Oklahoma Innovators: NASA awards SBIR contract to Stillwater’s XploSafe

I’ve worked on the periphery of Oklahoma City’s startup community for about two decades, first as a business news reporter at The Oklahoman newspaper, then as communications specialist for i2E, Inc., and now as a freelance writer.

It’s pretty exciting to see local companies announce a breakthrough discovery, a new product or investment that will carry their innovation into the commercial market.

Unfortunately, many worthy developments don’t always make it onto the pages or websites of local news media, whether it’s a newspaper, television or even digital news site.

There are hundreds of voices seeking media attention every day, so it can be pretty daunting to attract the attention of an editor or reporter.

So, I’ve decided that this blog can be a conduit for my entrepreneur friends to find an audience for their news. From time to time, I’ll publish news that comes my way that hasn’t found its way into any other media.

For example, today I want to share some exciting news from a Stillwater-based company called XploSafe. If you don’t know XploSafe, the company describes itself as a provider of “critical safety solutions for homeland security and chemical safety.”

XploSafe has its roots in the Oklahoma State University laboratories of co-founders Allen Apblett, Ph. D., and Nick Materer, Ph. D., both chemistry professors, along with former OSU graduate student Shoaib Shaikh, also a co-founder and now CEO.

I learned about XploSafe more than 10 years ago when Shoaib pitched the concept in the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup business plan competition (now known as the Love’s Entrepreneur’s Cup).

Since then, XploSafe has expanded its mission beyond explosive detection to chemical vapor sampling and other areas where detection of potentially dangerous materials is critical.

Recently, XploSafe was awarded a $125,000 Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from NASA to develop specialized air filtration units for the next-generation of American space suits.

XploSafe released the exciting SBIR news in mid-October, but received little media attention. I invite you to read their announcement from October 15 below.

Stillwater, OK – 15 October 2020 – XploSafe announced today that it has been awarded a Phase I SBIR contract from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to develop specialized air filtration units for the next-generation of American space suits.

The award amount is $125,000 over a six-month period.

These filtration units will help keep the space suit’s internal air-flow free of any toxic, trace contaminants, which naturally build-up while astronauts use their suits. XploSafe aims to capture these contaminants within their proprietary sorbent media, which could then be vacuum regenerated to enable longer spacewalks and substantially improve time in-suit over the duration of a mission. Such a capability will be required for NASA’s upcoming Artemis missions, in which the United States intends to return to the moon by 2024.

The design of XploSafe’s filtration units would provide astronauts with safer air to breathe, as well as lighter, easier to use suits. XploSafe’s filtration unit would be housed within the Exploration Portable Life Support System (xPLSS) backpack of the next-generation xEMU suits, alongside other critical life-support systems. The company holds multiple patents for vapor nanoconfinement technology that facilitates high-capacity absorption, stabilization, and consistent recovery (removal) of a wide range of volatile, semi-volatile, and even reactive organic compounds.

XploSafe’s Operations Manager, Michael Teicheira, had the following to say: “we are ecstatic about this opportunity to showcase the research and development efforts of XploSafe here on the national and even international stage. The prospect of our products enabling astronauts to spend more time in space is an enthralling one, and we are so grateful for this opportunity to show what a small Oklahoma research company can achieve.”

XploSafe based in Stillwater, Oklahoma, is a provider of critical safety solutions for homeland security and chemical safety. Their XploSens explosives detection, XPell peroxide safety products, and XCel+ chemical vapor sampling badges are used by first responders, industrial safety officers, threat assessment officials, and laboratory and chemical manufacturing personnel all over the world.

For questions, please contact Shoaib Shaikh, Co-Founder and CEO, at Shoaib@XploSafe.com, or visit XploSafe online at www.XploSafe.com.

Congratulations to Shoaib and the XploSafe team.

Lt. Gov. Pinnell, OCAST highlight Oklahoma innovators in new podcast

Dr. Richard Kopke (left) with the Hough Ear Institute was the historic first guest on the Innovate That! podcast hosted by Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell

Editor’s note: My friends at the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) recently launched their first podcast, which highlights Oklahoma innovators and companies across the state. I listened to the first three podcasts hosted by Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell and wrote this story about the podcast and the folks Pinnell interviewed:

“Thank you to all who are listening to the Innovate That! podcast.”

