Tag: Science and Technology

Startup302 funding competition for underrepresented founders

Startup302 Applications Now Due 2/27

Underrepresented Founders of Early-Stage, Tech-Enabled Companies Competing for More Than $180k in 2022 Startup302 Funding Contest

Startup302 funding competition for underrepresented founders

Deadline to Enter Community-Led Competition, Which Also Provides Mentoring and Networking Connections to Winners, Extended to Feb. 27


WILMINGTON, Del.  — Delaware’s second annual community-led Startup302 funding competition is accepting applications from underrepresented founders with early-stage, technology-enabled ventures through Feb. 27. Focusing on underrepresented founders with a goal of tackling funding inequities and strengthening the regional startup community, the contest is offering more than $180,000 in grant prizes to winners along with mentoring and valuable networking connections such as introductions to potential investors.

According to Noah Olson, director of Innovation at Startup302 organizer and sponsor Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP), tech-enabled startups with at least one founding team member from an underrepresented group may apply. The competition’s prize categories reflect Delaware’s innovation and industry landscape, he said, so life sciences (including agriculture), chemistry and advanced materials and more broadly tech (including fintech, AI/ML, big data, SaaS, e-sports) ventures are especially encouraged to apply.

“As we’ve seen with the success of last year’s competition and the impact on the winning companies, innovation thrives when diverse perspectives are fostered and included,” Olson said. “Startup302 aims to improve access and equity across the First State’s innovation ecosystem and beyond.”

Garry Johnson III, founder of First Founders Accelerator and chair of the Startup 302 Steering Committee, agreed.

“Delaware has a unique opportunity to position itself as a leader of inclusive and equitable innovation,” Johnson said, “and I’m excited to contribute to collaborative efforts like these that attract diverse communities of founders to the region.”

Within the startup venture capital community, underrepresented founders are those in whom the venture capital industry, as a whole, underinvests relative to their demographic’s percent of overall United States population. Underrepresented founders include women, as well as people of color, including African Americans, Latin Americans and those of Native American descent.

Under Johnson’s leadership, the Startup302 Steering Committee includes representatives from key Delaware innovation-supporting organizations. These include DPP, University of Delaware’s Horn Entrepreneurship, the Delaware Sustainable Chemistry Alliance (DESCA), the Delaware State University College of Business, the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce Emerging Enterprise Center (EEC) and the Delaware Innovation Space.

“DESCA is thrilled to be a part of this intentional effort to grow a diverse and inclusive startup community,” said DESCA Executive Director Dora Cheatham. “This type of resource collaboration is vital to building a thriving innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Dan Freeman, founding director of Horn Entrepreneurship, said, “Horn Entrepreneurship is honored to support Startup302, which provides great opportunities for founders to make connections, receive guidance, raise visibility, gain credibility and win prize funding – all of which can help to build traction and increase the likelihood of new venture success.”

Lillie Crawford, director of the Delaware Center for Enterprise Development (DCED) at DSU’s College of Business, added that “DCED is delighted to be a part of Startup302. DCED has a history of supporting minority-owned businesses from underserved communities and values the Startup302 commitment to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship specifically targeting underrepresented founders.”

Alysse Bortolotto, director of Economic Development and Business Incubation at the EEC stated, “The EEC is honored to be a part of a program that is creating a more fertile entrepreneurial ecosystem by tackling funding inequities and gaps that will lead to greater innovation, diversity and opportunity.”

There is no cost to enter, thanks to sponsorship by the State of Delaware and other support. Current Startup302 sponsors also include DPP, First Founders, Horn Entrepreneurship, DSU College of Business, Delaware Innovation Space, the Delaware Division of Small Business, the Office of New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer, Discover Bank, FMC, Labware, Highmark Delaware, DuPont, ChristianaCare and the Delaware BioScience Association.

The competition finals will take place virtually in May. For further details and to apply, visit startup302.org. Questions may be addressed to Olson at nolson@choosedelaware.com or 302-576-6589.

