Vaporsens: A Utah Innovation
Vaporsens is a privately held company headquartered in Salt Lake City, UT and its breakthrough technology is based on advanced sensor research from the University of Utah's Materials Science Department directed by Dr. Ling Zang.
Dr. Ling Zang, a University of Utah USTAR Professor, has been researching and developing nanofiber technology for more than 15 years. Achieving significant break-throughs in his work and with more than 20 patents filed, Dr. Zang founded Vaporsens in 2011. The company is supported by Utah's prestigious Technology Commercialization & Innovation Program (TCIP), the National Science Foundation's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, the Defense Department's Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DOD-DTRA), the Department of Homeland Security (SBIR), the Environmental Protection Agency, and private investors. Vaporsens' products are currently under development and will be available for purchase in 2018.
The company has exclusively licensed the intellectual property from the University. The original research on the sensor material and chemistry has been funded by the Department of Homeland Security through the Zang lab at the University of Utah (www.eng.utah.edu/~lzang/).
Leadership and Key Personnel
DOUG LATER, PH. D.
LING ZANG, PH. D.
Dr. Zang is CSO of Vaporsens and USTAR professor of Nanotechnology at the University of Utah. He has 10 years of experience working in the fields of explosives detection, with specific expertise in nanofibril-based sensors. The research led by Dr. Zang brings a large impact to the sensor community as indicated by their prestigious publications, media coverage and highlights, and conference presentations. Two companies have been formed based on his research (Metallosensors and Vaporsens).
Dr. Zang's research covers a broad range in nanomaterials, nanoscale and molecular imaging and probing, optoelectronic sensors and nanodevices, aiming at long-term real applications in the fields relevant to security, energy, and environment. He received his BS degree from Tsinghua University and his Ph.D. from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He was a post-doctoral associate at Columbia University and Bowling Green State University, and served as an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, Erlangen-Nuremberg University.
BENJAMIN R. BUNES, PH. D.
Dr. Bunes is an ASEE/NSF Small Business Postdoctoral Research Diversity Fellow. As an alumnus of Prof. Ling Zang’s group, he has over six years of experience working with nanofiber sensor technology. Since Vaporsens was founded, Ben has advised the technical development, using his broad background to guide the various technical approaches from chemistry to electronics. Currently, he is working with potential customers to determine their needs in order to design products that fit those market segments.
While pursuing his Ph. D. in Materials Science and Engineering, Ben was a NASA Space Technology Research Fellow, NSF Integrative Graduate Education Research Trainee, and Wayne Brown Fellow. Prior to the University of Utah, he earned a M.S. in Engineering Management from Union Graduate College (now Clarkson University). He also holds B.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering and Mathematics from Union College, where he was a Presidential Scholar. His industry experience includes process development for IBM’s Advanced Technologies Division and project management for GE’s Thermal Systems and Power Plant Engineering Group. He was also a 3-time Visiting Technologist for NASA (once at the Ames Research Center, twice at the Glenn Research Center).
Angela Mitcham is Director of Business Development at Vaporsens. With 15 years business experience, and an MBA in Sustainable Management and Social Entrepreneurship, Angela specializes in sustainable models for growth and impact. Angela is trained in the NSF I-Corps model for technology transfer and has worked with University of Utah groups to move inventions from lab to market.
Doug is a business leader and Ph.D. analytical chemist with 30 years of experience in both small and large businesses, including several high-tech startup companies. Doug's corporate leadership roles and experience are in the areas of Business Development, Research and Development, Design and Engineering, Manufacturing, Quality Assurance/Quality Control, Regulatory Compliance, Customer Service, Marketing, and Sales in analytical instrumentation and chemical manufacturing settings, as well as a service laboratory environment. His experience also includes international and national experience in collaborative research and development, engineering, technology licensing, distributor agreements, marketing, and joint-venture business development.
