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Satori Pharmaceuticals was founded in 2005 to develop therapies for degenerative neurological disease. Early this year, the company raised $22 million to develop a pill to limit the spread of the neurotoxins that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. If treated early enough, patients with Alzheimer’s might be able to avoid much of the debilitating mental effects that are the disease’s hallmark.
Satori, which means “understanding” in Japanese, was established by Dr. Mark Findeis with PureTech Ventures. In addition to its own product development, Satori is working with academic researchers to create early-warning blood tests for Alzheimer’s, so that patients could get on the Satori drug as quickly as possible. There are currently more than 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease.
Seventh Sense Biosystems is applying advances in chemistry and material science to develop simple health monitors for complex medical conditions. The startup has remained quiet about the specific conditions it aims to monitor, but co-founder and CEO Doug Levinson tells us to envision a monitor no more intrusive than an imprint on the skin that could alter its appearance depending on the status of a patient’s health. The goal is to develop health monitors that enable people to live without the typical intrusions that existing diagnostic tests cause.
To turns its vision into reality, the company is working with bioactive pigments that are designed to change their color or other aspects of their appearance when they come into contact with specific molecular indicators in blood or other bodily fluids. The pigments are polymer particles that could consist of two hemispheres, each loaded with different colors. Surface ligands are bound to a portion of the particles, which are designed to reveal a certain color if the ligands attach to specific drug molecules or other health indicators. This technology was developed by top professors at MIT, the University of Michigan, and the University of California-Santa Barbara.
Born from a serendipitous discovery in the femtosecond laser research laboratory of Harvard physicist Eric Mazur, SiOnyx’s technology promises to give semiconductor manufacturers a way to make far more sensitive and efficient chips for medical imaging devices and photovoltaic cells.
Silicon is already the main semiconductor used in imaging devices and solar cells, because it gives up electrons when it’s struck by photons of light. But a team in Mazur’s lab led by James Carey, who’s now SiOnyx’s principal scientist, found that blasting ordinary silicon with an extremely brief but powerful pulse of laser light in the presence of dopants like sulfur hexafluoride gas produced “black silicon,” a roughened form of the material that turned out to be a much better absorber of photons, even at infrared wavelengths that normally pass right through silicon. And not only is the material sensitive to wavelengths that silicon-based devices simply couldn’t detect in the past, it also produces more electric current in response to the same light input.
SiOnyx emerged from stealth mode last fall. If the venture-funded startup can translate the findings into technology that semiconductor manufacturers can incorporate into existing fabrication facilities, it could lead to low-cost methods for producing far more sensitive MRI and X-ray machines—meaning doctors could detect tumors and other abnormalities while exposing patients to less radiation. And down the road, black silicon solar cells could make electricity from the sun’s abundant infrared rays, a portion of the spectrum that’s untapped by today’s photovoltaic technology.
To supply the signals that orient GPS devices, the U.S. Department of Defense launched a multi-billion-dollar network of Global Positioning System satellites. But Skyhook Wireless’s insight was that today’s cities are saturated with another kind of wireless signal that can be tapped at no cost: those continually broadcast by the Wi-Fi routers in practically every home and workplace. By fanning out across the world’s cities with antenna-equipped trucks, Skyhook has built a proprietary database of the locations of the networks, information that allows any Wi-Fi-enabled device running Skyhook’s software to triangulate its position to within about 30 meters.
The six-year-old company’s big break came in January 2008, when Apple announced that Skyhook’s software, together with another technique called cell-tower triangulation, would power the new location-finding feature in the iPhone. Since then, Skyhook’s location-finding software has been baked into dozens of platforms, including camera-phone software such as Locr, camera memory cards such as the Eye-Fi, laptop-based software like AOL’s Taggit, Mozilla’s Geode, and Skyhook’s own Loki system, and even laptop recovery systems such as GadgetTrak’s MacTrak.