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Med City startup gets boost from state grants

A startup firm spearheaded by a Rochester medical student landed $35,500 in grants from Launch Minnesota last week.

Nanodropper
This is the eye-drop bottle adapter developed by Rochester's Nanodropper start-up.
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Nanodropper , a Rochester startup firm with its eyes on a very precise market, landed $35,500 in Launch Minnesota grants last week as it gears up for a national “soft launch.”

Allisa Song, a third-year Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine student, is CEO and co-founder of the company, which makes a specialized eye drop bottle adapter that reduces medicine waste by delivering a more precise drop for patients and doctors.

The product, which fits most eye medicine bottles, started after Song read how eye droppers squirt more liquid that an eye can hold. That results in expensive waste and frustrated patients. Nanodropper allows patients to get more useful drops of medicine out of a bottle without waste.

Song founded the company in 2017 while at the University of Washington with Elias Baker, Jennifer Steger, and Mackenzie Andrews. They developed the precision eye dropper and soon found success in business start-up competition, like Mayo Clinic’s Walleye Tank.

Along the way, the Nanodropper team based their company in Rochester. While there isn’t an office, most of the founders live in the Midwest, with Song being a medical student by day. She acknowledges the struggles of trying to juggle medical studies and the duties of being a CEO of a startup.

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“It can be challenging … One good thing is seeing a preview of what kind of impact small changes can make in a patient's life,” she said.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development awarded $28,000 for business operations and $7,500 for Song’s housing as part of the latest round of the Launch Minnesota Innovation grants. To access the funds, Nanodropper must have a one-to-one private donation match, which they do for the $28,000 grant. Song is matching her housing grant with her own funds.

Neela Mollgaard, Launch Minnesota’s executive director, said the state grant program is a unique opportunity for high-tech start-ups to tap into funds as well as connect with business resources throughout Minnesota.

“We’re helping build the state's entrepreneurial ecosystem, hub and spoke,” she said.

This is Launch Minnesota’s first fiscal year, and it will have distributed $1.5 million in grants by July with funding the same again next year.

For Nanodropper, the grants come at an opportune time. The original plan was to start distributing the pre-sold eyedropper devices about two months ago. The COVID-19 pandemic postponed that. Nanodropper now plans to start distributing its first 15,000 units this month as a ‘soft launch’ for the company.

The devices are being produced and sterilized by a U.S. manufacturer.

Song is optimistic about the Nanodropper’s next steps. Her team has connected with eye specialists who are very interested in using the product in their practices as well as selling them to customers.

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The money from the State of Minnesota as well encouraging cheerleading from Mayo Clinic Ventures is making it attractive for the millennial-run company to stay in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

“Next we’re hoping to get our personnel set up. Working with marketing firms for a proper market launch,” she said. “And we’ll do it from here. We like it here.”

Nanodropper founders
This is the team of founders behind Nanodropper. From left, Mackenzie Andrews, Jennifer Steger, Allisa Song and Elias Baker. (Submitted photo)

Related Topics: TECHNOLOGY
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