Success Stories

Kangaroo Keeper

HOW COMPASSION AND INGENUITY CREATED A SOLUTION

Stephanie Jenkins’ grandson spent time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) when he was born. This experience inspired Stephanie to go back to school to become a respiratory therapist. After completing her degree, she started working at the University of Kentucky Children’s Hospital as a respiratory therapist in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where she provides specialized care and treatment to critically ill newborns.

The UK Children’s Hospital provides kangaroo care to the babies in the NICU. Kangaroo care is a method of providing skin-to-skin contact with a parent for as long as possible. The benefits of kangaroo care are substantial, including increasing the babies brain development and emotional development; reducing their stress, regulating their vital signs, and increasing bonding to the parents. Their fine motor skills and cognitive skills are affected for their lifetime. As well as lowering the level of hyperactivity later in life.

Kangaroo care is much more difficult with intubated babies. Because intubated babies are attached to a ventilator, the process is more intensive to prepare and more caution is needed to ensure that the baby stays connected to the ventilator.

Stephanie read an American Academy of Pediatrics article on a 20-year follow-up on kangaroo care versus traditional care.  The study indicated that there were significant and long-lasting effects for the babies 20 years after kangaroo care was given. During her work with using kangaroo care on intubated babies, she wondered if there were more secure items to make the process easier. As she researched, she determined there wasn’t any and decided to start developing prototypes herself. Based on the 20-year study and her research, she became very passionate to find a solution.

Through Stephanie’s compassion for intubated infants and her ingenuity, she developed a prototype that works to provide a more secure method of giving kangaroo care to intubated infants. It is a simple, but very innovative product, which has the clever name of Kangaroo Keeper, which gives a nod to the care that it makes easier to provide. Stephanie aspires for Kangaroo Keeper to be used by all 983 NICU’s in the United States so that all parents of intubated babies can easily provide skin-to-skin contact for them.

Stephanie is thankful for the help that UK’s Office of Technology Commercialization OTC) played in assisting her to get her product to market. She found the experience enlightening and very helpful, especially to have assistance with determining how she should proceed with her product.

Her advice comes straight from Rosalyn Carter, “you have to have confidence in your ability and then be tough enough to follow through.”

Stephanie has participated in the UKAccel program, sponsored by the UK’s Office of Technology Commercialization and the Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship. She will be presenting at the end of this month. The goal of the UKAccel program is to help you discover if launching a startup is right for you.

Thoroughbred Carbon Sciences LLC

HOW TWO CHICAGO ENTREPRENEURS BECAME INTERESTED IN A UK PATENTED PROCESS

What does a University of Kentucky (UK) Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship (VACE) Bootcamp project, UK research and patents, two Chicago entrepreneurs, and bourbon have in common? Stillage.

Stillage is defined as the mash from alcoholic fermentation after removal of the alcohol in a still. It is waste from breweries and distilleries that is hard to dispose of. With the help of VACE’s Bootcamp, UK students developed a business model around a UK patented process to take bourbon stillage and produce high-quality activated carbons. This business model was used by the Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) to recruit two entrepreneurs from Chicago and start the business.

Those two Chicago entrepreneurs are Robert A. Moore (Bob) and Gary Cullen. In Bob’s career, he has formed an investor group, served as the chief financial officer and then the chief executive officer for a technology company, and was a chief financial officer and managing director of a startup intellectual property licensing company. Gary was a partner at international law firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, and is now a private investor and entrepreneur.

Bob and Gary have known each other for 35 years and have been talking about partnering for four years when the stillage-to-activated-carbon business model was brought to their attention. Because disposal of stillage is expensive and a major issue for distilleries, they saw the potential. After meeting with inventor Dr. Steve Lipka on multiple trips to Lexington, together they started a company called Thoroughbred Carbon Sciences LLC (the Bootcamp project was previously called Stillage Solutions). Taking stillage and other feedstock and modifying based on UK’s patent-protected approach, the company can create carbons and market in several applications.

