Thursday, September 28, 2017

University of Iowa spinout company Voxello, which develops technologies that allow hospitalized patients to overcome communication barriers, recently received three grants to help advance its research and development.


Voxello received a $44,900 grant from the Philadelphia Pediatric Device Consortium (PPDC), a $1,006,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 2 award from the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), and a grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) for up to $16,050.


The company, based in the UI Research Park, will use the PPDC grant to enhance its noddle and noddle-chat speech-generating app for the pediatric population. The noddle uses patented technology to detect the smallest intentional gesture and allows patients to access the nurse call system and control the noddle-chat app. The app was designed to allow patients who are unable to talk the ability to express their feelings, needs, and desires and to better participate in their care.


The SBIR grant will allow Voxello to develop additional sensors to expand the set of gestures patients can use to control the noddle. It will also allow Voxello to develop customized vocabularies for the noddle-chat app to meet the needs of young children as well as non-English speaking patients.


Both grants will allow Voxello to conduct further clinical trials with a variety of patient populations.


“Our success in securing grants demonstrates that the approach we have been taking to improve patient care has merit,” said Richard Hurtig, Chief Scientific Officer of Voxello. “These grants will enable us to more quickly bring our technology to market and address the consequences of communication barriers that add billions of dollars to healthcare costs.”


The IEDA grant is through the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Internship Program, which supports Iowa-based companies in an effort to retain interns as full-time employees in Iowa after graduation. This funding will allow Voxello to host engineering interns over the coming years.


“Our interns are a crucial part of the team and the product development process,” said Victoria Dahlen, Design and Quality Engineer for Voxello. “This funding gives Voxello the opportunity to hire more STEM interns, which in turn creates more opportunities for Iowa-native students to gain real-world work experience in their field of study. These internships help students realize their interests, develop goals and grow on a professional level as well as prepare them for industry post-graduation.”


These awards, in conjunction with a recent IEDA Propel award for $250,000, brings total non-dilutive funding to Voxello to just under $2 million.


“Not only does this funding accelerate our development and clinical trial efforts, it also is a significant third-party endorsement of the importance of our mission at Voxello,” said Rives Bird, CEO of Voxello.


Voxello concluded one round of private equity financing earlier this year and is in the process of opening a second round in the fourth quarter it prepares for the full launch of the noddle.


Voxello was founded through the Iowa Medical Innovations Group (IMIG), a UI-based group that brings together students from the Colleges of Medicine, Business, Law, and Engineering to commercialize solutions to medical problems identified by clinical staff and faculty.


The student team consisted of Vince Hahn (Tippie College of Business), Zihan Zhu (College of Engineering), Blake Martinson (College of Engineering), and Ben Berkowitz (College of Engineering). Hurtig, professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorder, served as the mentor for the team.


The company received gap funding from the UI Office of Research and Economic Development’s UI Ventures program and signed an exclusive global licensing agreement with the UI Research Foundation (UIRF) in 2015.


The UIRF is part of the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, which provides resources and support to researchers and scholars at the University of Iowa and to businesses across Iowa with the goal of forging new frontiers of discovery and innovation and promoting a culture of creativity that benefits the campus, the state, and the world. More at, and on Twitter: @DaretoDiscover


For more information, contact Rives Bird, 319-214-3023, or