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About Delaware Prosperity Partnership

Delaware Prosperity Partnership leads Delaware’s economic development efforts to attract, grow and retain businesses; to build a stronger entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem; and to support private employers in identifying, recruiting, and developing talent. The DPP team works with site selectors, executives and developers focused on where to locate or grow a business and helps with reviewing potential sites, cost-of-living analyses and funding opportunities, including available tax credits and incentives. DPP advances a culture of innovation in Delaware, working with innovators and startups to spotlight and celebrate successes and connect them with the resources they need to succeed. DPP and its partnerships throughout Delaware support and advance the missions of companies of all sizes and sectors.

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tapp network digital agency in delaware

Tapp Network Helps Organizations Stay Relevant Through Digital Resiliency

Tapp Network Helps Organizations Catch Up, Stay Relevant Through Digital Resiliency

delaware digital agency tapp network

One of the world’s leading digital-marketing transformation agencies calls Delaware home. Tapp Network develops innovative digital tools and campaigns for some of the world’s leading corporations and then transfers that knowledge to local nonprofits and state agencies to make the world a better place.

“Tapp stands at the intersection of technology, purpose and passion,” says Tapp Network co-founder Joe DiGiovanni, who opened the agency in 2013 with developer Kyle Barkins to fill the void in Delaware for a full-service mar-tech agency while serving their international clients. 

Wilmington-based Tapp, which works out of CSC Station adjacent to the city’s Amtrak station and The Mill, is gaining a lot of traction in its home state. DiGiovanni, who graduated from the University of Delaware in 1989 with a degree in biology, says he and Barkins love the work environment in Wilmington and are eager to give back to the community. 

“Kyle and I originally came together to build a website for one local client, Tech Impact, and then launched Zip Code Wilmington’s website,” DiGiovanni says. “We were then invited to be the keynote speakers at all three Nonprofit Tech Week events in California – including one at Microsoft’s headquarters. Hundreds of nonprofit attendees swarmed us seeking help. Their websites weren’t mobile responsive and lacked the modern tools and technology necessary for digital fundraising, e-commerce, and communications. That’s when we realized there was a huge opportunity in the social sector.”

Flash forward to the current COVID universe, where corporations, government agencies, and nonprofits are all playing catch-up to instill the digital resiliency needed to remain relevant and competitive.

“That’s where our strengths are,” DiGiovanni says. 

Tapp is helping position Wilmington as a digital infrastructure hub. From clean energy to electric vehicles and from AI to fintech, workforce development and healthcare, Tapp is attracting top talent to Delaware to serve their clients representing some of the world’s fastest-growing corporations and economic sectors. Denso-Japan, Microsoft, Iteris, Hubspot, Athena-Healthcare, Nonstop Wellness, CSC Global, Solomon Energy, Juice Bar EV Charging Stations and Google are just a few of the international companies seeking Tapp’s software development expertise and digital marketing services.

Tapp also leads the global digital infrastructure wave in the nonprofit sector. Tapp recently formed an exclusive alliance with Tech Soup Global, a nonprofit international network of non-governmental organizations serving 80% of all nonprofits worldwide. Tech Soup Global provides technical support and technological tools to other nonprofits, working with 1 million nonprofits in 200 countries.

“First, they were a client,” DiGiovanni says. “Now, we’re the exclusive provider to all of their clients worldwide for website development and digital communication services. If you go to TechSoup and you need software, boom, that’s Microsoft. If you need a website built, we’re the ones that do that, white labeled through Tech Soup, Tapp services more than 200 new clients a year just from that partnership alone.” 

Tapp also works with Tech Soup’s Digital Resiliency Fund, where large corporations like Truist and Google give million-dollar grants to help smaller nonprofits become digitally resilient. “We’ve built the platform process and program to help organizations identify and resolve their needs,” DiGiovanni says.  

On the civil sector side, TAPP collaborates with government agencies on their digital infrastructure and communications needs. “We’re looking to take the Digital Resiliency Program we built for Tech Soup and offer it here in Delaware, not just for nonprofits but for small and minority-owned businesses,” DiGiovanni says. “I think it could be transformational for the state.” 

