ISSYS makes strategic decision
to focus on the medical market

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While securing grants and providing contract services to industrial firms have been the mainstay of revenue for Integrated Sensing Systems Inc. (ISSYS), this small tech company is staking its future economic success on the medical industry.

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Founded in 1995, ISSYS is a privately held startup based in Ypsilanti, Mich. Under the leadership of Nader Najafi, its founder and president, ISSYS is using MEMS technology to develop three key products for the medical industry:

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  • Intelligent, disposable catheters with pressure sensors, expected to be available in 2003 or 2004;
  • Microfluidic drug delivery meters with extremely precise control, expected to be released in 2004;
  • Wireless, batteryless implants that monitor and analyze fluids within the body, with an expected European launch by 2005.

“We started in other fields because they were a cash cow, but we’ve become more focused,” Najafi said. “We’ve always had our eye on the medical field …With our expertise and focus, this field is practical for us.”

A key factor in ISSYS’ endurance during these seven years has been its success at carefully researching and securing grants, said Jennifer Baird, the company’s vice president of strategic initiatives.

“We could go willy-nilly in our approach, but we’re very strategic and make sure the funding we apply for will line up with our strategic plan,” she said.

Among the grants ISSYS has secured: a $1.98 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Advanced Technology Program (ATP), and a $2.75 million grant and equity investment from Michigan Life Sciences Corridor. The corridor is a billion-dollar economic diversification program that supports life sciences and technology based businesses in Michigan.

Baird also reports that ISSYS will announce a new grant in coming weeks, this one from the U.S. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

As part of the NIST/ATP grant, the bioMEMS team at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio will evaluate ISSYS’ wireless, batteryless implants for treatment of patients suffering from hydrocephalus. This condition, commonly occurring in children, is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid within the ventricles of the brain. Shuvo Roy co-director of the BioMEMS Laboratory at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, said he expects a biocompatibility study to begin later this year.

“MEMS technology is very powerful in the sense that it allows us to make things small and smart,” he said. “We’re excited and eager to see the potential for this technology in helping treat the 36,000 children (U.S.) impacted by hydrocephalus each year … ISSYS has taken a very courageous approach to implementing MEMS for the medical industry.”

Marlene Bourne, senior analyst for In-State/MDR, agrees that in spite of the hurdles of testing, regulatory approvals and market acceptance, applying MEMS to medical applications has significant potential for companies like ISSYS.

“There are some very large companies doing this (developing medical products using MEMS technology), but they go after the large-volume niches. By and large, it seems like there is room for these smaller players who go after smaller, more specialized niches,” she said.

But Bourne cautioned that success for startups like ISSYS depends on several conditions coming together: good technology, solid management, a good business model, money, timing and, yes, good luck.


Company file: ISSYS
(last updated June 17, 2002)

Integrated Sensing Systems Inc. (ISSYS)

391 Airport Industrial Drive
Ypsilanti, Mich., 48198

ISSYS was founded in January 1995 by current President and CEO Nader Najafi, Kensall Wise and Khalil Najafi.

Sensing and measurement products for the life sciences

Selected small tech-related products and services
ISSYS develops, builds and markets MEMS-based sensing products targeting medical and other life sciences niches. ISSYS’ product line is based around its core technology, the Dissolved Wafer Process. ISSYS is also busy developing single-chip density and flow meters using Coriolis Mass Flow Technology. The company offers foundry services including prototyping, consulting, volume production and single-step processing.


  • Nader Najafi: president and CEO
  • Jennifer Baird: vice president of strategic initiatives
  • Kensall Wise: ISSYS Board of Directors
  • Khalil Najafi: ISSYS Board of Directors
  • Employees

    Investment history
    ISSYS has so far functioned with the aid of government grants, including DARPA, ATP, SBIR, the Michigan Life Sciences Corridor and state of Michigan monies and tax incentives.

    Barriers to market
    Gaining regulatory approvals and market acceptance of the technology within the medical industry.

    Why they’re in small tech
    “We think there are higher margins in the medical field, and it takes advantage of our flexible manufacturing,” said Jennifer Baird, vice president of strategic initatives.

    What keeps them up at night
    “Responsibility to shareholders, the people you’ve recruited and all the companies you’re working with … and a commitment to bringing MEMS technology from academic papers to real products that have a positive impact on people’s lives,” said Nader Najafi, ISSYS founder president and CEO.

    Email: [email protected]
    Phone: 734-547-9896
    Fax: 734-547-9964

    Recent news
    Company gets grant to develop MEMS-based catheters
    Small tech firm with big dreams sees six years of struggle paying off
    ISSYS receives $2.75 million in funding for its biofluidic chips

    — Research by Gretchen McNeely


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