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2008 Emerging Entrepreneur Award: Fred Beyette

Fred Beyette uses optics and electronics to build systems that solve problems. It makes sense: he’s seeing how he can connect people.

Date: 5/10/2008
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photos By: Dottie Stover, photojournalist
Fred R. Beyette Jr., winner of the 2008 University of Cincinnati Emerging Entrepreneur Award, describes the founding of Xanthastat Diagnostics in the spring of 2005 like a “Mamas and the Papas” song or the beginning of a beautiful story — and it is.

“It began with Joe Clark and Chad Morgan who recognized a problem. Chad was a neurosurgery resident in 2001–2002. Chad said, ‘There’s this diagnostic problem with patients who are experiencing a subarachnoid hemorrhage,’” Beyette begins. “Patients with a negative CT scan are screened for xanthochromia, or discoloration of the spinal fluid based on the presence of bilirubin. Chad sought out Joe because Joe was an expert in bilirubin. The two of them reached out to me because of my expertise in optics.”

Then in 2004 Joe Clark and Fred Beyette participated in Cincinnati creates companies program, a university-run program in partnership with Dorothy Air’s Entrepreneurial Affairs Office and run by the Center for Entrepreneurship Education and Research under Chuck Matthews in the College of Business.

“For one activity we had to prepare a business plan and entered a business plan competition, which we won,” explains Beyette. “This allowed us to have the capital to start a company.”

Xanthastat has raised close to a quarter of a million dollars in investment to continue the growth of the company and continue the path toward commercialization of the Bilibox.
Xanthastat has raised close to a quarter of a million dollars to continue the path toward commercialization of the Bilibox.

Since then, that company has raised close to a quarter of a million dollars in investment to continue the growth of the company and continue the path toward commercialization of the Bilibox. This spinal fluid analysis device quantifies bilirubin and helps the doctor make a more reliable diagnosis for patients who have symptoms consistent with a sentinel (or early warning) aneurysm rupture and negative CT scan.

Beyette received his B.Sc. in 1988, his M.Sc. in 1992 and his Ph.D. in 1995 from Colorado State University, where his work involved the implementation of smart pixel systems. Beyette spent the 1995/96 academic year at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom as a National Science Foundation International Postdoctoral Fellow where he worked to evaluate the optical and electrical properties of piezoelectric multiple quantum well structures.

Now an associate professor in the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering, Beyette is the director of UC’s Photonic Systems Development Laboratory. Moreover, Beyette is the principal investigator of the Point-of-Care Center for Emerging Neurotechnologies (POC-CENT), funded by a $9.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health/ National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIH/NIBIB). (POC-CENT was one of the research areas featured in the 2008 Showcase.)

The grant is intended to bring ideas from conception to development of a prototype ready for clinical testing: “from invention to intervention.” The goal for the center is to become a resource hub for researchers at UC and across the country in need of help with any stage of technology development. The grant is intended to stimulate business in the community as well. In addition to overseeing the entire grant, Beyette is also principal investigator overseeing one of the five core areas, that of “In-house Clinical Testing.”

In addition to helping diagnose patients in the emergency room with life threatening aneurysm ruptures, the technology is well suited for monitoring the recovery of patients that have had brain surgery.  “Many patients who have had neurosurgery will have had a drain put in that drains spinal fluid,” Beyette explains. “Right now that spinal fluid is visually inspected and just thrown away. The device can monitor and make quantitative measurements of that fluid that’s coming off the drain. Quantifying metabolites are important in the diagnosis of neurologic issues.”

Beyette and Joe Clark, here with the Bilibox, hope to also use the same technology for measuring bilirubin in infants.
Beyette and Joe Clark, here with the Bilibox, hope to also use the same technology for measuring bilirubin in infants.

The Bilibox is not at the point of being fabricated yet. Beyette says that they are now collecting data to submit their application to the FDA and hope the application will go out in late spring or early summer.

“Chad came to Joe because of a problem, and Joe came to me,” Beyette recalls. “That led to the creation of the company and the rest is history, as they say.” It’s not just history, it’s the future. So what will happen next for Xanthastat Diagnostics?

Next on the horizon: Bilipen or Bilimeter for measuring bilirubin in infants.

“This device will help doctors assess the severity of neonatal jaundice in children,” explains Beyette. “This will be done taking less blood – the doctor or nurse will just press the device onto the infant’s forehead. Reflected light then carries the information about bilirubin and hemoglobin concentration, which are then measured by the pen or meter.”

Elevated bilirubin levels cause neonatal jaundice and severe cases can lead to developmental problems. The signal processing technology is the same processing technology that’s used in the bilibox. The procedure would be minimally invasive Beyette points out – there would be contact but no puncturing of the skin.

“The same skin reflectance device can also be used in assessing the recovery of liver patients or patients who have compromised liver function leading to elevated bilirubin levels in adults. Regular monitoring is required of the health of the liver in transplant patients, for example,” Beyette continues. “Also in the HIV-positive patient population, part of the risk is any puncture or blood draw there’s a small risk of infection to the patient and also a risk to the healthcare provider of contracting HIV, so avoiding puncturing the skin is always good.”

The son of a restaurant owner, growing up in an entrepreneurial atmosphere, Beyette says that he really appreciates working in an environment where he can so easily blend my academic skills and entrepreneurial interests.
“It’s fun to have an academic engineering institute that supports an entrepreneurial spirit,” Beyette says. “It’s really neat to have a university support the kind of environment to make that happen.”


Watch the video! Fred Beyette and Joe Clark talk about the Bilibox and POC-CENT.