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News Release

Wireless Sensor Startup in $80K UC San Diego Entrepreneurship Challenge Finals

San Diego, CA, May 28, 2010 --  Wireless sensors that monitoring your heart or your brain even though they do not actually touch your skin are at the center of UC San Diego electrical engineering PhD student Yu Mike Chi’s dissertation. This technology – and the plan for commercializing it – earned Chi and his Cognionics team one of just five spots in the finals of the UC San Diego Entrepreneurship Challenge. On Wednesday June 2, 2010, Chi will present the Cognionics business plan at the final stage of the entrepreneurship challenge. At stake: $80,000 in cash and services for the UC San Diego startups.

Wireless technologies and health care are becoming increasingly interconnected, and the UC San Diego sensors offer the possibility of more convenient and less expensive sensors for long term cardiac health monitoring. The sensors record “biopotential” – electrical activity that occurs in the body due to physical processes such as the beating of the heart.

Chi is developing this technology under the guidance of Bioengineering professor Gert Cauwenberghs from the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering.  Cauwenberghs is also Co-Director of the UCSD Institute for Neural Computation.

The new sensors that Cognionics is developing work through your clothes, and therefore don’t directly touch your skin.
The new sensors that Cognionics is developing work through your clothes, and therefore don’t directly touch your skin. The heart sensor, for example, can be embedded in a vest that you wear over top an undershirt.

“Today you have to put sticky patches on your chest to record this information. It’s uncomfortable and messy,” said Chi.

Various wireless sensor prototypes for recording biopotential have been around since at least the 1960s, but according to Chi, “no one has gotten it past a lab prototype…you don’t see them out in the marketplace.”

Chi cited problems with cost and reliability as a cause of the roadblocks, particularly because wireless sensors are more complex than the wired versions.

“We managed to reduce the circuitry for the sensor into a single integrated circuit that makes it more reliable and cheaper than other methods. We have two lab prototypes that are working,” said Chi.

Cognionics is an early stage startup project, and includes Yu Mike Chi, Yuchen Cao, Ping Wang, Marcie Wing, Stephen Chen, Mehmet Parlak, Silvia Mah, Lydia Grypma and Kabir Gambhir. Affiliations include the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, UC San Diego Rady School of Management, UCSD Medical School, UCSD, and the Salk Institute.

“Von Liebig has been a great help,” said Chi, who took the entrepreneurship for engineers course sequence as a graduate student from the William J. von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement at UC San Diego. “We received a lot of great advice from our von Liebig advisor, Mike Elconin.” Cognionics is working with the UCSD technology transfer office on the intellectual property process.

On June 2, at the final phase of the 2009-2010 UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge, Chi will have 12 minutes to describe his business plan to the panel of judges, followed by an 8 minute question-answer period. Cognionics already won the elevator pitch competition and made it to the finals in the executive summary competition.

Chi says he is dedicated to launching this company in San Diego after he finishes his PhD.

“I want to stay in San Diego. Wireless heath is starting to become a big thing in San Diego,” said Chi.


Media Contacts

Daniel Kane
Jacobs School of Engineering