Trine professor’s company receives 1st AIF grant check

Angola Mayor Richard Hickman said Blaire Biomedical, founded by Trine University professor Melanie G. Watson, Ph.D., is exactly what the city wants.

“We want to help emerging entrepreneurs get to that next step,” he said in presenting an Angola Investment Fund (AIF) grant check to Watson, associate professor of biomedical engineering, on Oct. 19. “Selfishly, we want them to stay in Angola and working with the university. We think this is just perfect.”

AIF board member Isaac Lee, executive director of the Steuben County Economic Development Corporation, agreed, commenting, “I don’t think we could have picked a better first applicant.”

Blaire Biomedical is developing a handheld device, now in its eighth iteration, that will eventually perform multiple blood tests in real time when linked to a smartphone. The funding, along with grants received earlier this year from the northeast Indiana elevate ventures Farnsworth Fund and Community Ideation Fund, will support paid interns for the project as well as supplies and legal fees.

The $12,500 grant was the first awarded by AIF, which provides loans to support startup and small business growth. The Oct. 19 check was for half the amount, with the balance to be awarded in six months.

“The grant is a jumpstart to the loan,” said Lee. “Where we get excited is when entrepreneurs come back to receive the loan and that cycle continues. You don’t get that if you don’t have a funnel starting them in.”

“Every company starts somewhere. We’re trying to make sure what we start stays and grows right here in Steuben County and the City of Angola.”

Watson said the city’s support for entrepreneurs is “invaluable.”

“You’ve got a city that’s willing to step out and do something new, do something risky,” she said. “I think it will pay off for everyone in the long run. I’m excited to be here at Trine, and be here in Angola, and to keep Blaire Biomedical where it should be.”

Jason Blume, executive director of Innovation One at Trine University, said the research efforts for Blaire Biomedical have provided a unique opportunity for “unexpected growth” in Trine students.

“They have developed stuff you would not have expected a student to come up with. You never know what’s in an engineer’s mind,” he said. “That’s the excitement Trine has in working with entrepreneurs. When we put students on a project, I have no clue of the type of solutions we’ll end up with.”

Both Blume and Watson said they hope Blaire Biomedical’s efforts will encourage other entrepreneurial projects on the Trine campus.

“We’d love to help create that entrepreneurial or research culture on campus,” Watson said. “It could be large or it could be small. We don’t know. But we would love to help seed that change on campus and in the community.”

Photo: From left, Jason Blume, executive director, Innovation One; John Patton, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical engineering at Trine University and chief technology officer, Blaire Biomedical; Melanie G. Watson, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical engineering at Trine University and founder and CEO, Blaire Biomedical; Madison Howard, Blaire Biomedical design engineering intern; Angola Mayor Richard Hickman; and Isaac Lee, Angola Investment Fund board member and executive director of the Steuben County Economic Development Corporation.