Editorial: New college school year full of promise for students, NM


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What do University of New Mexico undergrads and UNM-sponsored research in nanotechnology have in common?

This week, they’re the feel-good antidote to the collective anxiety we feel from the woes that seem to perpetually plague New Mexico: homelessness, murders, water shortages, low worker participation, low academic achievement …

You get the picture.

But for the 1,800 students who moved into UNM’s residence halls between Thursday and Sunday in preparation for the fall semester, Albuquerque represents the excitement of a fresh start after two challenging years of pandemic fits that have disrupted learning tracks and social lives.

(That same promise of new beginnings goes for students headed to classes at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, Western New Mexico University in Silver City, Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, Highlands University in Las Vegas, Northern New Mexico College in Española, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro and our many branch campuses and two-year college programs.)

“It’s really exciting to see this many faces back on campus,” Megan Chibanga, UNM’s director of student housing and residence life, told the Journal. “It’s much more active and vibrant now that we got everyone back.”

UNM lifted its mask mandate on March 19. Students, faculty and staff are no longer required to wear a mask inside laboratories, studios, libraries, residence halls, dining facilities or the student union building. But they’re still required at health facilities, research spaces and on UNM shuttles, according to the university’s website.

All that could change, of course, if there’s a surge in positive cases, but current conditions provide what so many students crave: a chance for a “real” college experience of rubbing elbows with fellow students — not staring at a computer screen in isolation to listen to a lecture.

The start of school coincides with another bit of good news. UNM researchers have had not one, but two, nanotechnology breakthroughs with commercial applications that could revolutionize dentistry and make it easier for oil and gas producers to eliminate emissions at the wellhead.

One team, headed by nano materials engineer Leisha Armijo-Martin, has developed a remote-controlled, magnetic toothpaste and toothbrush that injects anti-bacterial solutions into the nooks and crannies of gums and teeth. The product is still under development, but a newly created startup, MNT SmartSolutions LLC, is working to put it on store shelves in the next few years.

MNT is one of 15 local companies formed by the New Mexico Startup Factory, which launched 10 years ago to commercialize new technologies from the state’s research universities and national laboratories. The Startup Factory recently signed a license agreement to market the MNT technology with UNM’s Rainforest Innovations, which manages the university’s tech-transfer and economic development programs.

The other innovation is exciting, both because of game-changing product at the center of a partnership and because the partnership offers well remediation with little to no upfront costs.

UNM engineers have created a nanotechnology-based sealant that could offer the oil and gas industry a permanent solution for abandoned, climate-polluting wells. UNM researchers developed the sealant over 10 years, and they’re now marketing it through a new Albuquerque-based startup, TS-Nano, in partnership with two next-generation, blockchain-based development firms, Devvio Inc. and DevvStream Inc.

The two sister companies invested $2.5 million last month in TS-Nano. The companies are now headquartered in Europe, but Albuquerque-based engineers built their original platform technology in New Mexico.

These developments, as well as the new in-person school year, are emblematic of the promise New Mexico’s institutions of higher learning hold for our students and our communities.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

UNM dental technology could shake up industry


Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Leisha Armijo-Martin, in her lab at work. Armijo-Martin is a nano materials engineer who leads an MNT SmartSolutions team developing a remote-controlled, magnetic anti-bacterial toothpaste and toothbrush. (Courtesy of MNT SmartSolutions LLC) Fri Aug 19 17:04:26 -0600 2022 1660950266 FILENAME: 1946014.jpg

A remote-controlled, magnetic toothpaste and toothbrush that injects anti-bacterial solutions into the nooks and crannies of gums and teeth could soon hit the market, thanks to novel nanotechnology developed at the University of New Mexico.

The product is still under development, but a newly created startup company, MNT SmartSolutions LLC, is working to put it on store shelves in the next few years. Once available to consumers, it could potentially “revolutionize” the oral care industry, which has remained unchanged for as long as people can remember, according to company executives and the research team that created it.

That team, headed by nano materials engineer Leisha Armijo-Martin, includes current and former UNM biologists, toxicologists, pharmaceutical and environmental scientists and research engineers from UNM’s Center for High Technology Materials, Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, and the University of Bristol Dental School in England.

The team wants to create a combination toothpaste and toothbrush package that offers an interactive, nanotech-powered, home dental-care solution for shoppers that sits alongside Crest, Colgate and the like, Armijo-Martin said.

“This could replace today’s toothpaste on store shelves, where we’ve seen the same toothpaste and toothbrushes for 50 to 100 years,” Armijo-Martin told the Journal. “It would be a smart, interactive toothpaste and toothbrush that shoppers could choose as they walk down the aisles.”


The product is based on non-toxic, environmentally friendly nano particles that, when combined with iron oxide, have both highly-magnetic and anti-bacterial properties, Armijo-Martin said. That nano material is the “secret sauce” that goes into the toothpaste, which is then brushed as normal across the teeth and gums.

The toothbrush, however, is designed to create a remote-controlled electromagnetic field that can be turned on and off. Once turned on, it pulls the nano particles imbedded in the toothpaste down into the gums, cavities, and hard-to-reach crevices between teeth.