As an approved state vendor for digital communications, Tapp is preparing to roll out two big marketing campaigns for the Delaware Division of Public Health and the Department of Education’s Pathways program that represent a whole-new omnichannel approach to communications within the state.

“Many states – outside Delaware – historically rely on traditional banner ads, billboards, and social media, often in silos” DiGiovanni says. “We’re bringing artificial intelligence, personalization and data-driven communications to the table to connect the dots and drive measurable impact and positive behavior change. Other states are reaching out as well. Tapp is actively involved in launching a 2.0 version of United Way’s 211 system for the state of Pennsylvania and a learning management system for the State of California and partnering with Microsoft on a COVID-screening platform for students and teachers for the State of New Jersey. Locally, Tapp leads and manages the Its Time Wilmington and Wilm Today tourism campaign, which reached over two billion people in 2021.”

Tapp also was a big part of the state’s census efforts, which were hampered in many states by COVID.

“We were fortunate enough to put the digital tools in place before COVID hit, and that really is what saved it,” DiGiovanni says. “If you look at a lot of nonprofits and the funding that’s going into a lot of these grants around digital resiliency, nonprofits and government agencies need the capacity to communicate digitally, whether it’s fundraising online, email marketing or anything social. We didn’t know COVID was coming, of course, but establishing the digital infrastructure for the census really helped all the communications. If the public-private-social institutions aren’t tied together digitally, things will fall apart. So that’s what helped that work. Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long had the foresight to support us in putting those platforms in place, and it paid off.”

The COVID pandemic has changed Tapp’s approach both internally and with clients.

“I think the ability to collaborate virtually is one of the biggest differences – it helped transform the way we operate as a company,” DiGiovanni says. “A lot of our corporate clients have had to change their business models to focus more on marketing, sales and revenue operations. For nonprofits, it’s the fundraising, virtual events and collaboration tools. How do you communicate with your communities digitally? I think COVID really forced what needed to happen anyway, at least in the nonprofit space.”

For many business owners, there’s what you do and then what gives you joy. For DiGiovanni, the joy comes when people tap into their passion and purpose. “It’s when a client sees the light, when they can do what they’ve always dreamed,” he says. “It’s transferring the innovation from our large business-sector clients to the nonprofit and government sectors that really make us happy. Because if you’re an executive director of a startup nonprofit and it’s just one person, you can completely transform what they’re doing overnight.” 

If he had “a pebble in his shoe” about his work, DiGiovanni would say it was the “bureaucracy and red tape nationally from a government standpoint, in terms of thinking outside the box and being creative.”

His suggestion? Be more like Delaware.

“I think that government agencies really need to embrace digital infrastructure and transformation,” he says. “It’s exciting to see Delaware is ahead of the curve and is trying to get that message across.”

Joe DiGiovanni, Tapp Network


Joe DiGiovanni traveled an interesting path to becoming the co-founder of one of the world’s leading digital-transformation agencies. Following his graduation from the University of Delaware in 1989 with a degree in biology, Joe briefly worked in research and development before moving on to marketing medical equipment to hospitals, becoming one of the early users of digital communications and search optimization.

delaware digital agency tapp network

What’s your personal elevator speech?

I lead a balanced life. I’m a yoga instructor. I founded the Nicaragua Yoga Institute. I just started playing pickle ball. It’s important to do what you’re passionate about. And if you can enable people that work for you to have that same freedom to grow, you’ll make work and the world a better place.

What’s the question you wish more people would ask themselves?

What is my intention? If you ask that when you make decisions, you can choose the right path and pivot along the way.

You have one giant billboard. Where do you put it and what does it say?

I would put it in Times Square, and it would say, “Be Grateful.”

Best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

It was from my neighbor, who was a film professor at UD, quoting Steven King: “Write with the door closed. Rewrite with the door open.”

What advice would you give your younger self today?