The bourbon industry is growing which will increase the amount of stillage that needs to be disposed of. Being able to take a waste and convert it into carbons is environmentally friendly, and helps since the industry is bracing for stricter environmental regulations. The carbons created from stillage can be used for water filtration, high energy storage devices (supercapacitors), fertilizer, black paint (used at horse farms), air filtration, dry lubricants, and in several automotive applications.

Since Bob and Gary started Thoroughbred Carbon Sciences LLC (TCS), they spend three-four days a week in Kentucky and have met with the University of Kentucky, distilleries, Governor Bevin and the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development (CED), the Kentucky Distilleries Association (KDA), and companies that may have a use for the activated carbons produced by the technology. They have had many positive conversations and are excited about the next steps to making this a reality. They are working on building a pilot plant in Kentucky to serve as a model for several full-scale plants located at or near several distilleries.

According to Bob and Gary, it takes a lot of work to do a startup and you need to be ready for it. It is important to create a culture of working hard and smart and being focused.  In discussing this opportunity and the work it has taken to get it started, Bob said “working with Ian McClure and the OTC team has been terrific. They’ve been very business minded and incredibly responsive. We couldn’t ask for more.”

Thoroughbred Carbon Sciences LLC has a bright future in Kentucky and will bring something wasteful (stillage) into something useful (carbons) that can be utilized in many different applications.

Wild Dog Physics LLC

How an Energetic Open-Minded Spirit Developed a Revolutionary Approach to Cancer Care?

Cancer is a prevalent disease in the world, and radiation therapy is a common and effective form of cancer treatment. In radiation therapy, medical accelerators aim beams of high energy particles at tumors to destroy or damage cancer cells while avoiding damage to important healthy normal tissue. Radiation treatments for many patients can take several times a week for many weeks.

Janelle Molloy, Ph.D., DABR, professor of radiation medicine and director of medical physics at the University of Kentucky Radiation Oncology department, is the founder of Wild Dog Physics, LLC. Being a physicist and working in radiation medicine provides a unique opportunity to utilize one’s problem-solving skills to innovate and commercialize because they really know what the problems are and have to technical skills to solve those problems. According to Molloy, “the point of research is to change someone else’s behavior, and there is no better way to change behavior than to commercialize a product.”

Wild Dog Physics, LLC is in the very early stages of changing the approach to cancer care through a Quality Assurance (QA) Integrator. The QA Integrator is being developed to provide more precise and efficient cancer care by overcoming some of the challenges in providing high-level cancer care. One of the major challenges it looks to solve is reducing the work time from eight hours to 30 minutes and providing more complete and better data that is automatically analyzed and regulatory compliant. It also can reduce costs by providing only one device, instead of many. This device was a response to seeing her team struggle for many hours doing QA on a medical accelerator after regular working hours.

The QA Integrator combines several pieces of equipment to make it more efficient and effective to use by taking all the data automatically. Janelle finds joy in building new things and helping those who need it most. This device has the potential to help underserved communities with very little resources and provide better access to technology in the United States and internationally. She worked with Drs. Quan Chen and Dennis Cheek from her team to create this technology.

Janelle has taken full advantage of the resources at the University of Kentucky and the community. She recently graduated from the UKAccel program, a partnership between the Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) and the Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship (VACE). She also won the top prize of $1,000 at the 5Acroos pitch event and is currently participating in VACE’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp.

She has been very impressed with how supportive the University of Kentucky and Lexington community have been and feels optimistic and energized when participating in these programs. When asked what advice she would give to someone interested in commercializing and starting their own company, Janelle said “Do what you want to do. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.” She has had opportunities to mentor young physicists and has seen how her influence in her department has provided opportunities that wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t been there.

Wild Dog Physics LLC was named as a nod to her very energetic dog Holly, and a nod to the energetic, open-minded spirit she wants in her startup company. “Being here in the land of the Wildcats, I thought it was time to have a wild dog,” said Janelle.