Once applied, the anti-microbial elements immediately attack bacteria and plaque formation in the mouth, with additional, sustained-release effects that target infected areas.

The remote-control toothbrush remains off until after the toothpaste is applied to teeth to avoid the magnetic balls in the nano material from bunching up together before brushing.

“You switch off the remote while the toothpaste is in the tube, and while it’s brushed onto teeth,” Armijo-Martin said. “Then you turn it on for the electromagnetic field to pull the nano particles down below the gum lines and along the teeth to reach previously unreachable areas.”

The nano particles specifically target bad bacteria.

“People like to use mouthwash like Listerine, but that kills everything, including good bacteria,” Armijo-Martin said. “This will preferentially attack only the bad bacteria.”

That targeted impact comes from polymer coating imbedded on the surface of the nano particles. The coating is similar to the chemistry found in bad bacteria, which naturally produces a plastic film to protect its colonies.

“By engineering magnetic particles with similar chemistry, the nano particles are attracted to the bacterial biofilm that builds up,” Armijo-Martin said. “And they stay there as they release anti-microbial compounds to create a lasting effect.”

Armijo-Martin discovered the anti-bacterial potential of the magnetic nano particles while working to develop them as a courier for targeted medicine to deliver drugs directly to infections.

“We found the nano particles had their own anti-bacterial qualities,” she said.

That led to a research pivot to instead study direct use of the particles against bacteria, both to prevent and treat infection.

The technology could also be applied as a topical and internal anti-bacterial treatment for wounds, abrasions and infections. But MNT SmartSolutions is focusing first on the dental industry, which offers a huge market with potential for broad impact to prevent and treat periodontal disease, gingivitis and cavities.

Periodontitis is a chronic inflammatory condition stemming from the persistence of bacterial biofilm infections, or dental plaque, that’s considered the 11th most prevalent disease in the world. Apart from tooth loss, it’s been linked to many other health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

Direct consumer sales

The company will offer its technology directly to orthodontists, but its biggest impact could be on the direct consumer market.

“People don’t like to have their gums scraped,” Armijo-Martin said. “It’s painful and costly. With this, they can do it on their own at home to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.”

So far, lab testing on cells with bacterial cultures, plus toxicity testing on human mammalian cells, have shown the technology is effective and safe.

In May, the company received a first-phase, $256,000 National Science Foundation grant to begin mouse trials, said MNT SmartSolutions Chief Financial Officer John Chavez.

“We’ve done all the bench work through in-vitro testing,” Chavez told the Journal. “The NSF funding allows us to move on to control tests with mice. That work started in June.”

When the mice trials conclude, MNT will seek a second-phase NSF grant to conduct more testing with other animals, before moving on to human clinical trials to achieve U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, Chavez said.

The full process could take four or five years before the technology can move to market.

MNT is one of 15 local companies formed by the New Mexico Startup Factory, which launched 10 years ago to commercialize new technologies from the state’s research universities and national laboratories. Chavez is president of the Startup Factory, which recently signed a license agreement to market the MNT technology with UNM’s Rainforest Innovations, which manages all of the university’s tech-transfer and economic development programs.

Chavez sees huge potential for MNT.

“We have a cadre of highly experienced researchers in the oral-care world from New Mexico, Texas and England working on this,” Chavez said. “The dental care industry offers a huge market for new products, because it hasn’t had a lot of modern innovation in many years.”

Start-Ups to Watch

By Collin Krabbe – Reporter for New Mexico Inno

FRS-B Cell Phone Booster
Actual Size of the FRS-B cell phone booster by ORC Tech

This special section marks the launch of the annual Startups to Watch list, a collection of startups New Mexico Inno will keep an eye on in the next 12 months.

The list of 10 honorees includes businesses in various sectors — sustainable energy, health care and mobile communications, to name a few. Our Startups to Watch are trying to use data to identify the “social determinants of health” and deploy space-mining technology.


Spotty cell reception is a problem worth fixing, and with technology developed at the world’s leading space organization, one New Mexico startup says it has the solution.

ORC Tech LLC is trying to eliminate so-called “dead zones” in rural or undeveloped areas. The company says its technology is licensed from NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The technology includes the use of a lightweight portable antenna that provides cell reception.

Early testing showed ORC’s antenna can increase signal strength by at least 20%, adding one to two bars of reception, according to the company. ORC Tech says its investors include Tsay Corp. on the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, where ORC is headquartered.

ORC Tech is also listed as a portfolio company at Arrowhead Innovation Fund, a seed and early-stage venture capital fund at New Mexico State University. The startup’s founders include John ChavezAndrea M. GarciaJoshua Benavidez and New Mexico Start-Up Factory, according to ORC Tech.

So far, ORC Tech has raised $100,000, according to the company, which contends its product will boost cell service for outdoor enthusiasts, first responders, ranchers and similar users. ORC Tech was founded in 2021 and had four employees as of December. With additional funding, ORC intends to hire at least three more employees and develop a manufacturing process, according to the company.

