- Associated Press - Sunday, June 29, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - In 2006, Curtis Lowery, chairman of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences department of obstetrics and gynecology, wanted to find a way to help parents connect with their babies being treated at UAMS’ neonatal intensive care unit.

Critically ill infants from all over the state are treated at the UAMS unit. Some stay for months and their parents are forced to return to work in cities as far away as Rogers or Jonesboro.

To help keep parents connected to their children, Lowery, who is interested in telemedicine, developed Angel Eye, a secure webcam technology that allows parents with an Internet connection to watch their babies from anywhere in the world.

“It’s really a bonding issue with how you get the baby to link to the mother and father,” Lowery told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1mfYTrV).

The earliest version of Angel Eye was a simple webcam and secure log-in website, but the technology quickly expanded. It became part of the UAMS BioVentures business incubator, and UAMS developed second- and third-generation bed-mounted camera units.

BioVentures made its first sale to a hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 2012. Lehigh Valley Hospital started with nine cameras and now has 44, one for every bed in its neonatal unit.

Eight years after those first five cameras at UAMS, Angel Eye Camera Systems LLC is set to introduce a fourth-generation hardware update next month. It’s also seen the technology gain traction at hospitals nationwide.

BioVentures licensed the technology in January 2013. Little Rock business consultant Steve Bethel became Angel Eye’s chief executive officer and president.

“It has such an emotional connection,” Bethel said. “It was ready to come out of the university. The commercialization aspect of the business really had been validated.”

The company received an investment from TriStar Technology Ventures, a Nashville, Tennessee, venture capital firm.

Bethel said he was always confident in his company’s product, but was surprised at how quickly it was able to secure venture capital funding. Although TriStar specializes in early-stage medical technology companies, Bethel said its investments usually come later in a startup company’s life.

Chris Rand, a co-founder and partner at TriStar, said Angel Eye was a natural fit for TriStar’s investment portfolio. TriStar received $500,000 from the Arkansas Development Finance Authority in 2012 as part of a program to help promote entrepreneurship in Arkansas.

Angel Eye is TriStar’s first Arkansas investment. Rand, who grew up in Searcy, had experience licensing technology and contacts at a number of children’s hospitals. He said he now gets to do a little bit of everything to help the company grow.

“The biggest single issue for us is probably our ability to be a strategic partner for the company,” Rand said. “It’s always important to us if we can be more than just money in the deal.”

Rand said that although Angel Eye is a very young startup, it has growth potential. The company has three full-time staff members and a handful of part-time workers. A second information technology specialist will soon join the team, and it’s likely that the sales and marketing team will expand next.

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