Dr. Later has proven communication skills with more than 250 technical and business publications and several hundred technical and business presentations in the various fields of chemistry and biology including book chapters, journal publications, published proceedings, government reports, regulatory methods, as well as conference, seminar and symposia presentations.
He has also been a principal investigator and project manager of government and commercial grants and contracts from federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. National Institute of Health, and U.S. National Cancer Institute.
Ross Riches is Director of Engineering at Vaporsens. A mechanical engineer and MBA, he has corporate leadership and experience in Engineering, Operations, Business Development, Quality, Regulatory, R&D, Sales and Program Management within organizations from start-up entities to over $1B in sales.
Ross brings a wide range of industry experience including medical imaging, analytical instrumentation, medical instruments, explosive detection systems, alternative power systems, missile guidance systems, military vehicle power control modules and vehicle guidance sub-systems. He holds multiple patents for analytical equipment and medical devices. Ross has extensive experience in international business relationships in the EU and APAC regions including global division coordination and manufacturing facility startups. His operational excellence includes technology focused automation systems, lean manufacturing principles and six sigma certification.
The R&D Staff
Mr. Slattum has an M.S. in Organic Chemistry (University of Wisconsin, Madison) and is the Principal Chemist at Vaporsens. Paul has over 20 years of experience in synthetic organic chemistry. He is an author on 11 papers in peer reviewed journals in synthetic, medicinal and analytical chemistry; as well as in gene therapy and drug delivery. He holds 11 patents in the fields of self-assembly, medicinal chemistry and bio-conjugation. Mr. Slattum has experience in drug discovery, drug delivery, gene therapy, self-assembly and analytical chemistry.
Matt Hunter is a lab technician with an emphasis in sensor fabrication and procedural optimization. He is an undergraduate at the University of Utah majoring in Chemistry with an emphasis in Material Sciences as well as German.
NICHOLE CRANE, PH. D.
Analytical Research Scientist
Dr. Crane has a Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. There she developed chemical sensors based on chromatography, surfaced-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, and magnetoelastic techniques, and received R&D 100 Award for her work on magnetoelastic chemical sensors in collaboration with the Y12 Security Complex at Oakridge National Lab.
NA Wu, Ph. D.
Dr. Wu has a Ph.D. degree in Materials Science and Engineering. She has over 9 years of experience in new materials exploration, characterization, and process development for advanced applications, and expertise in multiple analytical instruments and testing methods for materials characterization and chemical analysis. Her research during her Ph.D. study focused on developing electronic materials, characterization, and studying their electrical conductivity properties for applications in chemiresistive sensors and optoelectronic devices. She also has a MS degree in Physical Chemistry. Her research interests during Master’s study were catalyst design, synthesis, and applications in treating air and water pollutants. Dr. Wu has published 14 articles in peer reviewed journals and 3 patents.
Jayc Johnson, lab technician, is a Senior in the Bioengineering department with a graduation date of Fall 2017. His passion is to get involved with innovative technology by being at the forefront of research, design, and implementation of these ideas in order to transition them into commercial products.
Dr. McAlexander has a PhD in Organic Chemistry from Utah State University where his doctoral research was in natural product total synthesis. He has over seven years experience working as a medicinal chemist for Myriad Pharmaceuticals and Bayer Corporation in the area of kinase inhibitor design. As the lab manager of the University of Utah's Optical Spectroscopy Core Facility, he expanded his expertise in analytical methods to include UHPLC, GCMS, ion chromatography, ICP, IR, UV/Vis, and Fluorescence spectroscopy In 2015, Ian founded Terponix, an analytical services company focused on nicotine, artificial flavors, terpenes, and cannabinoids. Dr. McAlexander has co-authored 5 peer-reviewed journal articles and holds 3 patents.
The Engineering Staff
Drew Janibagian is the lead Firmware Engineer at Vaporsens. He graduated in 2015 from the University of Utah’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. He brings several years’ experience with firmware and electrical design as a student. He has interned at various companies including two years at Northrop Grumman.