Prototype testing for validation is happening alongside Sandia National Laboratories, according to ORC. While the company is still in its early stages, ORC has already gained some momentum, placing third in the El Paso Dia de los Muertos Pitch Competition.

And with tech apparently licensed from NASA, we’d say ORC is a startup that will remain on our radar.

Can you hear me now? New Mexico firm adapts space tech to build powerful cell phone boosters


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Actual size of the collapsible FRS-B cell phone booster.

A lightweight, portable cell-signal booster recently got a boost of its own from testing by Sandia National Laboratories, which confirmed the device can hike phone reception by up to 20%.

Sandia helped New Mexico startup ORC Tech LLC try out different prototypes for its device this summer through the New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program, which allows the national laboratory to provide technical assistance to small businesses at no cost to them. And now, with the Sandia test results in hand, ORC Tech – or Optical Radio Communications Technology – is ready to manufacture its first batch of up to 300 signal-boosting devices, said John Chavez of the New Mexico Startup Factory, which helped launch the company last fall.

“We’re going to market next year,” Chavez said. “It will be a soft launch. We’ll start out with a small batch of 200-300 units that we’ll sell and send out for testing.”

ORC Tech licensed its technology from NASA Johnson Space Center, which designed it as a collapsible, lightweight, portable tool to improve communications for astronauts in space.

ORC Tech Chief Technology Officer Joshua Benavidez discovered it while participating in a NASA entrepreneurial program to commercialize new technology. He envisioned turning it into a compact, foldable sheet that consumers on Earth could stuff in a backpack or store in a vehicle and then stretch out when needed to augment reception in remote locations. The signal boost comes from conductive material woven into fabric, basically providing a flexible antennae that doesn’t require batteries, electrical outlets or any other power.

Over the summer, Sandia engineers tested different types of conductive thread, fabric and geometric designs to determine the best combination to augment cell signals. Those efforts showed that a circular design with two rings of conductive thread on the inner and outer radius boosted reception by nearly 15 decibels, offering the equivalent of nearly two extra signal bars on a cell phone, said the project’s lead engineer, Stephen Neidigk.

“We found that if we added a third ring, we could get even better performance,” Neidigk said.

Sandia expects to continue working with ORC Tech next year to further improve the design.

Summer interns assisted this year, said Sandia electrical engineer John McVay.

“We were able to design, fabricate and confirm product performance, while also mentoring summer interns, who got practical experience,” McVay said. “It’s a win-win.”

ORC Tech will use a contract manufacturer for its first batch of cell boosters, Chavez said. Once the company fully establishes its manufacturing process, it will make its own product at an industrial park at Ohkay Owingeh, north of Espanola, thanks to an investment in ORC Tech by the Pueblo-owned development company Tsay Corp.

“We’re already seeing a lot of interest and demand for this product, based on market surveys,” Chavez said.

NM startup using NASA tech to boost cellphones

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

A newly formed New Mexico startup is using NASA technology originally designed for lunar missions to offer consumers a lightweight portable option to boost cellular coverage anywhere on Earth.

The booster comes from conductive material woven into fabric. That allows it to be folded up, stuffed in a backpack, or stored in a vehicle and then stretched out to augment reception when a user hits a dead zone.

And it doesn’t require any power, said Joshua Benavidez, chief technology officer for ORC Tech LLC, or Optical Radio Communications Technology, which Benavidez launched last fall with help from the New Mexico Startup Factory.

“You don’t need batteries or any electrical outlet to plug it in,” Benavidez told the Journal. “… If you’re hiking, on a family road trip, or you just work in remote areas, this gives you a way to communicate in any given situation.”

ORC Tech licensed the technology from NASA Johnson Space Center, which designed it as a collapsible, lightweight, portable device for space missions to supplement weak spots encountered by an astronaut crew. NASA has fully proven the technology, but ORC Tech must still design a specific prototype for cellphones and other mobile devices.

Sandia National Laboratories will help with that through the New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program, which allows the state’s two national laboratories to assign lab resources, scientists and engineers to provide technical assistance to small businesses at no cost to them.

And once a workable prototype is ready, likely by late summer, the company will set up operations at an industrial park at Ohkay Owingeh, north of Española, thanks to a new agreement with the Pueblo-owned development company Tsay Corp., which agreed to invest in ORC Tech, said Tsay Corp. President Ron Lovato.

“It would be the first technology-based manufacturing facility to go into the industrial park,” Lovato said. “We’ve been trying for 10 years to attract industry into the Española Valley, and we’ve been successful with retail and service sector businesses. Now, we’re taking a little different route here to get in early as a venture investor in the company, basically putting our money where our mouth is, so to say.”

The Startup Factory, originally launched by the New Mexico Angels and now run independently, works to pull potentially marketable technology out of the state’s national labs, research universities, and institution’s like NASA. It works with local innovators and entrepreneurs to help build technology-transfer-based companies, providing the business acumen and early-stage capital to move them forward.

“Sometimes it takes a community to build a company,” said Andrea Garcia, the Startup Factory’s company creation specialist. “ORC Tech is a great example of how we engage with local programs and resources to keep economic development and investment opportunities in New Mexico while building infrastructure and executing a product development strategy.”

