Startup Summer School: Houston’s Zodist, Luminostics, & RaptorBird

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placing restrictions on how they could market or supply them. This could hinder Zodist’s supply, affecting how well it could come up with customized packages of juice.


What they do: The startup has licensed U of H research on light-emitting nanoparticles to develop rapid medical diagnostic tests that can be analyzed through a smartphone. Essentially, a swab of blood, saliva, or urine is placed in a disposable cartridge that slides into a specially made case on the smartphone. The phone takes a picture and the light activates the nanoparticles, which can be programmed to light up in the presence of certain disease-causing bacteria or viruses.

The tests will be designed for people to use at home, i.e., the baby is sick, is it the flu—something that would require a doctor’s visit—or just a cold? Also, it could be used by healthcare providers or epidemiologists in emerging markets to track disease incidence rates and other data.

Founders Gavin Garvey, Bala Raja, Andrew Paterson, and Gabe Hodges are now seeking grants from the National Science Foundation’s I-corps program and other sources to raise $50,000 to built a prototype this fall. Luminostics is starting with tests that can detect the presence of chlamydia because the high prevalence of the disease—it’s one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases—creates a viable market for the company.

Lessons learned and challenges ahead: The founders are using a 3-D printer to create a case for the smartphone as well as the disposable cartridge. The biggest challenge for Luminostics, however, will be the regulatory hurdles to getting FDA approval of the device.

RaptorBird Robotics

What they do: Founded by Rakshak Talwar and Micah Thomas, RaptorBird is developing RAVN, a hardware and software system for customizing a civilian drone, depending on the use. Current drones available on the market are “one-trick ponies,” Talwar says. RaptorBird’s system could be used in a variety of applications in education or industry, such as exploring and quantifying data in hard-to-reach places like mines or other industrial sites.

The duo is finalizing its prototype of what Talwar calls its “value-added drone,” with the RAVN system pre-installed, in preparation for a Kickstarter campaign by the end of the year. The device would sell for under $1,000. Also, he says RaptorBird will be selling a development tool for developers to use the RAVN system on existing drones.

Lessons learned and challenges ahead: The project has gone through several iterations since I was first introduced to Talwar earlier this year at the start of RedLabs’ pre-accelerator course. As they are fine-tuning their market plans, uncertainty still exists over what sort of regulation federal authorities may impose on drones.


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