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ASU startup Precise Polymer wins grand prize in Skysong Innovations Startup Challenge

4 finalists receive seed funding


SkySong, The ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center building 1 exterior with shade structure

SkySong, The ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center.

March 15, 2023

The Skysong Innovations Startup Challenge is an annual pitch event consisting of Arizona State University startups that compete for a chance to gain a total seed investment of $50,000 in convertible notes.

This year’s challenge put 10 startups through two rounds of judging, each round consisting of a different set of three judges. In both rounds, the judges scored based on the development stage of the startup’s product, its market opportunity and its business model.

Precise Polymer Inc. was determined to represent these three qualities best, earning it the top award in the challenge.

Precise Polymer Inc. is a research and development startup specializing in the advancement of a technology platform for start-to-finish in-house synthesis, 3D printing and material characterization. Timothy Long, center director and professor of the Biodesign Center for Sustainable Macromolecular Materials and Manufacturing founded this startup alongside Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and Cody Weyhrich, a doctorate student working with Long.

“What the company seeks to do is translate university discoveries in new materials into something useful for society,” Long said. “We are taking the discoveries ASU makes every day and putting them out there for the world to see.”

Long and associates focused their pitch for this competition on one specific advancement that allows for the precise manufacturing of high-performance polymers, known as polyimides.

“The opportunity here is finding a way to place these materials into three-dimensional shapes,” Long said. “That is enabled through precision manufacturing — another term for 3D printing.”

These advancements have allowed Precise Polymer Inc. to produce polyimides in a way that reduces waste and maximizes efficiency when creating complex structures with the material.

“Skysong Innovations has allowed us to tap into the entrepreneurial engine of the university, which grants us as faculty members the opportunity to envision where we are going,” Long said. “We will continue to develop next-generation materials with a lens of sustainability.”

Long and associates work to continue advancements within the field of polymer manufacturing science, aimed toward utilizing the diverse opportunities the material provides for innovation in sustainability.

“What ultimately made Precise Polymer stand out was the advancement in applications for sustainability,” said Charlie Lewis, vice president of physical sciences and venture development for Skysong Innovations. “All of the startups that participated in this year's event developed something truly remarkable and the talented and hardworking individuals at Precise Polymer fully earned this achievement.”

Skysong Innovations, ASU’s exclusive technology transfer and intellectual property management organization, helps translate research into impact by protecting intellectual property developed in ASU labs and negotiating licensing deals with commercial partners who advance the technologies and develop solutions for society.

The following companies were finalists alongside Precise Polymer Inc. in the 2022 competition and each received a $25,000 convertible note:

  • Exodigm Biosciences is developing a biologically inspired DNA nanodevice for sensing gene-related molecules enclosed within a cell without needing to rupture the cell. Faculty involved with this company include: Hao Yan, director and professor in the Biodesign Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics and Milton D. Glick Distinguished Professor in the School of Molecular Sciences; and Rizal Hariadi, assistant professor, Biodesign Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics.
  • Hayes Diagnostics is developing a physics-based medical diagnostic platform that harnesses advanced microfabrication approaches. Mark Hayes, professor in the School of Molecular Sciences, is involved in this company. 
  • Akeila Bio is developing next-generation retinoid X receptor, or RXR, therapeutics to treat a diverse set of diseases with unmet needs. Faculty involved in this company include: Carl Wagner, associate professor in the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences and associate professor in the New College Environmental Health Science Scholars; Peter Jurutka, professor in the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences and a senior Global Futures scientist; and Pamela Marshall, professor in the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences. 
  • Grace Microsystems is developing a wireless, battery-less method to modulate neuronal function to treat chronic migraines. Faculty involved in this company include: Bruce Towe, professor emeritus in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering; and Jitendran Muthuswamy, associate professor in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering.

Written by Richard Canas

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