Celebrate Invention to showcase U-M technologies, startups


Dan Johnson’s invention, an active back brace, grew from his doctoral work with physicians in the operating room as he studied what caused their back problems.

Some doctors spend hours leaning over patients, sometimes with heavy lead vests for minimally invasive procedures. For them, the incidence of back pain is 50 percent, much higher than the 20 percent of the American workforce with back problems.

Finding a solution to that could save health providers millions of dollars in downtime not to mention the pain and mobility issues injured physicians face.

Exo Dynamics CEO Jorge Sanz-Guerrero, left, demonstrates the company’s spinal orthoses to U-M Venture Center Mentors-in-Residence Ken Spenser and Bill Brinkerhoff. Photo by Leisa Thompson.

He’ll show the prototype electromechanical back brace — dubbed ExMS-1 —from 3-6 p.m. Wednesday at Celebrate Invention in the Michigan League Ballroom. The event is the university’s chance to recognize the accomplishment of faculty and researchers engaged in the technology transfer process.

The 13th annual event will feature eight technology kiosks showcasing a selection of new university technologies and startups, with the associated researchers and business teams providing hands-on demonstrations.

“This event is a great opportunity to highlight the creativity of the U-M research community and its commitment to the economic vitality of our state and our region,” said Stephen Forrest, U-M’s vice president for research.

This year’s inventors also include Mia Motors, which will show its wireless power transfer technology that’s capable of charging a Chevy Volt in two hours and the Nissan Leaf within three hours. The system means electric vehicle (EV) drivers won’t have to plug in.

“The wireless charging system will take away the anxiety of EV drivers because it totally eliminates the need of plugging in,” said Chris Mi, a professor of electrical and computer engineering on the Dearborn campus. “It is more reliable, more convenient, safer and will be more cost effective. It will help the mass market penetration of electric vehicles.”

Johnson’s company, Exo Dynamics, hopes physicians will stop by the booth to try on the Ex-MS1 and offer feedback on the brace that weighs six to seven pounds and is carried at the hips. Doctors who perform minimally invasive procedures are the first target market for the device, he said.

“If successful, the device could be extended to general surgeons and dentists, ballooning the potential market size to 195,000,” he said.

These are just some of the hundreds of new inventions bubbling up on campus each year.

University researchers recently reported 421 new inventions in fiscal year 2013, a new record. U-M Tech Transfer also recorded 108 licenses and options with existing and new businesses in FY13, which ended June 30, compared to 123 in FY12.

The university also reported that 128 U.S. patents were issued in FY13, up from 101 in FY12. Licensing revenues increased from $13.8 million to $14.4 million, providing funds to reinvest in research and innovation.

“This is a reflection of the high quality of our research discoveries, the effectiveness of our tech transfer team and our productive relationships with our industry, venture and community partners,” said Ken Nisbet, associate vice president for research–technology transfer.

Admission to Celebrate Invention is free, but registration is required.


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