My daughter is 24, and the advice I’m giving her is to continue to educate yourself. It’s not just about what college you went to. Sometimes that’s one of the last things we look at when we interview people. It’s really about their experience and ability to teach yourself, especially now that there are so many tools to do it online. There are so many opportunities now that weren’t around when we were younger. People can start their own businesses, consult, work for companies and set their own course.

Name a couple of books that have inspired you, that you recommend to others or that you gift.

I just got a copy of “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesy. It’s a quick 30-minute read and will be my holiday gift for everyone in my family. “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” really helped me learn to focus on detail. “Writing to the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg helped me think about creative writing and opening up the creative side of my mind. I’ve been reading a lot of Ryan Holliday, particularly the “Daily Stoic,” and Robert Greene’s “Mastery” is a good book for business and personal growth.

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DPP wins Business Facilities Impact Award 2021

WuXi STA Project Earns Delaware a Business Facilities Impact Award in the Biosciences Sector

Delaware Prosperity Partnership’s WuXi STA Project Earns Delaware a Business Facilities Impact Award in the Biosciences Sector

DPP wins Business Facilities Impact Award 2021

Wilmington, Del. — Delaware and its public-private economic development group, Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP) were recognized with a Business Facilities 2021 Impact Award in the Biosciences category for successfully attracting WuXi STA – a leading global Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization (CDMO) – to build a new pharmaceutical manufacturing campus in Middletown, Delaware. This $510M investment aims to add nearly 500 jobs to Delaware’s booming biotech industry in the next few years. WuXi STA offers efficient, flexible, and high-quality integrated solutions for development and manufacture of small molecule Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients and pharmaceutical drug product to support preclinical-to-commercial uses for its worldwide customers. The Middletown facility is WuXi STA’s first East Coast pharmaceutical clinical and commercial manufacturing complex.

This recognition reflects Delaware’s long-standing strength and capacity in the biosciences sector. The number of life sciences operations in Delaware has grown significantly in the past decade — most notably in the biotechnology R&D subindustry with an increase of 65% — and the state now ranks 7th nationally for life sciences venture capital funding per capita.

A powerful economic driver in Delaware, the life sciences sector employs approximately 11,000 people and directly generates $2 billion in GDP (both 2.5% of total state employment and GDP) along with payrolls of at least $230 million.

DPP, Delaware’s nonprofit public-private economic development resource, partnered with a host of stakeholders throughout Delaware including the Town of Middletown, the Delaware Division of Small Business, New Castle County, Select Greater Philadelphia, and others to support WuXi STA’s choice of Delaware for its site. Hiring has already begun for the project, adding its nearly 500 full-time jobs to Delaware’s world-class innovative workforce by 2026 and eventually expanding to more than 1,000 employees.

The 190-acre site will feature space for testing laboratories, manufacture of active pharmaceutical ingredients and manufacture and packaging of solid dosage pharmaceutical and sterile products.

“Now in its fourth year of operation, the DPP team is proving that the public-private economic development model works well to leverage Delaware’s distinctive capacity to collaborate,” said Corporation Service Company President Rod Ward III, who, along with Delaware Governor John Carney, co-chairs the DPP Board of Directors.

About Business Facilities

The leading source for corporate site selectors and economic development professionals for more than 50 years, highlights economic development and site selection news from around the world. 2021 Deal of the Year judges were Howard Silverman, President and CEO, The CAI Global Group; Philip Anderson, President and CEO, P.W. Anderson & Partners; David Hickey, Managing Director, Hickey & Associates; Angelos Angelou, President of Angelou Economics.

About WuXi STA

WuXi STA, a subsidiary of WuXi AppTec, is a leading pharmaceutical development and manufacturing capability and technology platform company serving the life sciences industry, with global operations. As a premier contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO), WuXi STA offers its worldwide partners efficient, flexible, and high-quality solutions for integrated chemical, manufacturing and control (CMC) from preclinical to commercial uses.

