Eye care, blood vessels and business referrals.
All three have one thing in common.
They represent three Charleston area, start-up companies accepted into SCRA Technology Ventures' SC Launch program, qualifying them for seed money, mentoring and marketing help.
Go Where I Go, International BioMedical Devices and VesselTek join a growing number of young companies receiving aid through the S.C. Research Authority near Charleston International Airport, SCRA spokeswoman Micki MacNaughton said.
Go Where I Go is an app for smartphone users and small business owners that allows them to refer friends to their favorite businesses, 50 million of which have been preloaded onto the application using Google Places. It also provides businesses with analy-tics on their referrals.
Last year, Charlie Turner, an optometrist in Charleston, realized there were apps for business reviews and business ratings but not business referrals, which make up a lot of his business.
"I realized nobody had ever digitized word-of-mouth referrals," he said. He had a prototype built and started building the application for smartphones and businesses in October. In March, he launched Go Where I Go during the Charleston Battery soccer team's opener.
"In our first month we had 1,100 downloads," Turner said. He currently has 16 small businesses in Charleston using the app and several others lined up to come onboard in the next month or two.
International BioMedical Devices is a medical device company focused in the field of eye surgery. CEO Steve Bryant of Mount Pleasant and an associate set up a limited liability company for the technology developed by an Israeli doctor.
The exclusively licensed technology by IBMD uses a novel precision capsulotomy system for use in cataract surgery. The trademarked ApertureRx System allows the surgeon to perform a precisely sized and consistently centered incision into the crystalline lens of the eye with every cataract surgery procedure. They plan to manufacture the specialized tip in South Carolina.
The product was developed over the past three years in Israel with preclinical work on animals and human cadavers, Bryant said. Prototypes are completed, and they are working on a beta system to get it ready for the marketplace.
By being accepted into SC Launch, the start-up hopes to raise capital and do regulatory filings in Europe and the U.S. to get it ready to sell.
"Eventually, to take it to full commercialization, we will have to get venture capitalists during a second round of funding, probably in late 2015," Bryant said. "We hope to bring a little medical technology to the area."
Vesseltek is trying to commercialize a prosthetic vascular graft that uses a patented coating to dramatically reduce restenosis, a narrowing of the blood vessels. Vascular grafts used in below-the-knee applications fail at a rate of about 70 percent due to clotting and chronic swelling, and Vesseltek's antioxidant coating addresses both issues. The company currently holds five patents with three additional patents pending.
A professor and vascular surgeon at Northwestern University developed the grafts in 2008 at a time when little money existed to take it to market.
Company President Allen Conger of Mount Pleasant was searching for technology to commercialize when he found their research.
"Our No. 1 job now is to get some funding and then take it to the FDA," he said.
He expects that process, as well as European Union approval, to take about 18 months.
"Then we can market it in the U.S. and Europe," he said.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.
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