UAVenture Capital: Fostering Collaboration

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Fletcher J. McCusker is CEO and founder of UAVenture Capital in Tucson, Ariz. He is a third-generation Tucsonan and a 1974 University of Arizona (UA) graduate. He received an honorary doctorate from the university in 2015. In 2013, McCusker and several UA faculty spun out the College of Pharmacy’s medication management research and formed SinfoniaRx, a company whose sale was the genesis of UAVC. Fletcher was recently honored by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey as the state’s business leader of the year.


UAVenture Capital (UAVC)

is the venture capital source for the commercialization of science and technology developed by UA students, faculty, and staff.

Historically, UA faculty were not allowed to benefit from their intellectual property. This has changed, and now hundreds of patents have been issued to Tech Launch Arizona (TLA), the university office responsible for tech transfer. UAVC provides early-stage capital to UA spinouts and has made 13 investments in the last 18 months, with many of the innovations coming from the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences.

UA optical science faculty, researchers, and students have been prolific in researching and commercializing photonics innovations in partnership with UAVC. One recent investment UAVC made was in eARdg Photonics Inc., a developer of “enhanced augmented reality display glasses.” The company’s signature product provides augmented reality (AR) viewing through a sleek pair of glasses that are unlike any comparable product on the market. The new glasses will have a field of vision approaching 70° and will be see-through.

Inventor and professor Nasser Peyghambarian and eARdg research partner Lloyd LaComb have worked on video holograms for decades. The new technology they have developed provides AR-wearable glasses that will allow users to combine the real world around them with an augmented holographic video display. Their efforts have been bolstered by the contributions of graduate student assistants helping with the challenging prototype development and testing process.

UAVC has also invested in iCrx Inc., formed by Gholam Peyman, MD, a UA retinal surgeon and the founder of lasik eye surgery, and two assisting co-inventors. The team invented a new, compact eyeglass prescription device, called an auto-phoropter, which is the focus of their development efforts.

Dr. Peyman and his UA optical sciences team were able to create the new, miniaturized auto-phoropter to yield a prescription in less than 20 seconds, with more accuracy than current methods. The cereal-box-size innovation replaces the whole set of traditional lenses with just a few fluidic lenses that change focal length by pumping fluid in and out of a chamber. The result is a technology that is more accurate, faster, smaller, and less expensive. The team was assisted by optics professor Jim Schwiegerling and graduate assistant Nickolaos Savidis.

Another noteworthy collaboration has involved assistant research professor Chris Hessenius and Mahmoud Fallahi, professor of optical sciences. Both are experts in the world of photonics and laser technology. Their partnership with UAVC has resulted in the launch of three ventures in 2019: DeUVe Photonics, CThru Lasers, and Wavelength Unlimited Technologies.

Potential DeUVe applications include using lasers in the shorter UV range to detect banned chemicals in war zones, dangerous gases in mines, and banned substances at airport security checkpoints. In semiconductor wafer inspection, the shorter wavelength technology can also detect smaller defects. This translates to a more efficient and less costly manufacturing process. And just like their eARdg and iCrx colleagues, Hessenius and Fallahi point to the contributions made by student assistants during the development process.

We and our partners will continue to pursue faculty- and student-led innovations that can revolutionize the field.

Published: November 2019
Fletcher McCuskerUAVenture CapitalUAVCUniversity of ArizonaUAGholam PeymaniCrxauto-phoropterNasser PeyghambarianLloyd LaCombhologramsARChris HesseniusJim SchwiegerlingeARdgEnhanced Augmented Reality Display GlassesTLATech Launch ArizonaNickolaos SavidisMahmoud FallahiDeVUE PhotonicsCThru LasersWavelength Unlimited TechnologiesIndustry Insight

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