Prominent researcher’s invention gives UARF its 50th startup company


Dr. Joseph Kennedy, distinguished professor of polymer science and chemistry at The Univeristy of Akron

Joseph P. Kennedy, distinguished professor of polymer science and chemistry, has 107 issued U.S. patents to his credit.

The University of Akron Research Foundation (UARF) recently announced the creation of its 50th startup company, thanks to the innovations of one of The University of Akron's most prolific researchers, 85-year-old Joseph P. Kennedy, Ph.D., distinguished professor of polymer science and chemistry. 

Kennedy, who has 107 issued U.S. patents to his credit and continues to work on inventive research in UA's labs, began his career in industry as a research chemist in 1957. Following his arrival at UA in 1970, he played a fundamental role in the development of the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering, helping to lift the college, the Greater Akron area, and the state of Ohio to national prominence in polymer education and research.

Surgical patients could benefit

Kennedy's research is at the heart of UARF's 50th startup company, Poly MedTech Inc., which was formed to commercialize a new medical adhesive, Suture Glue™. The adhesive would be used in place of external stitches for patients who have laparoscopic surgery, cosmetic surgery or even traumatic injuries and was designed to behave like human skin, with properties that make it more flexible than current surgical glues/adhesives.

Kennedy and his research partner, Juay Seng Tan, a former associate professor of biomedical engineering at UA, received a $50,000 Ohio Third Frontier technology commercialization grant earlier this year. To speed up the promising technology's development, UARF formed the company with support from the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron, which is assisting in business strategy and FDA regulatory matters, as well as private physicians like Dr. David Kay, an orthopaedic surgeon with the Crystal Clinic Orthopaedic Center and founder of orthopaedic surgical device manufacturer OrthoHelix.

Since its inception in 2001, UARF has averaged almost five startups per year, forming six startups this year alone.

"Startup companies are crucial in commercializing promising university technologies thus building the economic base within our community," says George R. Newkome, Ph.D., UARF's president and UA's vice president for research. "With the right leadership, these companies can move quickly to attract funding, focus on market needs and work tirelessly to turn laboratory technologies into viable commercial products."

New products offer promise

Over the past few years, UARF has helped UA's students and faculty form several promising startup companies. "UA's focus on technology commercialization has been crucial in attracting entrepreneurial faculty and encouraging student involvement in the development of new products," Newkome says. "In the past year or so, UARF has seen several very exciting new companies." Some of these companies include:

  • Telkesis, a venture to commercialize new spinal break screw technology, was formed in 2012 and is led by UA students Jason King, Esra Cipa and Laura Vondeak, as well as Associate Dean for Research in the College of Engineering Ajay Mahajan and staff from UARF. UA's students won the 2012 LaunchTown Business Idea Competition for improved orthopaedic surgery technologies.
  • Design Flux, formed in 2011, is led by UA electrical engineering students Courtney Gras and Tom Vo and based on patented UA battery management technology. Design Flux won $10,000 through the Department of Energy's Clean Energy Challenge and received a $100,000 Ohio Third Frontier grant to license the technology and to begin commercialization.
  • ADAP Nanotechnology, founded by UA Professor of Polymer Science Ali Dhinojwala and recent graduate Sunny Sethi in 2009, commercializes nanotechnology inspired by gecko feet, which are covered with millions of branching nanoscopic fibers. The company has attracted $300,000 in capital, including investments from Cleveland's JumpStart Inc., The University of Akron Student Venture Fund, and Lorain County's Innovation Fund.

Long-standing successful UA startups that have developed into full-fledged companies include:

  • Akron Polymer Systems was founded in 2002 by UA Polymer Science Professors Frank Harris and Stephen Cheng to commercialize high performance coatings for televisions and other display units that need to be viewed at a wide range of angles. Akron Polymer Systems now operates out of a state-of-the-art corporate facility on North Summit Street in downtown Akron, employs 13 scientists, and does research and commercialization for a wide range of polymer coatings.
  • SNS Nano Fiber Technology, a joint venture between UARF and German chemical company Schill & Seilacher, was founded in 2005 and manufactures super absorbent nanofiber products that can be used to build better bandages or sop up oil spills at sea. UA Professors Darrell Reneker and Daniel Smith, who developed the electrospinning process used to make SNS's products, were involved in start-up of the company, which now employs several former UA graduate students.