A University of Maryland, Baltimore startup developing a smart mouthguard is getting a product development boost in the form of non-dilutive grant funding.
The WrightGuard Innovations Corporation received $256,000 from the National Science Foundation through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
Invented by dentists, the company’s smart mouthguard technology is designed with sensors and wireless communication capabilities to collect real-time biometric data that can monitor health and performance for athletes, all targeted at improving safety. The technology can measure movement, impact forces, pH and hydration levels, as well as body temperature.
The grant funding will enable the company to move forward in the prototyping and beta testing phase for the seven-member team. A top funding source for startups that spring from university-based research, the SBIR program also offers follow-on funding, known as a Phase II grant, for startups that reach key milestones.
“During this phase of development, we are currently ‘de-risking’ key technical concepts and establishing the feasibility of the proposed solution to pave the way for the company to build a fully functional prototype in Phase II,” said Dr. Michael Wright, a dentist who graduated from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD) and the company’s CEO. “We are also establishing key partnerships for the commercialization phase.”
Wright is looking to solve a problem he saw in his own chair. The tech-enabled mouthguard grew out of Wright’s work with athletes that suffered traumatic injuries, including NFL players. He set out to create mouthguards for professional athletes that could provide a measure of safety, similar to what seatbelts provide in cars. Noting that mouthguards are often overlooked, Wright told Technical.ly last year that they prevent a variety of injuries to the jaw, teeth, head and neck.
Partnering with technologists including cofounder and UMSOD faculty member Dr. Radi Masri, WrightGuard licensed technology from the university by working with university commercialization arm UM Ventures. It is seeking to bring a product to market that, using sensors, provides information about an athlete’s overall condition, alongside the protection.
“Of all the sports equipment that there is out on the market, the mouthguard is the most overlooked,” he said last year.-30-