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University of Michigan, Virginia profs team up to create PsiKick

Professors from the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia have spun out technology from their respective universities to create a new venture-backed startup, PsiKick.

Startups pulling technologies from a number of different universities isn't unheard of. However, fledgling companies taking technology from premier research institutions doesn’t happen often.

"It might be more rare that it's this equal (the standing of the research universities supplying the technology)," says Mark Maynard, marketing manager for the Office of Technology Transfer at the University of Michigan. He adds that the contribution of each university's technology is "pretty right down the middle."

David Wentzloff and Benton Calhoun met while attending graduate school at MIT. After graduate school they went back to their respective alma maters to start teaching careers. Wentzloff is an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at U-M and Calhoun is an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the UVa.

The friends came together in 2012 to launch PsiKick, which now has offices in Ann Arbor and Virginia. PsiKick is developing an ultra-low-power wireless sensor that is capable of operating on 1/100th to 1/1000th of the power budget of other low-power integrated circuit platforms. That enables the chip to be powered without the help of a battery, instead relying on vibration, thermal gradients, solar, radio frequency or piezo actuation for energy sources.

PsiKick's chip conducted continuous EKG monitoring and detection of atrial fibrillation. Wireless updates each second were sent by radio, all operating continuously and powered by body heat using a small thermoelectric generator on a body with no battery at all in the system. The lack of a battery means the chip can be used in a number of harsh environments.

"The implications could be enormous for several industries," Maynard says.

PsiKick recently closed on a Series A round of funding to help further develop the technology. The investment was led by New Enterprise Associates. Other investors include MINTS, a U-M venture fund, and Osage University Partners.

Source: Mark Maynard, marketing manager for the Office of Tech Transfer at the University of Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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