Entrepreneurs / Startups

4 university entrepreneurs talk about the passion behind the products

The founders of startups working at Johns Hopkins and University of Maryland, Baltimore, talked about their journeys at Anchor Ventures' latest event.

Samantha Scott discusses JuneBrain at Anchor Ventures. (Photo courtesy of Johns Hopkins Tech Ventures)

There are plenty of strategies and opportunities that allow young companies to grow, but often the drive to introduce a new product into the world comes from a more personal place.

At the most recent Anchor Ventures, four entrepreneurs talked about the events and stories that inspired their work that provided the motivation to start, and keep going as they look to solve tough problems.

The latest edition of the speaker series created by Johns Hopkins, UM Ventures and the University of Maryland, was held at JHU’s FastForward 1812 space in East Baltimore.

Here’s a look at what’s behind the entrepreneurs’ work in devices, data and more:

NextStep Robotics

Brad Hennessie saw the impact stroke had on his own family, as a grandparent had a series of strokes. It influenced his focus as a physical therapist, and he now works to provide access to a robotic device that can help treat a condition faced by stroke patients called foot drop. Hennessie worked to develop the technology with researchers at the UMB School of Medicine and the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Motor Performance Laboratory, and later commercialize it as a cofounder of the startup NextStep Robotics. As an entrepreneur, it’s left him with a passion for taking the research that exists inside Baltimore’s universities, and translating it for commercial use to be available widely.


Samantha Scott’s research focuses on how the eyes provide a window into the brain. Last year, she combined a desire to help patients with brain disease and develop new technology with JuneBrain. The startup is developing a wearable device that provides home monitoring for MS patients. Scott hopes it can provide for earlier detection of attacks and provide data to assist with treatment. Scott sees the device as a first step toward making such monitoring “as easy as it is to track your steps or heart rate.”

Problem Forward

The data science consulting company looks to meet a demand for data work, and reduce barriers to tech jobs for East Baltimore residents. Providing a Chromebook, a MOOC focusing on data science and training, the company is building a team to complete data science services work, said Cofounder Jeffrey Leek, a professor of biostatistics at JHU’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. Partnering with East Baltimore–based YO! Baltimore, Leek said he and cofounder Jamie McGovern are looking to provide opportunity in one of the fastest-growing fields in the neighborhood where the school is located.

WindMIL Therapeutics

Cofounder Kim Noonan presented the biology behind the FastForward 1812–based startup that harnesses T-cells from a patient’s immune system and enlists them in the fight against cancer. Having raised multiple rounds of venture capital funding, the startup is in the midst of clinical trials that applies the treatment to for high-risk multiple myeloma. For Noonan, the devotion to the new approaches the startup is developing ultimately came from helping patients. “I saw with my own eyes what it meant for them,” she said.


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