Notre Dame Start-up Nearwave Winner of annual Commercialization Award
Nearwave, a medical device maker at the University of Notre Dame, came away with the top prize in last week’s annual 1st Source Bank Commercialization Award competition.
The annual competition recognizes Notre Dame and Indiana University School of Medicine South Bend faculty for exceptional research discoveries and the role they have played in supporting the translation of these discoveries into marketable products and/or services.
This was the 12th year of the competition that annually celebrates not only a number of companies with significant commercialization activities but also the faculty members who have secured new patents or made invention disclosures over the last calendar year.
In all, twenty-two inventors were awarded thirty-one U.S. Patents in 2022. One hundred thirty-three inventors submitted one hundred seventy-five invention disclosures in 2022. Another twenty-five inventors had twenty-eight inventions licensed in 2022.
The event also is a chance to celebrate the community ecosystem, a complex network of interconnected systems, needed to help new discoveries advance. Locally, that includes partners like the universities, local businesses, other support resources, and the local communities.
Nearwave’s story began as a class project for a course by two Ph.D. students studying Electrical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. The company then won a number of internal grants and was able to quickly get to a benchtop prototype design working.
Nearwave developed Scanner, a hand-held device that uses light to measure the progression of cancer and the effect of pre-surgical chemotherapy. You might have caught a glimpse of the scanner and the Nearwave story in Notre Dame’s “what would you fight for series,” broadcast each week during a home football game.
Nearwave is no stranger to the winner’s circle, having previously won the University of Notre Dame’s Idea Center McCloskey New Venture Competition, the top prize in the regional pre-seed category of the Elevate Ventures Nexus Competition, and the Innovation of the Year award at the TechPoint Mira Awards.
Nearwave edged out three other Notre Dame startups vying for the commercialization award. Tessellated was this year’s runner-up. They produce composite thin films with the highest reported tensile strengths and can be used in the space/aerospace, defense, and energy industries. Poseida Therapeutics, and Web3Sense also made strong cases but just came up just short.
The University of Notre Dame has a long history of innovation going back decades. Perhaps the University’s most famous patent associated with Notre Dame, U.S. patent 1,811,959, was secured in 1931. In included “Vinyl derivatives of acetylene and method of preparing the same” — in other words, synthetic rubber. It was Invented by Rev. Fr. Julius Nieuwland, Congregation of Holy Cross, and assigned to DuPont, where it did, in fact, give rise to entire new industries.
Our region has a long history of patents and new discoveries, largely associated with some of the bigger companies located here like Bendix, Studebaker, Uniroyal, Dodge, Singer, and Oliver. Over the years, much of the research and development at those places moved out of our area, and while we continued to have a strong reputation for making things, very few new discoveries were occurring here.
But today, Universities have become the hotbed for those new discoveries, and our region is fortunate to have the work of Notre Dame and the IU School of Medicine driving innovation and new discoveries.
Watch for companies like Nearwave, Tesellated, Poseida Therapeutics, and Web3Sense to grow. And be ready for the wave of new inventions and products that could follow from these and the other inventions taking root on campus. As the University continues to solidify its role as a major research institution, more invention success stories like Nearwave will follow.