About Delaware Prosperity Partnership

Delaware Prosperity Partnership leads Delaware’s economic development efforts to attract, grow and retain businesses; to build a stronger entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem; and to support private employers in identifying, recruiting, and developing talent. The DPP team works with site selectors, executives and developers focused on where to locate or grow a business and helps with reviewing potential sites, cost-of-living analyses and funding opportunities, including available tax credits and incentives. DPP advances a culture of innovation in Delaware, working with innovators and startups to spotlight and celebrate successes and connect them with the resources they need to succeed. DPP and its partnerships throughout Delaware support and advance the missions of companies of all sizes and sectors. 

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MRA Group in Wilmington DE

MRA Group Signs Lease at Chestnut Run

MRA Group Signs First Long-Term Lease at Chestnut Run Innovation & Science Park in Wilmington, Delaware

MRA Group in Wilmington DE

December 23, 2021 –

WILMINGTON, Del. – MRA Group (MRA)  announced that on November 30, 2021, it signed the first long-term lease for research and laboratory facilities at Chestnut Run Innovation & Science Park (CRISP), MRA’s recently announced life science and manufacturing campus in Wilmington, DE.

Prelude Therapeutics Incorporated (Prelude Therapeutics)  is the first major tenant at CRISP, aside from DuPont who is currently leasing approximately 190,000 square feet of space on the campus. However, according to Mike Wojewodka, MRA Group Executive Vice President and Partner, “Activity has been brisk, with a significant pipeline of prospects looking at the various options on the campus.”

“MRA’s acquisition of a significant portion of the Chestnut Run property is great news for Delaware and the state’s role in an ever-expanding life sciences sector,” said Kurt Foreman, President & CEO of Delaware Prosperity Partnership. “We can think of no better location for an innovation park than the place that includes the DuPont Company’s global headquarters. DuPont began Delaware’s tradition in breakthrough innovation and now with MRA’s acquisition that tradition will continue raising the bar for transformative developments created through scientific research.”

“Since our founding in 2016, Prelude Therapeutics has proudly contributed to the growth of an evolving biotech hub in the Wilmington area,” said Kris Vaddi, PhD, Chief Executive Officer. “We believe our planned state-of-the-art office and lab space, and centrality to a life sciences campus, will enable us to continue attracting top-tier, diverse talent to our exceptional team. We look forward to establishing our new headquarters in Chestnut Run as we continue to advance our pipeline of potentially transformative medicines for people living with underserved cancers. We thank the State of Delaware for its ongoing investment in building an entrepreneurial and connected business community.”

“This is great news,” stated Delaware BioScience Association President Michael Fleming. “Prelude Therapeutics’ decision to make their new long-term home at CRISP underlines the significant momentum and opportunity in the Delaware life sciences sector. Prelude’s new, expanded presence in that exciting site will undoubtedly be a magnet for more innovative science companies there and in other great locations, our state offers. Most importantly, we should remember this significant investment and the new jobs it has the potential to create is all focused on the hard but noble work of developing breakthrough therapies for patients with some of the most difficult and deadly cancers, and for that we should be grateful. We look forward to continuing to partner with the MRA Group to ensure CRISP flourishes as a thriving hub of scientific investment.”

“This is how we win the future,” said New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer. “A homegrown, innovative advanced sciences startup is choosing to stay home, thanks to the investment of MRA Group and the collaborative efforts of state and county governments and the Delaware Prosperity Partnership.

“The construction of Prelude Therapeutics’ new headquarters is included in the initial phase of MRA’s $500M redevelopment plans for the campus. Other plans include creating additional R&D laboratories, and advanced manufacturing space, as well as campus amenities such as a hotel, a fitness center, conference space, an outdoor amphitheater, and accommodations for food services including restaurants and eateries. More information regarding CRISP can be found on the campus website at www.crisp-campus.net.

Kurt Foreman

PRESIDENT & CEO

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analytical biological services inc. expands in Delaware

Analytical Biological Services Chooses to Expand in Delaware

Analytical Biological Services Inc. To Grow Operations and Team in Delaware

analytical biological services inc. expands in Delaware

Company Plans $4.2 Million Renovation of New Castle Office and Lab Space, Doubling of Workforce Over Next Three Years


WILMINGTON, Del. — Delaware’s booming life sciences sector continues to expand with plans by Analytical Biological Services Inc. (ABS) to double its workforce over the next three years.