David Kuntz is Chemometric Scientist at Vaporsens. Prior to joining Vaporsens in 2017, he performed chemometric data analysis on globally-sourced petroleum fuels in order to identify regions in which adulteration and smuggling was taking place. He was also heavily involved in the development and testing of a new portable analytical device for on-sight fuel measurement. Dave received his bachelor’s degree in Physical Chemistry from LeTourneau University in Longview, TX, in 2011, and his master’s degree in Chemical Nanotechnology from Northern Illinois University in 2013. He is also a doctoral candidate at the University of North Texas, where he examines quantitative-activity relationships (QSARs) between quantum mechanical properties and molecules of interest. In addition to Chemometrics, Dave is also proficient building databases and managing servers.
Chris Adams is a process engineer at Vaporsens. In 2009, he received his bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of Redlands, and in 2012, he received his master’s degree in Applied Physics from the University of Oregon. Prior to joining Vaporsens, Chris was a process engineer with Fairchild Semiconductor for 5 years and a senior engineer with Merit Sensor Systems for over 2 years. Chris has worked on a wide variety of semiconductor manufacturing tool sets and has developed a vast knowledge of semiconductor processing. His primary contributions have been in new process development, cost reduction and equipment and process improvements.
Mitchell Parker is a laboratory technician responsible for assisting with sensor production and development at Vaporsens. He is a fourth year undergraduate student in the Materials Science and Engineering program, while also attaining a minor in Chemistry, at the University of Utah. Already possessing much lab experience through various facilities at the University, Mitchell hopes to further enhance his lab skills and knowledge while progressing Vaporsens’s technology toward a more successful and innovatve future.
The Business Staff
Vaporsens External Board Members
The Board of Directors includes Ling Zang, Ph. D. and Douglas Later, Ph.D., President/CEO, both highlighted in the previous section. Additional External Board Members include:
Lars is a founding Board member of Vaporsens and the current Chair of the Board. He has served since 2011. His background is primarily in the commercial explosives industry and includes executive level positions for such companies as Dyno Nobel. Lars has been an integral part of the fund raising activities of Vaporsens since its inception.
Steve joined the Vaporsens Board in February 2016. Formerly, he co-founded and was the CEO/President of Columbia Analytical Services, one of the largest north American environmental testing laboratories that is now part of ALS Global. Steve also serves on the Board of other scientific companies and is President of Laboratory Science Institute, a 501.3(c) non-profit company focused on STEM training, education and research.
Phil joined the Vaporsens Board in September 2015 and assisting with the repositioning and strategic direction of the company as a consultant to the University of Utah, Technology and Venture Commercialization office. He serves on the Boards of several technology companies and has been a successful entrepreneur for several decades.
Vaporsens Technical and Business Advisors
Dr. Lyle Malotky has been a technical advisor to Vaporsens since 2012. He retired as the Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor to the Transportation Security Administration in 2011. His insights into the demanding requirements of explosive detection in the public safety markets are of great value to Vaporsens.
Dr. Jeffrey K. Okamitsu joined the technical advisory board of Vaporsens in 2017. He is currently the CEO of Blue Force Consulting and is actively engaged with helping clients grow their business with the US Department of Defense and Intelligence Community. Prior to forming Blue Force Consulting, Dr. Okamitsu was Chief Technology Officer at Chemring Sensors and Electronic Systems where he led the company’s S&T efforts which resulted in the development of several new sensors for use in the defense and national security sectors. While at CSES he grew the company’s S&T revenue and added new core technology which will result in system revenue in excess of $1 billion over the next decade.
Michael is President and founder of KMK Consulting, Inc. Michael is an expert in targeting, promotional evaluation, and technology and data warehouse design. Previously, Michael was also in charge of statistical development programming at AT&T, and was responsible for setting up financial and marketing programming design and evaluation for credit card portfolios in large banks.
Troy has served as a business advisor to Vaporsens since 2012. He is currently the Director of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah where he manages students and faculty entrepreneurial programs.