Benavidez, a New Mexico Tech student with a background in engineering and physics, identified the technology while participating in a NASA entrepreneurial program to build skills in commercializing science-based innovation. He then sought assistance from the Startup Factory, which helped him license the technology from NASA and launch ORC Tech with an initial investment for an undisclosed amount.

The Startup Factory connected Benavidez with Sandia, which assigned electrical engineer John McVay to work with him through Sandia’s newly developed “Stitched” lab, which stands for Sensors and Textiles Innovatively Tailored for Complex, High-Efficiency Detection. That lab uses precise, computer-controlled embroidery to fix things like wire, tubes or optical fibers to fabric-like materials to create customized, imbedded sensors.

Industry, for example, uses that process for heated car seats, imbedding a resistive wire sensor into the seating material, McVay said.

“At the Stitched lab we look at how we can use technical embroidery for different applications,” McVay told the Journal.

In this case, the lab will use conductive thread, or a conductive metal ink, to develop a cost-effective way to manufacture ORC Tech’s radio-frequency-boosting fabrics.

Students in Sandia’s summer internship program will work with McVay to first create a prototype conductive fabric using computer-aided design, and then move to the Stitched lab for technical embroidering.

“We’ll test and measure performance of the designs, and then go back to iteratively improve on it,” McVay said. “… We hope to wrap it all up before the interns leave at the end of the summer.”

Part of the process is developing the right shape for the cell-coverage booster, which much be designed to optimally capture and direct weak radio frequency signals to the cellphone.

“The conductive fabric will bend the weak signal in a ‘dead zone’ and focus it on the point where the cellphone is,” Benavidez said.

Cellphones are only the start. The technology can later be adapted for use with laptops, satellite and WiFi internet receivers.

New Mexico’s startup ecosystem is helping to speed ORC Tech’s march to market, Garcia said.

And both Ohkay Owingeh and Sandia are benefitting.

“Through this project, we’ll gain more knowledge and experience in technical embroidery at our Stitched lab,” McVay said. “And it will provide hands-on learning for our interns – all while helping a local business. It’s benefitting all of us.”

New jobs, bigger facilities, local support: New Mexico’s bioscience industry is alive and kicking – Albuquerque Journal (

New jobs, bigger facilities, local support: New Mexico’s bioscience industry is alive and kicking – Albuquerque Journal (

Pharmaceutical research, development and manufacturing company Curia broke ground this fall on a $100 million expansion of its Albuquerque operations, potentially adding nearly 300 new local jobs to its current workforce.

It’s the second major expansion here since 2018 by the biotech company, which already employs about 400 people at two locations, including a 135,000-square-foot facility at the Midtown Business Park at I-25 and Montgomery, plus an 80,000-square-foot facility near Balloon Fiesta Park.

Curia’s Oct. 27 groundbreaking coincided with another major biotechnology industry announcement that same week in Las Cruces, where remote health-monitoring services company Electronic Caregiver reported closing on $42.5 million in fresh funding from private investors. That makes a total of $110 million in private equity raised by Electronic Caregiver since launching in 2009.

The new funding will help accelerate the firm’s aggressive expansion plans, which include hiring another 770 employees over the next few years, about 95% of them to be located at the company’s 10-story downtown office tower. The state and the city of Las Cruces provided about $1.2 million in Local Economic Development Act, or LEDA, funding last year to help remodel and equip Electronic Caregiver’s office building, which the firm purchased outright over the summer after leasing space there for more than a decade.

The state also contributed $5 million in LEDA money to Curia for its expansion plans in Albuquerque, with the city expected to kick in another $500,000.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who attended Curia’s groundbreaking, said that the company’s investment and expansion plans reflect the state’s growing reputation as a bustling magnet for the life sciences industry.

“New Mexico has become a sophisticated biosciences hub that continues to attract companies leading the way in global science and healthcare,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “These are high-paying jobs of the future that will fortify New Mexico’s families and expand economic security for our graduates who want to remain in the state to live and work.”

While big announcements, the Curia and Electronic Caregiver expansions are only the latest developments in New Mexico’s burgeoning bioscience industry, which has grown exponentially over the past decade, and particularly over the past five years, after lawmakers approved the creation of a state-funded Bioscience Authority in 2017 to help promote local industry development. That’s led to more unified public and private efforts to help newly formed startups launch and grow, expand existing businesses, and attract more companies, entrepreneurs and investment capital to the state.

Those efforts are boosted by New Mexico’s vibrant startup ecosystem, which offers broad wrap-around services through incubators, business accelerators and access to early-stage venture funding. That support base has, in turn, inspired local entrepreneurs to turn a lot more biotechnology innovation from the state’s research universities and national labs into marketable products and services.

More work is needed to build on today’s momentum, according to local industry experts, beginning with additional state and private-sector funding to convert fledgling startups and existing businesses into thriving, sustainable enterprises. And to get that ball rolling, the Bioscience Authority is seeking $50 million in state money in this year’s legislative session for a new co-investment fund to allow the Authority to invest jointly in local bioscience companies alongside other venture firms.

