President and chief executive officer Seyamak Keyghobad, a Case Western Reserve University grad, began talking to his contacts in Cleveland. They suggested he check out Lorain County Community College. The main campus, they explained, was home to the 40,000-square-foot Desich Entrepreneurship Center, one of 12 Edison Technology Incubators in Ohio that provide support services to tech startups.
More importantly, the incubator was connected to the Richard Desich SMART Commercialization Center for Microsystems, a new 46,000-square-foot facility devoted to creating, developing and producing miniaturized sensors by utilizing micro electronic mechanical systems, or MEMS. The cost of renting space there was approximately a tenth of what the company would pay in Boston, according NanoBio Systems’ director of research and engineering Michael Bruckman.
The company signed a three-year lease on a 450-square-foot
office and 600-square-foot lab — enough for Bruckman to relocate to Elyria last July, followed by a junior scientist in February.
“It’s very nice,” Bruckman says of the setup. “I’m working in this very beautiful building with a great view. And the resources are fantastic.”
The most surprising asset — to Bruckman, at least — is the college’s institutional review board, which he describes as a body of scientists, professors and community members who assess the safety of clinical trials and grant permission to conduct them. Because of that board, NanoBio Systems is able to run clinical trials out of its very own lab.
“There’s no overhead,” Bruckman explains. “The only cost is due to supplies and reimbursements for the patients that come in.”
Another benefit is the presence of fellow Desich SMART Center tenant SMART Microsystems, which help clients prototype, test and manufacture sensors. The college started the self-sustaining service provider in 2011 with a grant-funded purchase of approximately $5.5 million in equipment for building miniaturized sensors, according to SMART Microsystems managing director Matt Apanius. He notes that NanoBio Systems has already used SMART Microsystems for scanning electron microscope analysis.
“When a tenant company like NanoBio needs access to expensive equipment, they can access it through us as opposed to job-shopping [the work] outside of the state of Ohio or buying the equipment,” Apanius says. “We have customers all over the country.”
The college also has supplied two part-time interns, a manufacturing major and a nursing student, each paid in part by the school’s intern-reimbursement program. Apanius points out that LCCC offers a two-year degree in manufacturing microsystems and MEMS, a curriculum that produces the perfect tech-grad complement to those earning master’s degrees and doctorates at the likes of Case Western Reserve University. Bruckman adds that he’s been meeting regularly with incubator staffers to discuss funding opportunities and developing a business plan, even though the technology in question is still in the embryonic stages of development.
Selling that technology wouldn’t necessarily mean the end of NanoBio Systems. Bruckman envisions developing sensors that detect salivary biomarkers for various diseases.
“But we need to really make sure that we have a solid support system with the glucose sensor before we start diversifying into other markets,” he says.