.”[3]

Dorm Room Fund RAs, or mentors, consist of 60 veteran entrepreneurs with combined 450 years of startup experience.  Thus far, mentors have raised over $1.3B in funding and have produced over $2.7B in company exists, including 1 IPO (Bazaarvoice; NASDAQ:BV).

For more information go to www.dormroomfund.com


[1] http://dailyfreepress.com/2014/04/29/eng-juniors-join-local-student-run-venture-company/

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

ifx-A New Program Matching Industry Scouts with Graduate Student Teams

ifxThe Office of Technology Development is piloting a technology scouting program called ifx.  The program is designed to match industry scouts with cross-disciplinary teams of graduate students that source solutions to problem statements posed by industry.   It will be a student-led, extracurricular activity designed to provide students with experiential learning in problem solving, solution searching, and innovation.

Technology scouts have a daunting task of searching the world for new discoveries in order to fill gaps in their companies’ product pipeline.  This is a labor intensive activity and most scouts do not have the bandwidth to cover a broad technology space over a large geographic area.  At the same time, many graduate students are looking for experience working with industry.  As part of an academic institution they have unique access to a wealth of research activity.  It is a perfect match to help streamline academic-industry relations.

The components of the program are simple.  Industry scouts, entrepreneurs, disease specific foundations, etc. are invited to submit problem statements to OTD.  Student teams will be organized and matched with problem statements.  Working through a mentored process, the teams refine the problem statement, search for possible solutions, and present their findings back to the sponsor.  Student team recommendations will be based on criteria supplied by the sponsor such as time-to-market, feasibility, costs, etc.

For more information and to apply to the program please visit our website.

TDRR Recap

On July 15th, the Office of Technology Development hosted its fifth annual networking event, Tech, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll (TDRR), from 4-8pm at Boston University. Registration for the conference opened on May 1st.

TDRR is a networking event designed to connect scientists and engineers with entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators.  The event showcased emerging technologies from research programs in life and physical sciences, medical technologies, new ventures, and student entrepreneurship programs.

Project SearchAdditionally TDRR held its first Social Entrepreneurship award. Four student projects, hoping to impact global health, competed for a $3,000 prize. The winner was determined by attendees who texted their vote during the event.  SEARCH, a smartphone enabled with biometric identification software that can identify people by imaging their ears, won this year’s prize.

Gloria Waters (Vice President and Associate Provost for Research) announced this year’s Innovator of the Year Award (IOTY). This award recognizes entrepreneurial faculty at Boston University who have translated their research for the benefit of humankind.

The Office of Technology Development honored Mark Crovella, faculty in Computer Science this year with the Innovator of the Year award.  Congratulations Mark!

IOTY award“Professor Crovella is an entrepreneurial scientist, whose inventions have been licensed to two start-up companies,” announced   Gloria Waters.  “His accomplishments in the past year include ten peer-reviewed papers published, five patent filings and $30.0 million invested in BU-spinoff Guavus.”

The IOTY award highlights translational research with commercialization potential and broad community impact.  It encourages faculty to become entrepreneurial and role models who can inspire graduate students. Past winners of the award have been:  Mark Grinstaff (Biomedical Engineering), Avi Spira (School of Medicine), Jim Collins (Biomedical Engineering), and Ted Moustakas (Engineering).

TDRR crowd networkingProfessor Crovella is Professor and Chair of the Computer Science Department, where he has been since 1994. He also currently serves as Chief Scientist of Guavus, Inc., a venture-backed company he co-founded with his graduate student. Professor Crovella also cofounded Commonwealth Networks, now part of Network Appliance.

“Mark has been a prolific academic entrepreneur but this past year was especially productive with the rapid growth of Guavus,” said Vinit Nijhawan (OTD Managing Director).

Professor Crovella’s research interests seek to improve understanding, design, and performance of parallel and networked computing through data mining, statistics, and performance evaluation.  In the networking arena, he has worked on characterizing the Internet and the World Wide Web.  He has explored the presence and implications of self-similarity and heavy-tailed distributions in the network traffic and Web workloads.  He has also investigated the implications of Web workloads for the design of scalable and cost-effective Web servers.  In addition he has made numerous contributions to the Internet measurement and modeling; and he has examined the impact of network properties on the design of protocols and the construction of statistical models.  As of 2013, Google Scholar reports over 19,000 citations of his work.

ParsonsfieldTDRR prides itself on finding great entertainment through live music that fosters socialization and networking. We welcomed the live music of Parsonsfield, formerly Poor Old Shine, an alternative americana band based in Mansfield, CT.

We’d like to thank this year’s  Tech, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll sponsors:  Nixon Peabody, Pfizer, Sanofi US, Shore Chan DePumpo, and Wolf Greenfield.

Message from the Managing Director

OTD celebrated its 5th year of the Kindle Mentoring program, the Tech, Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll event and the Innovator of the Year award. In the past five years, OTD has generated record royalty licensing income. OTD has launched several venture-backed startups based on faculty research and inventions. Many of these were first gap-funded at BU and then went on to attract stellar management and private capital. Our unprecedented performance is directly attributed to the groundbreaking research undertaken by our faculty and the dedicated staff of OTD. Our goal over the next five years is to create a sustainable royalty licensing base, hopefully as the new ventures that we have launched bring their products to market.

We established an OTD External Advisory Board that met for the first time in February 2014 and will meet twice annually. The EAB is comprised of a combination of VC/investors, academic entrepreneur and CEO. The following figure shows the new OTD EAB:

advisory board pics

We have had little turnover in staff but in the competitive Boston ecosystem, a few of our people are moving on to: another technology transfer group (Jon Jensen to Partners RVL), a venture capital firm (April Effort to Third Rock Ventures) and leaving to do a startup (Renuka Babu). Ana Lopes has joined us to lead Physical Sciences BD (besides industry experience she was with MIT TLO). We are looking for a life sciences BD lead and a New Ventures leader. Please reach out to me if you are aware of suitable candidates.

Synlogic Gets $30M From Atlas, NEA to Turn Smart Bugs Into Drugs

Read the Xconomy article here to find out more information.

Innovator of the Year Award Announced

At our 5th annual networking event “Tech, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll” Mark Crovella was named Innovator of the Year.  Read more about him, his work, and the award in a BostInno article here!