Apart from capital, more physical infrastructure — such as incubation labs with high-tech equipment and collaborative office space — is also critical.

But, given the state’s accelerated bioscience development in recent years, local leaders say New Mexico is now approaching a turning point that, with additional statewide efforts, could move the industry from promising momentum to critical mass.

Doug Ziedonis — University of New Mexico Health System CEO and executive vice president for UNM health sciences — called it a “critically important” moment for the local industry.

“We’re at a very exciting point now with our research universities, state agencies, government officials and industry all coming together around strategic plans to push forward,” Ziedonis told the Journal. “… We’ve seen how successful collaborative efforts in such other sectors as the film industry have been, and we know we can do the same in the bioscience arena. We have great momentum and, by working together, we can really grow this industry, not just in Albuquerque, but across the state.”

Steady expansion

New Mexico’s bioscience sector — which includes medical-related products and services, as well as biotechnology for agricultural production and environmental improvement — has been evolving for decades, thanks to continuous innovation and discovery at the state’s research universities and labs, plus entrepreneurial creativity in applying new technologies to real-world problems.

As of 2015, some 700 biotech companies were already operating around the state, directly employing about 9,300 people and supporting up to 41,000 industry-related jobs, according to a report by a “GrowBio” initiative that emerged in 2016 to unite the public and private sectors around policies and incentives to build the industry. Commercial development encompasses everything from new medical devices, diagnostic tools and treatments to improved methods and tools for food production and safety, and innovative use of microbes and enzymes to make manufacturing and chemical processes environmentally friendly.

The sector generated about $1.2 billion in revenue in 2015, according to the report, with such large, well-established institutions as Tricore Reference Laboratories and the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in Albuquerque boosting employment numbers and economic impact significantly. But a broad swath of emerging bioscience startups also contributed to industry growth as public and private efforts to build New Mexico’s startup economy gained force.

In particular, the 2013 opening of a BioScience Center in Uptown Albuquerque as the state’s first privately run, dedicated incubator for biotechnology startups marked a turning point. Pharmaceutical industry veteran Stuart Rose opened the center after building a homegrown startup, Oso Biopharmaceuticals, into a major contract research and manufacturing services company in Albuquerque.

New York-based AMRI Global aquired Oso for $110 million in 2014. It’s since rebranded as Curia, the company that just broke ground on a $100 million expansion.

Rose’s 20,000-square-foot BioScience Center reached full occupancy within six months of its opening in January 2013, and has remained full ever since, housing up to 22 startups at any given time.

“The center has maintained 100% occupancy since launching,” said Greg Byrnes, executive director of the NM Biotechnology and Biomedical Association, or NMBio. “There’s always a waiting list to get in.”

Apart from incubating dozens of startups over the years, the center has helped bring industry people together to network and collaborate, which was one of Rose’s original goals.

“When I ran Oso Pharmaceuticals, I learned a lot about many things going on across the state, but most people didn’t know each other, so no one realized the significant level of activity already happening here,” Rose told the Journal. “I saw the potential to create a focal point for people to connect through the BioScience Center.”

By 2017, unified industry-building efforts in general had gained a lot more momentum through GrowBio, an initiative spearheaded largely by NMBio and UNM health sciences, which worked together to gain legislative approval to create the BioScience Authority as a collaborative economic development agency focused on the bioscience industry.

The 13-member Authority — which receives about $300,000 in annual state funding that’s channeled administratively through UNM — includes representatives from the state’s three research universities, plus appointees by the governor and both legislative chambers.

Bioscience Authority

The agency has concentrated on building collaborative relationships to tap into bioscience-related economic development opportunities, said Board Chair Dale Dekker, a founding principal at Dekker/Perich/Sabatini who helped launch the GrowBio initiative.

“We’ve worked to become a forum for building statewide awareness and support about the sector’s potential to diversify the economy,” Dekker told the Journal. “Our board includes industry experts, entrepreneurs, economic development professionals and public officials from around the state.”

In particular, the agency is forging collaborative initiatives on workforce development, in- and out-of-state marketing and promotion, forums and networking activities to connect people and organizations, and joint efforts to help local communities attract bioscience-related investment, said Authority Executive Director Stephanie Tofighi.

In one noteworthy achievement, the agency created an online guide for “community readiness zones” that cities and municipalities can follow to identify existing strengths and needed assets — such as land, buildings and shovel-ready development areas where companies can locate — to build out local “bioscience hubs.” It includes an evaluation process to gain industry recognition as “readiness zones,” with bronze-to-platinum certifications that can boost marketing initiatives.

“It’s for self-evaluation by communities that go through the process with real estate professionals, architects and municipal organizations to evaluate their local landscape,” Tofighi told the Journal. “We’ve now identified and certified sites in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces and Rio Rancho, and we’re working with people in Socorro, Los Alamos, Los Lunas and Santa Ana Pueblo to certify more zones.”

As a trade organization, NMBio is also working closely with the Bioscience Authority to assist local companies in business development, marketing and networking to strengthen and advance the industry. It’s helped especially in raising New Mexico’s visibility nationally and internationally by organizing local delegations to participate in regional and national trade fairs and conferences.

