The Sweat Spot

By: Natalie Bullock
June 30, 2015

Eccrine Systems, a privately held company co-founded by UC College of Engineering and Applied Science Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computing Systems, Jason Heikenfeld, PhD, continues to receive recognition for the pioneering work it is doing with health diagnostics. The startup, spun out of UC in 2013, is Heikenfeld’s third, and a portion of the company is owned by UC, as are many of the patents related to the sweat sensor patch technology.

A smartphone app displays data sent from the patch [bottom].

A smartphone app displays data sent from the patch

Since an October 2014 CEAS article covering Heikenfeld’s work, the technology and the funding for it have progressed significantly, though not overnight. As Heikenfeld says, “We had been working in the background for some time to prepare for this.” One of the monetary awards they received was a $50k grant through UC’s Technology Commercialization Accelerator program that laid the foundation for further rounds of capital.

Heikenfeld reports that “Cincy Tech was also instrumental in assisting with the fundraising round, has invested themselves, and also contributed a $40k Imagining Grant.”  In addition, the State of Ohio has provided Eccrine Systems a $100k Technology Validation and Start-up Fund award.  

Most recently, the company received approval for a $1 Million Commercial Acceleration Loan Fund (CALF) loan from Ohio Third Frontier, at which time the state reportedly encouraged Heikenfeld saying that we are “doing it right” here at UC and in Cincinnati! Eccrine Systems plans to use that money to fill some “key vacancies” on their technical team. You can view current job openings here.

Eccrine Systems produces a small electronic patch that can monitor the contents of sweat

Eccrine Systems produces a small electronic patch that can monitor the contents of sweat

In order to move forward with his patent-pending technology, Sweatronics™, Heikenfeld plans to take entrepreneurial sabbatical this year to focus solely on supporting commercialization at Eccrine Systems. This will be his first sabbatical. He says, “I greatly appreciate the release time to do this. Being a Professor by itself is beyond a full-time job, so supporting a company simultaneously would be more than stressful, it would be ineffective for all my responsibilities.”

Being able to take this time away will allow Heikenfeld to enjoy one of the most exciting parts of his work right now, which is collaborating with the Eccrine Systems commercialization team with whom he says he learns something new each day. Another exciting aspect of this endeavor is getting to see his products come to life. He says it was very rewarding to see the “first generation patches come back from industry suppliers (volume manufacturers).” Which he explains, “shows a successful tech transfer event.”

Professor Jason Heikenfeld, PhD, Chief Science Officer and Co-Founder of Eccrine Systems

Professor Jason Heikenfeld, PhD, Chief Science Officer and Co-Founder of Eccrine Systems

This success is due in part to the collaboration Heikenfeld has with UC students and the “extremely talented [UC] technical team that brought the technology to the point where a compelling business plan could be drafted.”  Beyond that, Dorothy Air and Geoffrey Pinski of the UC commercialization office have been tremendously supportive, which Heikenfeld describes as “both enabling and inspiring, because we want to make sure we can continue to deliver in order to maintain that belief and support.”

It would appear that Heikenfeld and the other team members at Eccrine Systems are indeed well-positioned to deliver in a way that will continue to generate support from the UC family and others. Looking forward, Heikenfeld says, “The dream is that sweat becomes the dominant paradigm for continuous monitoring of your physiological condition.  We are working hard to build a technology platform that can generate many products, but more importantly, we are trying to fundamentally change the landscape across simple every-day wearables all the way to care in a hospital.” It is this kind of dreaming that distinguishes UC students and faculty and makes the university proud.

As an award winning entrepreneur, Heikenfeld has much wisdom to offer those just starting out. However, if he were to boil it down to two essential tips they would be: “(1) get smarter about it and then do it!  Experience is incredibly important, and you have to start gaining that experience at some point and, (2) surround yourself with a team of people that are smarter and more capable than you.   The idea of the solo entrepreneur is largely a myth.”

Heikenfeld is living out these values through his work at Eccrine Systems, and we at UC will be eagerly watching to see where that takes him and Sweatronics in the future!