As Ohio continues to shake its ‘Rust Belt’ sobriquet, the seventh most populous US state now surges with upward opportunities in a new economic sector: life-sciences research and innovation. And it’s within this blooming bioscience ecosystem that Dr. Jason Heikenfeld, of UC CEAS, and his advanced sweat sensor technology startup, Eccrine Systems, Inc., thrives.
Unlocking the Secrets of Your Sweat
Since the 1970s, Ohio’s economy has been reeling from the elimination of hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs. Yet the void left by its declining industrial base has provided the state with a supremely supportive space for a promising new sector: life-sciences. Now home to a blooming biotech ecosystem, Ohio is the prime location for
Dr. Jason Heikenfeld’s advanced sweat sensor technology startup, Eccrine Systems, Inc.
Eccrine Systems was co-founded by Jason Heikenfeld, PhD and University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computing Systems, in 2013 and, as it spun out of UC, a portion of the company is owned by the urban research university itself. The company specializes in biotech health diagnostics, developing wearable sensors that analyze sweat—a biomarker-rich fluid that’s been deemed the ‘holy grail of diagnostics’ as it is both non-invasive and highly accurate—to continuously monitor a person’s vital signs.
For his third startup, Heikenfeld raised an impressive $1.5M in early-stage venture capital from CincyTech. Additionally, the State of Ohio provided Eccrine Systems with a $100k Technology Validation and Start-up Fund award and also received a $1 million Commercial Acceleration Loan Fund (CALF) loan from Ohio Third Frontier.
Named one of 2017’s “50 Most Promising Startups” by Bloomberg, Eccrine Systems recently raised an additional $5.5 million of investment capital and won a nearly $4 million contract from the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The award tasks Eccrine, in part collaboration with UC, with developing a next generation, non-invasive sensing system for the continuous monitoring of specific molecular biomarkers in human sweat.
The US Air Force plans to use Eccrine’s wearable technology to monitor ground troops’ and pilots’ well-being. Joshua Hagen, a civilian chemist and engineer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, explains, “Overexertion is a big thing in the military. Our men and women train very hard in some harsh environments. Hydration and heat stresses are huge for us right now. This analysis could mean preventing dehydration among infantry, an area of intense focus for all service branches.”
In addition to this contract, Eccrine is close to producing advanced wearables that act as mini-laboratories on your arm and other skin locations. As featured by the Washington Post in Thomas Heath’s “Your sweat could tell you when to make a baby—and more,” Robert Beech, co-founder and CEO of Eccrine, described, “The goal is not to have to stick needles and catheters into people. In the context of daily life, work, sleep, play, the goal is to have a window into the current physiological status of the wearer… What blood results are for invasive medicine using needles, sweat has to be for noninvasive to get and measure cholesterol, cortisol, ovulation monitoring, fertility, and reproductive health. It could be used to determine electrolyte loss, which can be used for cardiac patients.”
Heikenfeld’s innovative life-sciences research was recently spotlighted in the prestigious research journal, Nature. Neil Savage’s feature, “Ohio’s Bio Boom,” states Heikenfeld, Eccrine Systems, and UC are key leaders in Ohio’s flourishing bioscience sector. Nature made special mention of UC’s unprecedented Technology Accelerator for Commercialization (UCTAC) in the article, which is “a one-stop resource for transitioning scientific breakthroughs into market opportunities, maximizing the societal impact and economic return on UC innovation.”
Heikenfeld confirms, “Consumer electronics is not something Cincinnati is known for. But biotech in Ohio—you’re able to find really great people… It’s a great place to turn research into a company. It’s the universities, it’s the venture-capital community, it’s urban revitalization, it’s the regional strategy—it’s everything you need. We’re changing perceptions, and the proof is in the success.”
About Eccrine Systems, Inc.
Eccrine Systems is a privately held company dedicated to improving human health, safety, and productivity through the innovation and development of advanced sweat sensing technologies. The Cincinnati-based company was founded in 2013 to commercialize technology and intellectual property that was exclusively licensed from the University of Cincinnati, and with the funding support of CincyTech and its network of local, regional and national investment sources. To learn more, please visit www.eccrine.com.
About the UC College of Engineering and Applied Science
The UC College of Engineering and Applied Science unleashes education by immersing students in a rigorous and innovative curriculum and culture of real-world, experience-based learning. The value of a CEAS degree is unparalleled, providing elevated placement, greater earning potential and unlimited post-graduate options. Because here, WE ENGINEER BETTER™.
About the University of Cincinnati
The University of Cincinnati offers students a balance of educational excellence and real-world experience. UC is a public research university with an enrollment of more than 44,000 students and has been named "Among the top tier of the Best National Universities," according to U.S. News & World Report.
Contact: Ashley Duvelius
Date: May 15, 2017