In 2020, it placed a 16-page, $50,000 informational insert about New Mexico’s bioscience development in Site Selection, a premier, global industry publication.

Association membership has increased from just 27 in 2016, when Byrnes became executive director, to more than 100 now.

“The industry is growing significantly,” Byrnes said. “We’ve expanded our national participation and visibility, and we’ve been able to recruit more companies as a result.”

Co-investment fund

Still, to convert today’s momentum into sustainable, long-term industry expansion, the bioscience sector needs more concentrated state assistance and promotion, particularly funding for startups and existing businesses to weather the early stages of commercial development, Byrnes said.

“All other states with strong bioscience industries and commercial hubs have been blessed with state funding to build their industries,” Byrnes said. “We need the state to step up here if we really want to grow New Mexico’s bioscience sector.”

Gov. Lujan Grisham’s administration has included bioscience as one of New Mexico’s key, strategic industries to diversify the economy. But, beyond the Bioscience Authority’s $300,000 annual allocation, the state has yet to earmark specific funding for bioscience sector development, Dekker said.

“We’re making good progress in building out the bioscience ecosystem, but we need to accelerate our efforts with funding to help biotechnology companies build solid foundations in New Mexico,” Dekker told the Journal. “We need to make key investments in this sector as a strategic industry cluster.”

To do that, the Bioscience Authority, NMBio and other industry partners are seeking legislative approval in this year’s session to earmark $50 million in state money for a new co-investment fund to strategically deploy capital into promising local companies in partnership with other venture investors. Under the proposal, the agency would seek experienced private equity firms that commit to investing $2 for every $1 dollar in state funds for targeted investments, effectively tripling deployable co-investment money to $150 million.

A lot of venture funding has already flowed into local bioscience startups through the State Investment Council, which provides some permanent fund money for venture firms that commit to investing in local companies. That includes a $20 million “catalyst fund” that pumped capital into eight different micro funds for early-stage investments in startups, creating a collective, $40-million pool of venture funding when including micro fund-matching dollars.

Some of that money did flow to bioscience startups, helping to create a lot more biotech ventures in recent years. But most of the catalyst money is now already deployed, making it harder for startups to find more funding.

And that money was never earmarked specifically for the bioscience sector, which generally requires more capital than other types of startups to become established.

“Bioscience really needs capital because it takes longer than other industries to create a sustainable product and it’s very expensive,” Tofighi said.

To test the co-investment concept, the Bioscience authority partnered last year with the New Mexico Angels on a $225,000 investment in Albuquerque-based BennuBio, which is marketing superfast cytometers, or cell meters, for medical diagnostics. The agency provided $75,000, with the rest coming from the Angel’s Vintage Fund for early-stage investments.

Not all industry leaders think the co-investment fund is the right way to deploy state capital. Rose, for example, believes funding would be better allocated directly to established venture firms that commit to investing in local bioscience companies, and that the Bioscience Authority should instead focus on seeking state money for economic development initiatives, such as building more incubator and lab space for biotechnology startups.

But Rose says more state funding is critical to keep industry development moving forward, especially as existing companies seek additional capital to grow.

“We’re well positioned now for fairly advanced startups to grow into more mature companies, but not if available venture funding dries up,” Rose said. “We have a lot of the needed ecosystem infrastructure in place now, with good business leadership and promising technologies under development, but when a company seeks larger rounds of follow-on funding to continue growing, they often have to turn to out-of-state venture funds that may demand they move out of New Mexico to be closer to the investors. We need to create more local sources of funding to allow companies to remain here and flourish. We’ve done a lot, but we still need to provide more support for the bioscience industry to reach critical mass.”

TNeuroPharma Receives Novel Patent



Dr. Christopher Wheeler, Chief Science Officer of TNeuroPharma, is named on the patent, which provides a method for determining the likelihood of late onset Alzheimer’s Disease (LOAD).

NOVEMBER 02, 2022

Albuquerque, NM, October 27th, 2022 – T-Neuro Pharma, a New Mexico-based company that is developing a breakthrough Alzheimer’s diagnostic and therapeutic, has just reached a major milestone. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has approved the claims of a patent that is owned by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and licensed exclusively to the company entitled “Novel Blood Cell Biomarker for Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease (App. No. 15/754,997).” The claims of this patent include the use of T cells for the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Targeting these T cells is a completely new way of diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s Disease,” says the company’s CEO, Dr. Kristina Trujillo. “Given the huge failure rate of previous targets like Beta-Amyloid, I believe a new approach is long overdue.”

Physicians and scientists agree that treatments, even lifestyle interventions, for Alzheimer’s Disease will be most effective in the earliest stages of the disease. But typically, Alzheimer’s Disease isn’t detected until long after significant damage to the brain has occurred. This is because diagnostics such as Amyloid PET and Cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers are costly and invasive, and not practical for regular screening. This means that they are not used until after the patient starts showing symptoms, and damage has already been done to the brain.

