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Chris Hessenius and Mahmoud Fallahi in the lab with the tunable laser they invented, now licensed to startup Wavelength Unlimited Technologies.

Tech Launch Arizona, which is responsible for commercializing many of the University of Arizona’s inventions and innovations, has set a new personal record for startups launched in a year, helping 19 startups during fiscal year 2020 and bringing Tech Launch’s total number of startups to more than 100 since 2012. 

Some of the startups from this past fiscal year include Auxilium Technology Group LLC, SaiOx Inc and Hipokratiz LLC.

 • Auxilium Technology Group, formed in April, is looking to develop sustainable mining technologies which maximize value from elemental extraction, while reducing the environmental impact of tailings, the waste produced from the mining process. Auxilium does this  by using tailings as efficiently as possible. 

“Our company uses a holistic approach to tailings processing,” said Auxilium CEO Abraham Jalbout. “So basically it means that we will not only improve the way that you can efficiently extract elemental content from the tailings, but also repurpose the tailings for building materials.” 

According to Jalbout, the company’s technologies have been developed to work in the absence of harmful chemicals. In some cases, the company is able to use organic components. 

“One of our technologies is going to use organic salts to leach the metals from these tailings themselves,” said Jalbout. 

Jalbout foresees positive economic and social impacts resulting from the technologies Auxilium is developing. He explained that while the economic value coming from the extraction of elements from mining tailings could be substantial, the major focus is lessening the environmental footprint of mining. 

“From a social aspect and an environmental aspect, I think that is one of the main motivators as a team and also for the technology itself,” said Jalbout. 

SaiOx Inc., which originated from the UA College of Medicine, is developing a new breathing assistance device that will be applicable for COVID-19 patients and others struggling with respiratory illnesses. The technology, invented by Dr. Sairam Parthasarathy, could potentially decrease the need for ventilators, which have been used with some of the most ill COVID patients. It is a new version of helium-oxygen application,  which has long been a method of breathing assistance. A helium-oxygen mixture, also known as heliox, has a lower density than air itself. Thus, it allows for a “reduction in resistance to flow within the airways, and consequently to a decrease in the work of breathing,” according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

 • Hipokratiz LLC looks to address the amount of no-shows at doctor’s offices, which according to UANews, results in losses of $150 billion each year. 

“Essentially, it’s a piece of software that’s tracking appointments. It’s determining when individuals should be at these appointments, it’s contacting individuals to make sure that they’re going to be there, it’s letting doctors know earlier if they’re not,” explained Eric Smith, executive director for the UA Center for Innovation. “No-shows happen for many different reasons, you know sometimes you forget, sometimes people are busy, sometimes people are scared and so this piece of software works to kind of eliminate all of those issues and put the power of the calendars back in the hands of doctors.”

In the development of UA startups, Tech Launch Arizona plays two primary roles, according to Hockstad: One role lies with licensing and intellectual property, which includes filing patents, negotiating licenses, and marketing the new technology of startups. The other role is “venture development,” which involves working with entrepreneurs and inventors on fostering success in the company. 

The UA Center for Innovation also plays a role in the development in many UA startups. The center acts as a next step for many of the startups coming out of Tech Launch as well as science and technology startups from Tucson and even other areas across the globe. They essentially take newly commercialized entities and aim to turn them into companies with revenue, investment and the proper preparation for business success. The center is currently working with a personal record of 33 startups, including ElectroSonix, Auxilium, and Hipokratiz. 

“If you dive into the list of technologies that our coming out of the university, it just makes us so proud of the people that we have on our faculty, the research that’s being done,” said Smith.

 

Quinn McVeigh is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.