With those words, Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell launched the initial podcast produced by the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) and highlighting innovative Oklahoma companies and entrepreneurs.

OCAST is a legislatively funded state agency with a mission to expand and diversify Oklahoma’s economy by supporting research and development of new projects, processes and industries.

Pinnell serves as host of the Innovate That! podcast, interviewing Oklahoma innovators and highlighting the collaborative Oklahoma Innovation Model that provides assistance to small businesses and entrepreneurs.

“I’m really excited to start this podcast with OCAST,” Pinnell said. “They are all about innovation, all about helping companies create, helping companies grow their businesses in the state of Oklahoma. For us to build a top 10 state and build a state in the right way, we have to have OCAST and the Innovation Pipeline Model.”

The podcast is produced by Lyle Walters, OCAST’s Policy and Planning Legislative Liaison. You can listen to the Innovate That podcast on most major podcast apps including Podbean, Apple, Google, Amazon and Spotify.

The historic first Innovate That! podcast featured Dr. Richard Kopke, CEO of Oklahoma City’s Hough Ear Institute. The Institute developed a drug known as NHPN-1010 in cooperation with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) that can prevent and potentially restore hearing loss.

Hough Ear Institute is a not-for-profit research organization with a mission to restore hearing worldwide through research, education and humanitarian efforts.

Stillwater-based XploSafe was the second innovative company highlighted by the podcast, with Gas Tech Engineering of Sapulpa completing the trio of launch podcasts.

The positive influence of OCAST and its partners in the Oklahoma Innovation Model – i2E Inc., the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance, the New Product Development Center at Oklahoma State University and the Tom Love Innovation Hub at the University of Oklahoma – was a common theme in the first three podcasts.

“OCAST has been key to it all,” Kopke said of Hough Ear Institute’s success in both developing the drug and licensing it last year to Oblato Inc., which has indicated it plans to initiate Phase 2 clinical trials of NHPN-1010. “And through their granting process, OCAST has provided grants that were leveraged into several millions of dollars of Department of Defense funding.”

Kopke’s words were echoed by entrepreneurs in companies with different missions and in far different industries.

XploSafe is a provider of critical safety solutions for homeland security and chemical safety.

“OCAST programs have been instrumental in us being able to not only find funding to push out new products, but they’ve also helped us find the people that we hire,” said Michael Teicheira, operations manager for XploSafe. “The OCAST intern program funding in particular has been great for us.”

Gas Tech Engineering, which provides expertise in process engineering, design, fabrication and service, received OCAST funding to develop a new product for the oil and gas industry.

“Without the OCAST process, as a small, privately held company, I don’t think we could have done the project,” said Ron Key, chief technology officer at Gas Tech Engineering. “Now we are working with another Oklahoma agency, the OSU New Product Development Center.”

OCAST Executive Director Michael Carolina said the involvement of Pinnell and the Lt. Governor’s office shows the world of potential listeners that Oklahoma is all-in on developing new technologies and new companies.

“We’re so pleased Lt. Gov. Pinnell agreed to host our new podcast,” Carolina said. “He brings an enthusiasm for Oklahoma innovation that will make listeners across Oklahoma and the nation want to know more about innovation in our state.”

Oklahoma innovators have a great story to tell, and the Innovate That! podcast makes its accessible to potentially a worldwide audience, Pinnell said.

“That’s why Innovate That! is the name of this podcast,” he said. “To really bring amazing Oklahoma companies to the 4 million Oklahomans inside the state of Oklahoma, and, hopefully, to people around the country and around the world as well, who will be listening to this to see and to hear what an amazing state that Oklahoma is when it comes to innovation.”

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

The Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology is a state agency tasked with leading Oklahoma’s technology-based economic development efforts, supporting the efforts of start-ups and entrepreneurs to transform promising innovations from concepts into commercial products. OCAST also is an active supporter of STEM education across Oklahoma and provides funding to support internships between local industries and two- and four-year colleges and universities. Visit ocast.ok.gov to learn more.