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Friday, Dec 9, 2022
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STARTUPS & INNOVATIONS

LAUNCH

Cyrano.ai of Newport Beach recently launched Meeting Insights, a sales, education and management tool that combines artificial and emotional intelligence to help users “communicate better on Zoom using the power of science and psychology.”

The software is free; users download the Zoom extension, and after the meeting, receive a report with insights on value orientation, communication style and commitment level to the conversation.

Chief Executive Scott Sandland said the 1-year-old firm is ultimately a B2B company, but launched the Zoom extension to meet demand for more effective communication amid the pandemic.

He said the company expects to launch in sectors such as sales and marketing, human resources, law, education and medical technology in the future.

Longer term, it wants to build a virtual AI therapist for teens to make a dent in rising suicide rates. The mission is particularly personal for Sandland, who spent nearly 20 years as a hypnotherapist in OC.

Sandland launched the firm in 2016 with Chief Science Officer Dan Paris, a sociologist and neuro-linguist programming expert.

The team recently brought on Chief Operating Officer Ryan Huff, co-founder and former CEO of Cirruspath in Laguna Hills.

In addition to its executive team, Cyrano.ai has attracted the attention of several notable names in OC. Ryan Shea, CEO of Entrepreneur Media and Neil Sahota, an expert in artificial intelligence, serve on its board of advisors.

Blockchain technology builder Vottun in Irvine recently launched what is calls a “proof of health verification” platform in response to COVID-19.

The verification platform is the first to meet WC3 technology standards for safe and secure credentialing that protects patient data, and more importantly, allows patients to control how their own data is used, said Chief Executive Rohan Hall.

Vottun’s primary business revolves around credentialing and self-sovereign identity tools.

One example: The University of California-Irvine is using its technology for degree verification.

Its verification technology is available on the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure marketplace, AWS and Azure.

The company also has a full supply chain track and trace product.

Vottun launched in 2018. The firm raised $500,000 in seed funding in mid-2019. The round was led by Tim Draper’s Draper B1.

Prior to forming Vottun, Hall served as a senior architect for investment management giant Capital Group, based in L.A. and with a large base in Irvine, where he introduced blockchain and cryptocurrency to the organization.

Hall lives in Irvine with his wife and their two daughters.

FDA APPROVALS

Respiratory device maker Cognita Labs of Santa Ana said it received FDA clearance for its PulmoScan, a handheld device that monitors and tracks lung conditions.

The device fulfills an unmet need for a “simpler, faster and lower-cost alternative” to a standard spirometry test that is conducted in a lab, according to Chief Executive Gaurav Patel.

The PulmoScan has since been deployed to several clinical sites in Ventura County, where it will be used to collect data on patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and the condition of their lungs. Data is collected when patients breathe into a mouthpiece for less than a minute, once a day.

The company hopes the data will reveal trends that could help reduce mortality rates caused by a lack of oxygen, Patel said.

In addition to its clinical work, Cognita Labs is developing a PulmoScan spinoff with a Small Research Business Innovation grant of $200,000 from the National Institutes of Health.

The new device will function as a smart assessment tool for patients who receive Airway Clearance Therapy, a type of treatment in which therapists violently vibrate patients’ chests to purge mucus from their lungs.

The device could help therapists better understand patient needs and minimize uncomfortable treatments, Patel said.

Cognita Labs was founded by a group of researchers from Rice University in Houston and later moved to OC.

The 7-year old firm said it will seek a Series A round this fall.

The FDA has approved Baylx Inc.’s Investigational New Drug application for its leading candidate, BX-U001, a stem cell therapy that treats rheumatoid arthritis.

The approval clears the way for the Irvine-based company to begin Phase I clinical trials in the U.S., which will take place at the Department of Rheumatology at University of California-San Diego Medical Center.

BX-U001 uses stem cells to target and neutralize multiple inflammatory sites and regulate effector T-cells, which produce the detrimental factors of rheumatoid arthritis such as loss of joint function, said Chief Executive Wenbin “Vincent” Liao.

Liao said he believes BX-U001 has the potential to diminish and prevent the degenerative process on patients’ joints.

There are currently no approved treatments that prevent the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. The inflammatory condition affects about 1.5 million people in the U.S., Liao said.

Liao began researching stem cell therapies in the early 2000s in China. His research brought him to the U.S. in 2009 and was a research scientist at University of California-Irvine in 2014.

He formed Baylx in 2016 with co-founder Weian Zhao, a UCI professor with three OC-based active commercial ventures.

COVID-19 Innovation

Irvine-based Casetabs, a surgery scheduling and communications platform, said it has seen an 80% increase in its customer base since February.

The company serves more than 450 surgical facilities and has helped coordinate nearly 2 million cases across the U.S. since its founding.

Chief Executive Gavin Fabian, who lives in Costa Mesa, attributed the growth to a “new level of urgency” amid the pandemic to adopt technologies that enable remote communications.

The firm’s project management tool integrates with EMRs and ensures all parties—hospital personnel, visiting surgeons, sales representatives, patients and their families—receive timely updates about operating times and safety regulations.

Each party receives different data to meet HIPPA security standards.

Fabian described the company as the OpenTable for surgery centers, allowing centers to increase their caseload through more efficient scheduling and communications.

Fabian began his career as an implant product manager, and witnessed a lack of coordination between involved parties in operating rooms, leading him to start Casetabs in 2014.

The 25-person company has raised about $16 million since launch. It’s likely to raise additional capital as it enhances its platform with artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, Fabian said.

Irvine-based health record storage platform liveClinic launched a Virtual Field Clinic with Vonage Inc. to provide free virtual medical consultations to those in need amid COVID-19.

The service currently has about 85 volunteer physicians and nurses.

LiveClinic launched in 2015 to serve rural areas of the country where there is minimal access to adequate healthcare services, and the Virtual Field Clinic is an extension of that mission, said Chief Operating Officer Mike Ferguson.

Ahead of its official launch on June 16, liveClinic provided its telehealth services to a remote village in Alaska’s Yukon-Kuskokwin Delta region, where the ethnic population is considered high risk for COVID-19.

Despite poor cellular service, liveClinic delivered “crisp and fluid” audio and video services with Vonage’s video API platform, which utilizes WebRTC (real-time communications) technology, Ferguson said.

The company is now exploring other ways to use its data to provide contract tracing and insights on population spread, Ferguson said.

LiveClinic is led by Chief Executive Joydeep Bhattacharyya and Chief Medical Officer Sudip Bose, a former Army doctor who was tasked with treating Saddam Hussein after his capture.

The 11-person company has been largely bootstrapped thus far.

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