Keat Ghee Ong’s startup is taking shape less than a year after the professor started at the Knight Campus
This fall, the University of Oregon will open the first building of the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, a stunning 160,000-square-foot revolutionary facility connected by a skybridge to the UO’s main campus in Eugene.
But even before the first building opens, the Knight Campus has formed a hub of activity, fostering connections among researchers around the region, state, and nation to focus collective expertise and put Oregon on the map in biotechnology. With these partnerships, the Knight Campus aims to make the state an attractive destination for existing companies and to energize the economy with startup companies, which are taking shape during building construction.
Among those having success with early efforts is Knight Campus professor Keat Ghee Ong. Ong came to the UO in the summer of 2019 after serving as the Portage Health Foundation Endowed Professor of Technological Innovations in Health at Michigan Technological University. Less than a year later, his startup is among the first at the Knight Campus, where the UO expects world-class scientists to spawn many more.
Here, he shares insights and answers a few questions about the commercialization process.
What can you tell us about your company?
With the help from the Knight Campus and the UO’s Innovation Partnership Services, I have launched Penderia Technologies Inc., headquartered in Eugene. The mission of the company is to develop orthopedic sensors based on my research in radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. The sensors allow doctors to monitor the progress of bone regeneration in patients who have had shoulder surgeries. Doctors can adjust post-surgical therapy based on the sensor data. With his technology, patients who have gone through medical procedures such as rotator cuff repairs are likely to experience a faster and smoother recovery.
What attracted you to the Knight Campus?
The unique vision and mission of scientific impact and support for commercialization were the key factors that brought me here, along with the entrepreneurial approach to science, and the opportunity to receive insight and guidance to get my company off the ground.
How has Knight Campus programming supported your efforts at commercialization?
The Knight Campus support has been incredible. It has formed a network of technical and business experts in and out of the University of Oregon. This network has provided me with valuable advice and guidance. Furthermore, it provides scientists like me with workshops in commercialization and communications. Together with other faculty members, we hone our ability to describe our work as part of the Knight Campus mission, which centers on accelerating the transfer of discoveries into technologies that impact human health. The Knight Campus also provides resources on how to access early funding and business strategy for startups.
What are the next steps for your company?
We formed a corporation earlier this year. Since then, we have achieved the early milestone of feasibility validation, and are currently in prototyping stage. With the help from Knight Campus, we are also seeking additional funding to expand our company, getting ready for the next stage. The great thing about being at the Knight Campus, is there is support every step of the way. The Knight Campus has incubator and innovation spaces so ultimately my company would have the option to rent lab space and access the amazing facilities to jumpstart its growth.
What excites you most about the future of Knight Campus and the University of Oregon?
We’re opening a great and amazing building. It’s world-class. But that’s not what excites me the most.
Beyond what I described about the possibilities for growth about my company, what I look forward to most about being in Oregon is the spirit of the people here – kind, forward-thinking, and fearless of failure. My team will continue to meet and learn from the tremendously talented faculty who are already at the Knight Campus, as well as colleagues around the state and those we’re recruiting from around the world.