TNeuroPharma is developing a diagnostic test called “T-Track”, that identifies Alzheimer’s patients early in the disease. The T-Track diagnostic is a simple blood test that could eventually replace costly and invasive diagnostic such as PET scans and cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers. Not only will the test provide a new diagnostic option for patients, it will also improve the clinical trials for Alzheimer’s drugs. The T-Track test will also allow doctors to monitor the efficacy of drugs in real-time. This can cut hundreds of millions of dollars from drug development costs, decades of time and potentially lead to pharmaceutical breakthroughs in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. By targeting dysfunctional T-cells, TNeuroPharma’s diagnostic technology can enable early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s – allowing for more effective clinical trials of confirmed AD patients.

This patent validates the progress of the technology licensed to TNeuroPharma and its application as a general method to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease by measuring immune cells in the blood. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai and the company have completed research identifying certain age-related immune cells as causing major recognized features of the disease. Determining levels of these cells in the blood forms the basis of the T-Track diagnostic test. The T-Track diagnostic identified Alzheimer’s disease and related pre-conditions in patients with high accuracy and can be performed using standard clinical laboratory equipment. As such, it is projected to be orders of magnitude cheaper than currently available tests that require highly specialized equipment and analysis. The development of T-Track will thus enable earlier, accurate, and more
widely available diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. T-Track is also the only Alzheimer’s biomarker based on a causal factor. T-Track is currently optimized for Alzheimer’s diagnosis in a majority of patients, with plans in place to further broaden its reach through a partnership with Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“Translating immune-based technologies to benefit individuals with brain and other serious disorders has long been a professional passion of mine” said Dr. Christopher Wheeler. “Overall, our novel technology not only provides the opportunity to detect the disease earlier by monitoring levels of the immune cells that can cause it, but with development, it could also provide the means to treat Alzheimer’s by inhibiting or eliminating these same problematic immune cells.”

The goal at TNeuroPharma is to provide better diagnostic and treatment options for Alzheimer’s patients. Whether sought by pharmaceutical companies conducting clinical trials, primary care physicians, or patient and caregivers themselves, T-Track offers earlier, more accessible diagnosis in a single blood test amenable to screening large populations, as well as providing critical information to patients individually.

TNeuroPharma was established in 2018 with the goal to revolutionize the approach to detecting and treating Alzheimer’s Disease in living patients. The technology was licensed from Cedars-Sinai, where Dr. Wheeler was on faculty before co-founding T-NeuroPharma together with Dr. Kristina Trujillo and John Chavez. TNeuroPharma is a portfolio company under the New Mexico Start-Up Factory, an organization that is focused on supporting entrepreneurs in the journey of taking innovative technologies from idea to industry.

“This issued patent not only validates the science behind the technology, but it also supports the company’s quest to secure industry partners for product development,” said John Chavez, Managing Partner of the New Mexico Start-Up Factory. “We hope to help millions of people through the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and revolutionize the current methods of treatment.”

For more information about TNeuroPharma, visit For more information about LEEP, visit For more information on the New Mexico Start-Up Factory, please visit

About TNeuroPharma
T-Neuro is an Alzheimer’s biomarker and therapeutic company focusing on early detection by aiming attention on the T cell contribution to the pathology of the disease. The important T cell response can be detected in blood as an early diagnostic tool and blocked as a therapeutic avenue. Effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders are within reach through TNeuroPharma’s technology and
patented biomarker method. Those seeking diagnostic information, from pharmaceutical companies conducting clinical trials, to memory clinics, primary care physicians, and individual caregivers can more easily identify patients with confirmed Alzheimer’s disease to guide their next steps. –In each scenario, this can save considerable time, expense, and individual turmoil. Most importantly, the technology offers new hope for the detection and eventual treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

About the New Mexico Start-Up Factory
The New Mexico Start-Up Factory (NMSUF) is a local organization that focuses on developing laboratory technologies from the idea stage to market readiness. In the company’s innovative model, specialists work with scientists looking to commercialize their innovations while building infrastructure and securing early-stage funding. Through the NMSUF program, technologists are coached through the validation of the technology and market and are then paired with the right management team. A commercialization and business plan/model are created and if all signs point to a good market opportunity and promising development, a company is formed. Companies and scientists that successfully complete the educational piece of the program are open to investment from the NMSUF Fund. The New Mexico Start-Up Factory has launched 14 companies over the last 6 years of which 7 are still in development. (



ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque startup Osazda Energy LLC is undertaking a two-year battery of tests to see how well its newly developed “MetZilla” paste can protect solar systems against cracking and degradation.

The U.S. Department of Energy approved a $1.25 million grant to test the composite material, which University of New Mexico and Air Force Research Laboratory scientists jointly created to prolong the life of solar modules.

The paste, dubbed MetZilla to indicate Godzilla-infused metal, is made by meshing carbon nanotubes with silver, the standard alloy used to conduct electricity in solar cells and panels. Osazda says the paste can keep metal conducting lines intact even as modules crack over time from extreme weather and other hazards.