The internationally recognized bioscience services company is retrofitting 30,000 square feet of space in New Castle for its new office headquarters and lab space. The expansion, supported by two grants from the Delaware Strategic Fund, will allow the company to meet significant projected growth and add 36 new high-paying, full-time, skilled trade and professional-level positions – more than doubling its current workforce – to the state’s economy.

Since 1990, ABS has provided cell culture services, gene editing, human biospecimens, cell and tissue preparations and analyses, and samples storage. ABS provides these research services to nearly every major pharmaceutical and biotechnology company in the world that is involved in early-stage drug discovery or diagnostics research.

“We are proud to have a number of startup science and tech companies here in Delaware,” said Governor John Carney. “When we realized we had a shortage of lab space for them to use as they grow their business, we made sure there was funding available for what we call Lab Space Grants. The life science industry is essential to both public health and Delaware’s economic future. We are pleased that Lab Space Grants are making a difference for companies like ABS, because we want companies that start here to stay and grow here.”

ABS leadership presented to the Council on Development Finance (CDF) today, requesting a Performance Grant of $262,260 and $1 million from Delaware’s relatively new Lab Space Grant incentive program.

The Performance Grant, to be drawn over the next three years, is for the creation of 36 new full-time high-quality Delaware jobs ranging from skilled trade to professional level. Qualified Delaware residents will have first opportunity for employment with ABS in the newly grant-supported created positions.

ABS will lease 30,000 square feet of a 48,000-square-foot office building in New Castle that will be purchased by ABS BioAccelerator LLC, a separate but related entity. The company will renovate 10,000 square feet for offices, and the Lab Space Grant will help ABS invest $3.7 million to renovate 20,000 of those square feet (at roughly $188.13 per square foot) for lab space. The grant requires ABS to remain in Delaware for five years.

“Congratulations to Analytical Biological Services Inc. on their continued investment in our state and our county,” said New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer. “We are thankful for ABS as they grow their company and expand Delaware’s reputation as the place to find talent in the life sciences arena. I wish ABS continued luck and growth into the future.”

The company, which employs 33 full-time workers at its current location in Wilmington’s Cornell Business Park, has achieved considerable growth in recent years. That growth has been driven by investment in a larger and more highly trained business development team, along with continuous improvement of processes and business systems. Their ability to increase revenues has resulted in what will now be further investment in more staff and equipment — all to remain right here in Delaware.

In 2019, ABS engaged the services of Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP) — Delaware’s nonprofit public-private economic development organization facilitating the important conversations that drive growth, increase investment and support the talent needs of statewide employers — to help identify suitable R&D and lab space to accommodate their expanding needs.

Charles Saller, Ph.D., sole owner, president and CEO of ABS, said: “Our roots are in Delaware. ABS was founded in Delaware. We work with Delaware organizations such as Incyte and the Gene-Editing Institute of ChristianaCare to foster drug discovery research. New laboratories and headquarters are major investments, and the Strategic Fund Grants are essential in enabling us to continue to grow in Delaware. We are grateful to DDP and the State of Delaware for making this possible.”

In all, ABS will invest $4.2 million in the renovation project. The remaining 18,000 square feet of space in the new building may be reserved for potential ABS company growth. ABS and ABS Bio Accelerator LLC also may consider leasing space to other early-stage bioscience companies, which could be strategic partners as ABS continues to grow.

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About Delaware Prosperity Partnership

Delaware Prosperity Partnership leads Delaware’s economic development efforts to attract, grow and retain businesses; to build a stronger entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem; and to support private employers in identifying, recruiting, and developing talent. The DPP team works with site selectors, executives and developers focused on where to locate or grow a business and helps with reviewing potential sites, cost-of-living analyses and funding opportunities, including available tax credits and incentives. DPP advances a culture of innovation in Delaware, working with innovators and startups to spotlight and celebrate successes and connect them with the resources they need to succeed. DPP and its partnerships throughout Delaware support and advance the missions of companies of all sizes and sectors.

