Innovate New Mexico® Sixth Showcasing Event for Investors and Industry Features State’s Research Innovations

Innovate New Mexico, a network of the state’s seven leading technology-transfer organizations, held its annual spring event showcasing innovative technologies from the state’s research universities and national labs on May 7, 2019.

The showcase—the organization’s sixth gathering—was held at Sandia Golf Club in Albuquerque and featured 11 technology pitches by inventors from the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, Sandia National Labs, Los Alamos National Lab, the Air Force Research Labs, and new member NASA Technology Transfer & Commercialization Office to a crowd of approximately 125 investors, entrepreneurs, industry reps, and local business members.

The day’s events included welcoming remarks from Jon Clark, deputy secretary of the NM Economic Development Department and keynote remarks from Mara Aspinall, co-founder and managing director of BlueStone Venture Partners, LLC. 

Ms. Aspinall, also a member of the AZBio Board of Directors and President & CEO of Health Catalysts, is a healthcare industry leader and pioneer in medical diagnostics and in educating payers and policymakers on genomics and personalized medicine. She is the former President & CEO of Ventana Medical Systems, a division of The Roche Group, leading development and commercialization of tissue-based cancer diagnostics and digital imaging, and former President of Genzyme Genetics and Genzyme Pharmaceuticals, the former sold to LabCorp for $1 billion in 2010. 

BlueStone Venture Partners is a premier venture firm that invests in life-science technologies and companies in the Southwest and Health Catalysts invests and advises early-stage life-science companies focused on health information technology and diagnostics.  Ms. Aspinall received the Arizona Biosciences Leader of the Year Award in 2016 from the Arizona Biotechnology Association and was named a “100 Most Inspiring People in Life Sciences” by PharmaVOICE magazine.

Ms. Aspinall’s remarks, entitled “How the Fourth Industrial Revolution Is Changing Our World: Healthcare & Beyond,” focused on how healthcare will be changed by what has been termed the 4th Industrial Revolution.  This stage of economic development, preceded by urbanization (1st IR), factory automation (2nd IR), and computerization/digital (3rd IR), concerns integrating and connecting physical and biological systems into the digital age.  Ms. Aspinall stated that the 4th IR is focused on healthcare and is having its greatest impact on precision medicine. 

Investor and startup-company formation trends dominate the digital healthcare market.  Funding has grown from $1.1 billion to $8.1 billion between 2011 and 2018.  In 2018, eleven $100 million+ mega deals were done with healthcare companies.  Also trending are more acquisitions of data-based companies vs. physical technology-based companies, the development of more data-enabled devices, and more therapeutic and diagnostic technologies that treat patients based on a genetic understanding of their disease.  Industry sectors with the highest value propositions include on-demand healthcare services, diagnosis of disease, fitness & wellness, consumer health information, monitoring of disease, and research & development catalyst (drug discovery, clinical trials). 

The path for precision, or personalized, medicine in the 4th IR is more than selecting the right drug for each patient.  It also means calibrating precise dosage, measuring drug efficacy/resistance, monitoring disease status, and calculating recurrence risk and disease predisposition, with the ultimate goal of disease prevention.  The tools for this evolution will be data analytics and data integration leading to predictive analytics.  The changes in diabetes treatment is a good example of the trend, moving from urine test strips and blood glucose meters measuring one data point accurately to devices that use sensors (skin and contact lenses) to measure multiple data points accurately.

Precision medicine will also be technology agnostic but data integrated, combining the latest innovations in diagnostics with patient data and leading to the emergence of a new field of data interpreters.  Hospitals in the future will move from an organ-based treatment paradigm to a mechanism, or genomic-based, paradigm.  Paradigm shifting has already begun with the FDA release of two new cancer drugs (Keytruda and Vitrakvi) that are based on a common biomarker across different types of tumors, and the NCI MATCH (Molecular Analysis for Therapy Choice) Trial, a precision medicine cancer clinical trial in which patients receive treatment based on the genetic changes found in their tumors.  Medical practice will also evolve from evidence-based to a more precise data mining-based approach, where the shift will be from discovering drugs and finding patients to having patients with a particular DNA profile/disease genome and finding the drug(s) that will be most effective. 

Ms. Aspinall wrapped up her keynote with the following predictions:

  • Big tech will enter the precision-medicine and genomics markets
  • Digital health roll-ups (consolidations) will happen within the next 10 years
  • Data segmentation will create specialized markets
  • Payers will be the largest acquirers of data
  • Telemedicine will become mainstream and consolidate into 5 big players
  • Diagnostics will grow with alternate sample types, predictable reimbursements and increased pharma adoption

The showcase also included exhibit space for 15 New Mexico startup companies and business organizations. Presenters and exhibitors had ample networking sessions to talk with company technology scouts for possible business opportunities.

University and lab inventors pitched the following technologies to the crowd and panel of local sharks who asked market and commercialization questions and offered feedback:

  1. Adaptive Space-Time Processing, Khanh Pham, PhD (AFRL)
  2. NASA Innovations in Battery Technologies, Walter Ugalde (NASA Johnson Space Center)
  3. Non-Destructive, Real-Time Monitoring of Plant Water Status, David Hanson, PhD (UNM)
  4. Metasurface Technologies for Fast and Cheap DNA Sequencing, Adam Backer, PhD (Sandia)
  5. PYRLnESS: Rare Earth Starting Materials, Ross Beattie, PhD (LANL)
  6. Circular RNAs for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Brain Disorders, Nikolaos Mellios, MD, PhD, and Alex Hafez (UNM)
  7. Observing Satellites in the Daytime, Scott Milster and Waid Schlaegel (AFRL)
  8. DynAmmo Gas Sensors: Less Ammonia, More Profit, Kannan Ramaiyan, PhD (LANL)
  9. Bio-Inspired Deep Foundations Piles, Craig Newtson, PhD (NMSU)
  10. Paraquat as an Adjuvant for Insecticidal Bednets, Cody Champion, PhD (NMSU)
  11. Innovation and Technologies at White Sands, Joe Bullington (NASA White Sands)

To read the technology summaries go to the Innovate New Mexico website at

The lunch time session, moderated by Carlos Romero, Associate Vice President of Research & Economic Development at New Mexico Tech, featured a panel of New Mexico startup CEOs who discussed their experiences growing their companies in New Mexico. Panel speakers were John Brown, Chairman & CEO of Silent Falcon; Steve Graves, CEO & President of BennuBio; Charles Harb, CEO & President of RingIR, Inc.; Federica Pericle, President & CEO of AgilVax; and David Smidt, Owner of Mother Road Mobile Canning.

The showcase ended with closing remarks from Jennifer Sinsabaugh, CEO of the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and a reception for the attendees.

Innovate New Mexico would like to thank event sponsors:  New Mexico Economic Development Department, New Mexico MEP, Sandia National Laboratories, Arrowhead Center at NMSU, and Richard P. Feynman Center for Innovation at LANL.

Special thanks goes to the lunch panel of startup executives mentioned above and the following shark panelists:  John Chavez, President of the NM Angels; Charles Mendez, CEO of Innobright Technologies, Inc.; Tom Nickoloff, Managing Director of BlueStone Venture Partners; Stuart Rose, Founder of The BioScience Center; and Mathis Shinnick, CEO of OptiPulse, Inc.