The New Mexico Angels, a group of about 70 individuals who pool their resources to invest in startups, launched Osazda in 2017 to take MetZilla to market. But the company must first prove how well the material actually works, measuring its ability to keep solar cells and modules functioning under stress compared with systems without the paste, said Osazda Chief Technology Officer Sang Han, a UNM regents professor in both the Chemical and Biological Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering departments.

“We’ll do extensive stress testing beyond what would normally be required to certify effectiveness,” Han said. “We want to prove it will extend the life of solar cells.”

Four national partners will assist in the testing process, including Sandia National Laboratories, the CFV Solar Test Lab in Albuquerque, the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, and California company D2Solar.

UNCC will make the silicon solar cells and D2Solar will assemble the modules. CFV will conduct the stress testing, and Sandia will apply a digital imaging technology that captures views of the entire panel when it’s operating and of cracks in the cells.

“Sandia will image the modules before and after the stress tests to measure cracks with and without the composite paste,” Han said. “It’s a two-year project to prove our paste manages all cracks under different types of stress.”

The testing process can help Osazda improve the paste formation and application process while demonstrating its benefits as the company prepares for market launch, said New Mexico Angels President and Osazda CEO John Chavez.

“MetZilla has very minimal impact on the manufacturing costs for solar systems, but it has real benefits on the back end,” Chavez said. “It can prolong the life of solar systems, allowing for increased production, reduced maintenance, and less insurance costs for manufacturers to provide warranties on solar panels.”


We are proud to announce that the novel technology licensed by GPER G-1 Development Group, a New Mexico Start-Up Factory II Portfolio Company, has recently been published by Science Translational Medicine and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). 
GPER-G-1 is a drug development company with the primary goal of advancing novel drug candidates discovered at the University of New Mexico (UNM). Currently identified indications for the drug candidates include obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, kidney diseases, fibrosis and bacterial infection. 

The manuscript titled “Preclinical efficacy of the first-in-class GPER-selective agonist Tespria in mouse models of obesity and diabetes,” was written by Distinguished Professor of Internal Medicine and Chief of the Division of Molecular Medicine, Eric Prossnitz. This publication highlights the recent discovery of the novel G protein-coupled Estrogen Receptor (GPER) as a novel therapeutic target for obesity and diabetes. 


Mimicking estrogen to target metabolism

agonist of one of estrogen’s receptors, the G protein–coupled estrogen receptor (GPER), may have a similar, but more targeted potential as a therapeutic in metabolic disease. In ovariectomized mice, a model of postmenopausal obesity, G-1 agonist treatment increased energy expenditure and had beneficial effects on weight, adiposity, metabolism, and inflammation. However, unlike traditional estrogen replacement therapy, GPER agonism did not affect bone density or result in uterine feminizing effects. G-1 also elicited weight loss in ovariectomized mice on a high-fat diet and prevented weight gain in obese male mice.

Science Translational Medicine  29 Jan 2020:
Vol. 12, Issue 528, eaau5956
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aau5956 


Copyright © 2020 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)



By Megan Martin  – Research Assistant , Albuquerque Business First Jan 6, 2020, 12:06pm MST Updated Jan 6, 2020, 12:45pm MST

This marks the 16th year that Albuquerque Business First will honor women who have made a positive and influential impact in the New Mexico business community.

Our judges have selected 24 honorees for the 16th annual Women of Influence awards. While each recipient has a different background, from health care to law and everything in between, they all have one thing in common: their dedication and contributions to the community around them. 

Take a look at the accompanying slideshow to meet all of the 2020 Women of Influence honorees.

The awards will take place on Feb. 24 at Sandia Resort and Casino. The awards and luncheon will be preceded by Bizwomen Mentoring Monday, an event in which attendees will have the opportunity to participate in one-on-one coaching sessions with various mentors, as well as take part in roundtable discussions.

The selection process for this year’s Women of Influence awards began with an open call for nominations. Those who were nominated were then asked to submit an application with information for our judges. Our judges, leaders in the business community including multiple alumna of the award, evaluated the applicants on professional achievement, leadership and community involvement. The top scorers were named honorees. Judges recused themselves from voting on any applicants with whom they had close ties.

This year’s judges were Clementina Garza, franchise owner of a number of local McDonald’s restaurants; Cristin Heyns-Bousliman, president and chief people officer at Human Resources Experience LLC; Kellie S. Mixon, vice president and CFO of New Mexico Mutual; Dr. Darcie Robran-Marquez, executive medical director and vice president of population health at Presbyterian Healthcare Services; Anthony Tenorio, CEO of Applied Technology Associates; and Kathy Ulibarri of K Ulibarri Consulting LLC.

Four out of every 10 businesses in the U.S. are women-owned, according to a study by American Express. Women-owned businesses in the U.S. saw a growth rate of 58% from 2007 to 2018, compared to the overall national growth of 12% for all businesses. 

The top women-owned businesses in New Mexico reported a total of over $464 million in 2018 revenue.

The 2020 Women of Influence awards is sponsored by Wells Fargo and Albuquerque Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, and nationally sponsored by Girl Scouts. Event partners are Heritage Audio Visual, Bryan’s Photography LLC and The Recognition Place. National partners include the American Business Women’s Association and the National Association of Women Business Owners.

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