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Four ACA Member Portfolio Companies Finalists for Ingenuity Award

Posted on Monday, April 09, 2018 by Angel Capital Association

By: Sarah Dickey, ACA Membership Director

The Angel Capital Association is delighted to announce the four finalists for the Luis Villalobos Award, a highly regarded, North American-wide award that honors ingenuity, creativity and innovation among startups backed by ACA members: Catalyst OrthoScience, CNote, Oculogica and PhotoniCare.  “These companies are at the top of their game and represent the pinnacle of startup innovation and ingenuity,” said ACA Executive Director, Marianne Hudson.  The finalists will be honored and the winner revealed on April 19, 2018 at the world’s largest gathering of angel investors, the 2018 ACA Summit in Boston, MA.

This award is in honor of Luis Villalobos, who in 1997 founded one of the largest and most respected angel organizations in the world, Tech Coast Angels.  Luis was a leader in the angel investing arena by making 57 personal angel investments, educating angels and always looking to invest in and mentor the most innovative companies.  Luis was a true “leading light” in the angel community.

Catalyst OrthoScience recognized the lack of progress with shoulder replacement surgery, even though it is performed approximately 100,000 per year in the United States.  Although this surgery is extremely common due to shoulder arthritis, a painful and debilitating condition that commonly affects older active adults, it is associated with a lengthy recovery and sub-optimal results compared to hip and knee replacement advances in the past 25 years.

The Naples, FL based company created a solution with a novel surgical treatment for shoulder arthritis and injury, the Catalyst CSR shoulder replacement system, that is less traumatic for patients, reduces the number of tools needed by surgeons, and reproduces the shape of the shoulder with precision. All of this leads to greater efficiency of the surgery and improved outcomes with shorter recovery time needed for patients.  The patented implants and instruments are extremely efficient thereby significantly reducing hospital cleaning costs and inventory management.

Tim Cartwright and Susi Kimball of Tamiami Angel Funds explained their nomination of Catalyst OrthoScience: “The product redefines shoulder replacement with advantages over competitors that include a less invasive procedure that improves patient recovery and rehabilitation outcomes, and potentially reducing the incidence of surgeon errors.  CSR’s simple design and dramatically reduced number of tools significantly lowers overall manufacturing and operating costs.”

CNote, of Oakland, CA, has identified two of the financial industry’s pain points, low returns associated with savings and cash alternatives, and the inequality in capital allocation available to Americans. They are working to solve these issues by offering a 2.5% return on all invested savings, generating a return by investing in a diversified portfolio of federally-certified Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) which focused on increasing capital access for financially-underserved communities across America.  CNote dollars are invested in female and minority entrepreneurs, helping to build low-income housing and incite other community development projects.

On why CNote received her nomination, Victoria Pettibone of Astia Angels said, “CNote has proven they are committed to innovating and will not bend their vision to pre-existing frameworks. CNote’s co-founders wanted to create a new financial product that linked retail investors to proven, federally-certified community lenders that funnel capital to financially underserved communities. The problem? Nothing like that existed, they had to create it. So they did.”  The company was also nominated by Pipeline Angels.

Oculogica of New York, NY is working to create an objective, fast assessment of concussion and elevated intracranial pressure in one test.  Currently, there is no objective assessment tool for concussions, monitoring recovery progress or to assess preventative tools.  There are an estimated 7-10 million concussions annually in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Brain injuries are the contributing factor to a third of all injury-related deaths in the country, yet they are very difficult to diagnose.

Dr. Uzma Samadani, practicing neurosurgeon and founder of Oculogica, came to the realization that tracking eye movements could serve as a measurement for the severity of brain injuries.  This realization spawned new technology that uses a proprietary combination of hardware and software to monitor eye movements.  Dr. Samadani founded Oculogica in 2013 and developed the EyeBOX, which rapidly and accurately detects brain abnormalities resulting from concussions and other head injuries.  The non-invasive technology for this progressive tool uses machine learning on large data sets of eye tracking measurements to develop algorithms for the diagnosis of concussion.  Oculogica has managed to combine computer and medical science to develop a solution to a serious and ongoing problem.

Speaking for Golden Seeds about their nomination of Oculogica, Matias Healy noted, “While conducting clinical trials to improve the outcomes after brain injury, Dr. Samadani invented a new way to measure what is wrong with the brain by looking at eye tracking.  Dr. Samadani realized that the only way for people to benefit from her discovery would be to commercialize it.  The team understands that in the future, all care will be algorithmic, and Oculogica will be at the forefront of that movement.”

PhotoniCare, based in Champaign, IL, is introducing a cutting-edge solution to the ongoing struggle of middle ear infections, which are the leading cause of hearing loss, surgical interventions and antibiotic prescriptions in children.  Despite the high incidence of this disease, the current gold standard for this diagnosis is a highly subjective exam using an otoscope that leads to misdiagnosis rates of up to 50% by general physicians.  The limitations of current tools used to diagnose fluid in the middle ear make it very challenging to provide information about the consistency or contents of the fluid, which is essential when making a proper diagnosis.  PhotoniCare’s ClearView otoscope not only identifies the presence of fluid, it can quantify the purulence of the fluid by using a near-infrared light to see through the eardrum and into the middle ear.

The ClearView technology is an original implementation of optical coherence tomography that enables a ten-fold cost reduction when compared to traditional systems found in ophthalmology, cardiology and dermatology.  Physicians can see through the eardrum to visualize the middle ear at ten times the resolution of an ultrasound to more accurately reach a diagnosis.

In the nomination by VisionTech Angels, Ben Pidgeon shared, “PhotoniCare’s ClearView technology for the accurate diagnosis of ear infections illustrates how creative problem-solving can lead to an innovation with real, high-volume commercial value.  Thanks to the creative thinking of PhotoniCare’s founders – and the inspiration of their children who suffered from ongoing ear infections – physicians may soon elevate quality of care and ease the pain and discomfort of children as well as adult patients with a device that’s both easy to implement and affordable.”

Congratulations to the finalists and their angel investors.  Their contributions of innovative ideas and products are making a positive impact in our communities.

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