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Thursday, Jun 13, 2024



Vertimass LLC, an Irvine biofuel company backed in part by OC developer and real estate investor Bill Shopoff, has received about $1.35 million in funds from the Danish government.

“The conversion of carbon dioxide—a major greenhouse gas contributor—into jet fuel and other hydrocarbons can play a vital role in reducing the carbon footprint for transportation,” Vertimass CEO and President Charles Wyman said in a statement.

The research project is a collaboration among a group of organizations and Danish entities, including liquefied petroleum gas supplier Kosan Gas, renewable energy developer European Energy, Aalborg University, Port of Aalborg, Aalborg Airport, clean energy collaborative Hydrogen Valley, and Vertimass. Each organization will oversee a different step in the process, working together to transform carbon dioxide into jet fuel.

Vertimass, founded in 2013, completed an $8 million Series B round earlier this year.

Wyman currently serves as the Ford Motor Co. chair in environmental engineering at the University of California, Riverside. He previously founded biotech company Mascoma, which in 2014 was sold to Lamelland Inc., a Canadian company that specializes in the development, production and marketing of yeasts and bacteria.

AquaTeX Medical Inc., an Irvine medical device firm, is raising $1.8 million for its new treatment for patients with stroke and cancer-causing hypervascular tumors.

To stop the proliferation of cancer cells, physicians inject microparticles into blood vessels that kill hypovascular tumor cells. This current treatment for hypervascular tumors, called embolotherapy, is plagued with poor tissue penetration and low X-ray visibility, leading to lower success rates, company officials say.

“The treated vessel can open up and the tumors start growing again,” AquaTeX CEO Dr. Ichiro Yuki said of the standard treatments at a pitch event held last month at the University of California, Irvine.

AquaTeX is offering a new treatment, called the Aqua Embolic System (AES), which is designed to provide better tissue penetration and X-ray visibility for physicians.

AES is the first biocompatible liquid treatment for hypervascular tumors, according to AquaTeX. The product is a clear liquid activated by the calcium ions in the blood and forms a solid hydrogel cast that penetrates tissue, company officials say.

In histologic studies, which are conducted with cells under a microscope, AquaTeX has confirmed the permanent blocking of vessels afflicted by hypervascular tumors, Yuki said.

The company, part of UCI’s Wayfinder business accelerator, has raised $400,000 to date. AquaTeX is currently valued at $5.4 million, and is looking to go to market in four to five years.

Yuki, who founded the company in 2020, serves as a clinical professor at UCI Medical Center. He previously worked as an associate professor at the Jikei University Hospital in Tokyo and as an adjunct professor at UCLA.

Cellecho Inc., an Irvine biotech company, is seeking funding for its cell therapy technology that aims to make immunotherapy more accessible and safer for cancer patients.

About 15% of CAR T cell therapy treatments, designed for patients with leukemia and lymphoma, are discarded due to manufacturing failures, according to Cellecho co-founder Mohammad Aghaamoo. Manufacturing failures and delays in cell therapy treatments result in the death of 20% to 30% of cancer patients enrolled in cell therapy clinical trials.

Cellecho’s alternative is a microchip-based technology that reprograms cells. Its treatment can be manufactured in one day, versus the two weeks it takes to develop the standard cell therapy drug.

“Our chips are highly scalable and offer consistent and precise cell engineering that minimizes manufacturing failure,” Aghaamoo said last month at a pitch event held at the University of California, Irvine.

Cellecho’s treatment also reduces manufacturing costs by tenfold, he added.
The company, founded this year through UCI’s Wayfinder startup accelerator, has not disclosed any funding rounds to date.

Aghaamoo is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the UCI Institute for Clinical and Transitional Science. He earned his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the university last year. Aghaamoo previously worked as an advanced engineering intern at biotech company Illumina Inc.


InstaProtek LLC, an Aliso Viejo electronics protection company, is powering the screen protection program for electronics accessory maker Otter Products LLC, also known as OtterBox.

The program offers a phone screen replacement and reimbursement of up to $150 in repairs for devices with registered OtterBox screen protectors.

“We are proud to partner with a premium brand like OtterBox,” InstaProtek’s President Scott Johnson said in a statement.

The company connects corporations to consumers through a platform that provides customer analytics, product reviews and warranty management services. InstaProtek, founded in 2019, has not disclosed any funding rounds to date.

Johnson previously worked as the director of business development at device protection company Warranty Life and as the director of indirect sales at Irvine electronics accessory distributor C2 Wireless and Accessories LLC.


MetaGym Inc., a San Clemente “exercise-to-earn” app, is teaming up with fitness software development company LeisureLabs to create its next-gen platform for fitness enthusiasts.

LeisureLabs is supplying the startup with an engineering team for its platform that uses biometric data from smart watches and heart rate monitors to help users earn cryptocurrency while exercising, meditating and practicing other healthy habits.

“When we were looking for a tech partner who understood not just the Web 3.0 space but also the fitness industry, LeisureLabs was the obvious choice,” MetaGym founder and CEO Eddie Lester said in a statement.

The deal also appoints LeisureLabs founders Alex Peacock and Charles Njoku to MetaGym’s technology advisors.

MetaGym’s crypto-fitness platform launched earlier this year. The company has not disclosed any funding rounds to date.

Lester, who started MetaGym last year, also founded fitness certification company Fitness Mentors LLC. He previously started artificial wave technology company Surf Lakes SoCal and has worked as a program director for fitness trainers at Career Colleges of America.

Reform RX Inc., a Newport Beach fitness equipment maker that makes a Peloton-like Pilates product and digital platform, has appointed celebrity Pilates instructor Andrea Speir as its head of content.

Speir, who counts over 18 years as a Pilates instructor and studio owner, will lead the production of content for Reform’s digital subscription platform.

“When we created Reform RX, our vision was to build not only a next-generation Pilates reformer, but also a community to whom we could offer creative and innovative content,” company co-founder and CEO Yvette McGaffin said in a statement.

Reform is the creator of what it calls the first digitally connected Pilates reformer machine, which retails at $4,995. Its subscription service, which offers training sessions, workouts and classes, costs $39 a month.

McGaffin, who co-founded Reform in 2018, previously worked as a Pilates specialist in fitness studio The Exercise Room in Auckland, New Zealand and at Heartcore Pilates studio in London.

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