UofL cleanroom is key for hearing device entrepreneur

For people with severe hearing loss, a cochlear implant would cost about $30,000 and potentially damage residual hearing. But what if a faculty member at the University of Louisville had a cochlear implant that could be mass produced at 1/10th the cost and not damage the inner ear?

Well, that’s what Angelique Johnson believes she’s done using the Micro/Nano Technology Center (MNTC) at UofL. Johnson and her company, MEMStim LLC, have developed a tiny, durable flexible cochlear electrode array to replace costly hand-assembled alternatives.

Johnson, who moved to Louisville from Michigan, has been manufacturing her device in the MNTC’s cleanroom.

“A move to Kentucky would not have been possible without the world class facility and staff at UofL” Johnson said.

Johnson has received more than $300,000 in federal and state investment funds to continue development of her implants.  She says several major sellers of cochlear implants in the United States have expressed interest in her invention as well as smaller companies in India and China. She hopes to fully prove out the technology over the next two years and partner with a cochlear implant manufacturer to begin clinical trials.

MNTC director Kevin Walsh says Johnson’s work brings exposure to the great micro/nano technology research and development facilities at UofL while Johnson expects her medical device company to take off and eventually employ over 50 people.

“We’re going to expand opportunities in the technology sector for brilliant and talented people to work in Louisville” she said.

Johnson is faculty in the College of Business and teaches courses in Business Plan Competition and New Venture Creation.

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Mark Hebert

Following a 28-year career as a radio and television reporter, Mark Hebert joined the University of Louisville as the Director of Media Relations in 2009, serving as the main spokesperson. In 2015, Mark was named Director of Programming and Production. He’s now producing and hosting a radio show about “all things UofL”, overseeing the university’s video and TV productions and promoting UofL’s research operation. Mark is best known for his 22 years as the political and investigative reporter for WHAS-TV in Louisville where he won numerous awards for breaking stories, exposing corruption and objectively covering Kentucky politics. In 2014, Mark was inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.