(TNS) – New Mexico’s oil and gas industry may soon clean up dirty “produced” water with a new, low-cost filtration system developed by the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro.
The university recently launched a new company, Socorro Membrane Technologies, to fully develop and market the filtration system in partnership with the engineering and manufacturing company Process Equipment & Service Co., or PESCO, based in Farmington.
The partners plan to build a small industrial facility in Socorro to start producing filtration units, with a first pilot project expected to be launched in San Juan County before the end of the year, said Peter Anselmo, director of new companies from NM Tech.
“We are now preparing to move forward on the installation,” Anselmo told the Journal. “It will start by producing 20 or 25 filtration modules per month and then ramp up. Everything will remain in Socorro, creating 10 to 12 well-paying manufacturing jobs to begin with.
Socorro Membrane Technologies is one of three companies recently created by NM Tech to commercialize new university technologies. The other two will market new portable motion-powered sensors that eliminate the need for batteries, as well as a powerful new disinfectant that researchers at NM Tech’s biology department have invented with common, environmentally friendly materials already in use. in hundreds of commercial products.
Many more university technologies are in the works as potential candidates to move from the lab to the marketplace, reflecting the concerted efforts over the past seven years to put together a vibrant technology transfer program on campus.
BUILDING ON THE LEGACY
NM Tech is already well known for past accomplishments, such as the now globally acclaimed “nicotine patch” – originally created by local researcher Frank Etscorn – which brought the university into tens of millions of dollars.
More recently, Albuquerque-based cybersecurity firm RiskSense – which launched in 2006 with technology developed at NM Tech – was acquired by Utah-based information technology giant Ivanti for an undisclosed price.
But, until 2014, when the university launched its Center for Leadership in Technology Commercialization, NM Tech had only commercialized certain technologies on a case-by-case basis. Today, he manages a comprehensive and collective approach to technology transfer that includes entrepreneurship training and assistance to faculty and students through the Office of Innovation and Commercialization, which replaced the Center. for Leadership in 2018.
The university offers courses and hands-on experience allowing students to acquire knowledge and skills to bring technology to market, while working with academics from the early stages of their research to identify potentially marketable innovation, patent it and create business strategies to commercialize it. .
NM Tech now has a new technology transfer czar, Myrriah Chavez Tomar, who was hired by the university in September as executive director of the Office of Innovation.
Tomar is a biochemist and a long-time veteran of public and private efforts to advance the commercial development of scientific and technological innovation. Previously, she worked on technology transfer at Rice University in Texas and, for the past three years, headed the science and technology office of the state’s Department of Economic Development, which gave her conferred extensive industry knowledge and extensive state and national relationships.
“My work with the state has given me an idea of everything that is going on in New Mexico regarding science and technology startups and existing businesses, and an understanding of their needs and the programs available to support them,” he said. Tomar told the Journal. “I have the experience and the networks in place to connect the university and continue to make NM Tech an entrepreneurial institution.”
INCREASE IN TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER
Rooting entrepreneurship in the foundation of the university is a mission sustained from the top down. It is inscribed in the logo of the brand “STEÂ²M”. The university filed this in 2019 as a game about STEM – the acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math – squaring the “E” to represent both “engineering” and “entrepreneurship.” .
An annual inventors and entrepreneurs workshop, which the university launched in 2016, also stimulated technology transfer.
The two-day educational conference offers extensive networking opportunities, presentations, panel discussions and a pitch competition for local innovators. It brings together faculty and students with investors, seasoned entrepreneurs and start-up professionals from across the state.
Over the past several years he has also included top executives from California, New York and other places, thanks in large part to the recruiting efforts of Larry Udell, a seasoned investor and Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has helped expand NM Tech’s marketing programs. as an assistant faculty member since 2014.
The pandemic ended the conference last year. But it resumed in October as a hybrid event attended in person by heads of state and online by out-of-state participants. This time it was reduced to a one-day event that drew around 90 people, up from 180 in the past, Udell said. But New Mexico’s participation reflects the state’s rapidly maturing ecosystem, with local leaders working together to create a statewide startup economy. And that, in turn, helps NM Tech.
“New Mexico’s startup economy is still in its infancy, but it’s starting to boom and wave because of its wealth of resources and institutions,” Udell told the Journal. “They all work together and cooperate under one roof, and that’s a huge advantage.”
Indeed, NM Tech has sought local partnerships to advance its new start-ups, such as PESCO in Farmington to help build Socorro Membrane Technologies.
PESCO helped researchers expand their filtration system for industrial use, said Anselmo, director of New Ventures. The university’s Petroleum Recovery Research Center built the technology, but it needed PESCO’s engineering and manufacturing prowess to transform the original test tube-sized filtration units into industrial-sized modules.
“PESCO built them in four foot long, four inch diameter cans that can filter up to 1,500 gallons of water per day,” Anselmo said. “Our researchers have entered a whole new area of learning about what it takes to turn lab technology into a marketable product.”
The PESCO partnership allows NM Tech to keep the future filtration plant in Socorro.
“It’s fascinating technology,” Anselmo said. “We turned down the venture capital investment because we don’t want it to leave the state. We want to keep everything here.”
COVID PREVENTIVE SPRAYING
The university’s newly developed disinfection technology is also intended to be commercialized through a joint venture with Albuquerque real estate mogul Paul Silverman, co-owner of Geltmore Partners LLC with his sons. About four years ago, Silverman started investing Geltmore’s profits in local startups.
“We want to help local businesses grow by reinvesting in our real estate business,” Silverman told The Journal. “We have our own little fish farm here to raise small fish into big fish that are sustainable, that create jobs and wealth, and that stay in New Mexico.”
Silverman and NM Tech finalized the joint venture at the inventors and entrepreneurs workshop in October, forming MycoDelens as a new company to market NM Tech’s disinfectant.
Biotech researchers Snezna Rogelj and Danielle Turner created the technology by mixing common ingredients from commercial products to create a new material that has been shown to be very effective against the coronavirus.
“The materials are already in hundreds of products available,” Rogelj told The Journal. “The secret sauce is to combine the materials in the right way.”
The university has already licensed it to Parnell Pharmaceuticals, which now markets it in Europe as a preventative nasal spray.
“People get infected through the nose and pass the virus through the mouth,” Rogelj said. “This intercepts the virus and destroys it before it can infect cells. It has been shown to be 99.9% effective through in vitro testing.”
It has been approved for sale only in Europe. But rather than navigate the lengthy U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval process for human applications, MycoDelens will seek approval from the U.S. FDA and Environmental Protection Agency. to apply it as a disinfectant in places such as airports, hospitals and schools.
Meanwhile, the university’s self-contained wearable sensor system will be marketed by RD Health Sensing, the third company recently formed by NM Tech Research Park Corp., which established NM Tech’s three new startups as university affiliates under the research branch of the State Parks Act. Once formed, the university looks for joint ventures to move businesses forward, Anselmo said.
NASA initially developed motion-activated technology to detect damage on drones. Researchers at NM Tech transferred it for use in wearable sensors, starting with the soles of diabetic shoes to monitor their feet for medical issues.
The university also plans to develop it into a garment fiber for athlete monitoring apparel, who currently use battery-powered sensors to collect data on training performance.
“Our wearable technology would be self-sustaining,” Anselmo said. “You never need to plug it in. You just put it on and the motion powers it.”
© 2021 The Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.