About Analytical Biological Services Inc.

Since 1990, ABS has made research and discovery faster, easier and more reliable. Nearly every major pharmaceutical and biotech company have relied on us to provide, process, characterize, and quality-control high-quality cells and tissues. By taking care of these non-core but critical research activities, ABS frees drug discovery and diagnostics companies focus on their key scientific and business goals. As a global provider of custom biological products and services, our team supplies with Cell Culture Services, Gene-Editing and CRISPR, Human Biospecimens, Cell and Tissue Preparations and Analyses, and Sample Storage and Logistics.

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EDGE grant recipient desikant technologies

Desikant Technologies Help Surgeons Keep Cool

Helping Surgeons Keep Their Cool

EDGE grant recipient desikant technologies

December 1, 2021 –

Wilmington-based Desikant Technologies Creates “Smart Garments” to Beat the Heat


It is a classic scene from a TV medical drama. As a surgeon stands over the operating table, a nurse reaches up to dab the doctor’s damp brow. By the time the life-or-death procedure is over, the surgeon is soaked with sweat.

For many physicians, the depiction is all too real. For hours at a time, they wear scrubs, sterile gowns, masks, gloves, hats and other gear that trap warm, humid air against their bodies. Overheating can affect concentration and cause dehydration.

Wilmington-based Desikant Technologies has a solution. Founded in 2019, the startup creates thermoregulation “smart garments,” including a cooling vest that prevents heat exhaustion. The innovation has received encouragement. In April, Desikant Technologies received the top $75,000 prize in the Delaware Innovation Award Category at Startup 302, a funding competition organized by Delaware Prosperity Partnership. The Delaware Division of Small Business provided the funds for the award. In August, the company received an Encouraging Development, Growth and Expansion (EDGE) Grant from the division.

The company is the dream of Kwaku Temeng, a former DuPont Co. employee turned entrepreneur. “Since my days at DuPont, there was something in me that wanted to start a company to solve an important problem,” he says. “I knew that one day I would start a venture.”

Born in Ghana, Temeng came to the United States to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and a master’s in business administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His career with the DuPont Co. brought him to Delaware in the early 1990s. “I haven’t moved away from the state since,” he says.

Indeed, Temeng remained a Delaware resident after becoming the director of innovation for Baltimore-based Under Armour. He continued living in Delaware after joining Dropel Fabrics in New York, an early-stage startup that develops and manufactures performance garments using sustainable natural fabrics, not synthetics.

Commuting by train gave Temeng time to think about how heat stress affects athletes. “Stamina drops quite a bit, and the ability to focus on the activity suffers,” he explains. “When the body can’t cool itself down, there’s the risk of dehydration.”

In mid-2020, Temeng founded Desikant Technologies’ startup. He reached out to Alisa Esposito, an Under Armour colleague who built high-performance garments for Olympic athletes and electronic-integrated apparel. She agreed to be the vice president of technical design. Joel Melnick, an electrical engineer who had built flight-control systems for Boeing and designed devices for surgeons, became the chief technical officer.

The first product is a vest for the surgical market. Worn over scrubs and under the gown, the vest has sensors that detect when the body overheats. Sophisticated electronics in the apparel actively replace the warm, humid air around the body with cool, dry air. The Army bought the initial prototype; the second will be tested in operating rooms. The team will then tackle applications for outdoor activities, such as hiking and running.

The Ideal Location on the East Coast

With the grants, Desikant is looking for office space. “Delaware’s position along the East Coast is ideal,” Temeng says. “It’s near New York’s fashion industry and Baltimore, where there is a community experienced in building high-performance products. There are a bunch of potential partners that make electronics.” Consider the DuPont Co., which has an electronic materials business.

While at DuPont, Temeng once spent up to 80 hours a week on an internet-based project. He remembers the sense of satisfaction – a sentiment he hopes to experience next year when, hopefully, Desikant Technologies’ vest will be available.

“When you bring a solution to market and see people adapt it,” he says, “it’s a wonderful feeling.”

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