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Biomedical firm receives funding from Angola board

ANGOLA — A company that hopes to develop and sell a device that performs multiple blood tests in real time will receive a $12,500 grant from the Angola Investment Fund.

On Tuesday, AIF’s Account Board met in City Hall with representatives of Blaire Biomedical. The company was formed by Trine University Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering Melanie G. Watson, Ph.D., who is working on the device.

Because of proprietary considerations, details of the device were not disclosed, but a Sept. 12 KPC Media Group news article noted the device will be small enough to be held by hand and will link to a smartphone.

Discussion about the product took place in executive session. Then, once company representatives left, board members discussed the proposal and made their decision.

“Her direction is right on,” said Acting Chair Frank Baade, referring to Watson.

But the board also expressed caution. Robert Clark of Elevate Ventures, a venture development organization based in Indianapolis, spoke of experiences with similar new businesses.

“Have her at least get a working prototype,” he said. Isaac Lee, executive director of the Steuben County Economic Development Corp., agreed, saying that at a minimum the company needed to produce a “viable product.”

The AIF board discussed the long, difficult path to bring a product to market. Clark talked about the need to meld business expertise with science.

“It might take another partner,” pointed out Andrew Aldred, executive director of ancillary services at Cameron Memorial Hospital at Cardinal Health. Then he added, “This is a really cool thing, by the way.”

Angola Common Council member Kathy Armstrong noted both the skepticism and the optimism when she said, “This is a work in progress.”

According to the earlier KPC article, the device has been in development for five years and is now in its eighth iteration. Watson has shared the work with her students and several have made it the subject of their senior design projects. The project has already received grants from Elevate Northeast Indiana’s Farnsworth Fund and Elevate Venture’s Community Ideation Fund.

The directors agreed that their current role was not to see the project through to completion, but to help it along its way. “We’re providing that next step,” said Baade.

The directors voted unanimously to provide the grant. Baade explained that this “micro grant” may be a stepping stone to other more substantial grants from the Investment Fund.

Although the Angola Investment Fund has been in operation for several years and helped other businesses, this vote approved its first micro grant. Money for the AIF came from Indiana’s Major Moves fund, which was funded by the state with money from leasing the Indiana Toll Road in 2006. An Angola Investment Fund page on the SCEDC website (steubenedc.com) describes the AIF’s purpose as “supporting entrepreneurs and innovation in and around the City and to support the creation of highly-skilled, high-wage jobs.”