Where mannequins with artificial intelligence are loved and funded.

PRSONAS, a Durham startup developing artificially intelligent digital mannequins, has just secured $525,000 in new debt financing, primarily from North Carolina angel investment groups such as Inception Micro Angel Fund (IMAF).

Co-founder David Rose says the funder has been an ongoing process since Christmas and, now that it’s closed, he can work on expanding the six-person team. Four open positions are already listed, and he hopes to have up to 15 working at the upstart by the end of the year.

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A PRSONAS mannequin representing Microsoft at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The company also added two board members: Petra Weishaupt-Smith, formerly of DigitalSmiths, and former Red Hat exec Tom Rabon.

The American Underground startup, which just moved across the street from its former headquarters, settling into a larger space at AU’s new @Market campus, develops silhouettes that often take the form of digital greeters.

There’s Angeline, for example, a fictitious female that, while she looks like a real person, is actually a two-dimensional digital silhouette. She can interact with you, as she’s armed with PRSONAS developed software. And, while you may think otherwise if you meet her, she’s not a video projection of an actor – she’s completely a digital likeness, though PRSONAS can imitate real people (and even dinosaurs, such as a project they did with the North Carolina Zoo) by request.

For now, silhouettes, such as Angeline, are leased to companies such as Microsoft to act as lobby greeters. They come with an upfront cost that starts at $10,000 and monthly fees of about $375. And they’re novel exhibits at conventions, too. Rodeo champion Trevor Brazile’s likeness was programmed onto a silhouette, thanks to a Wrangler Jeans partnership, and greeted visitors at the 2014 National Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas, for example. During one week, the silhouette with his likeness logged more than 1,500 interactions with fans, capturing email addresses for Wrangler marketing offers.

But Rose and his cohorts have bigger plans. They see the data-collecting silhouettes someday replacing cashiers at retail stores, scanning for suspicious activity at airports and acting as hotel concierges at high-end resorts.

Richard West honored with CEO of the Year award.

Richard West, CEO of Baebies, Inc was awarded with the 2016 Life Sciences CEO of the Year Award from Triangle Business Journal. The Triangle Business Journal hosted the 2016 Life Sciences Awards on Thursday, May 26, 2016 in Cary, North Carolina. The Life Sciences Awards recognize both individuals and research organizations that are breaking ground in this field. There are more than 600 life sciences companies in North Carolina, and the majority of them are either headquartered or have a significant presence in the Triangle, according to Triangle Business Journal.

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Baebies to Unveil world's First Near Birth Newborn Testing Platform at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting (PAS)

DURHAM, N.C., April 29, 2016 – Baebies, Inc., a company focused on newborn screening and pediatric testing, announced today that it will unveil a prototype of the world’s first near birth newborn testing platform, FINDER™, at the 2016 Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) meeting to be held on April 30 – May 3 in Baltimore, Maryland.

FINDER™ is an innovative platform that operates on tiny droplets of blood to rapidly perform time critical tests for newborns. At just 8 inches wide and with a detachable mini tablet for user interface, FINDER™ can be used in various settings including hospital nurseries or laboratories, neonatal intensive care units and birthing centers. FINDER™ consumables are preloaded with all necessary reagents. The platform is expected to substantially decrease the time to result for life-threatening conditions.

“Drawing a large volume of blood from a newborn is painful for baby, traumatic for mom, and unwise for the clinician. In addition, test results from current laboratory methods arrive too late for some newborns,” said Richard West, Baebies’ Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder. “The platform’s small sample requirements and short test times enable patient-friendly and timely clinical intervention.”

In collaboration with Dr. Ronald Goldberg, Chief of Neonatology at Duke University School of Medicine and Dr. Vinod Bhutani, Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine, Baebies is developing a test panel for hyperbilirubinemia, where early diagnosis and intervention can significantly improve outcomes. “Testing for hyperbilirubinemia cannot be performed under the traditional newborn screening paradigm of sending dried blood specimens to a central lab. Neonates often have limited blood volumes available for testing. A near birth platform that tests a panel of markers for hyperbilirubinemia, and potentially other conditions, using a single drop of blood while rapidly returning the results would be a significant improvement,” said Dr. Goldberg.

“We have a broad test menu in our pipeline to advance testing for all newborns and children. FINDER™ will enable widespread access to millions of babies worldwide that otherwise don’t have access to rapid or any newborn testing,” said Vamsee Pamula, President and Co-Founder.

FINDER™ will be on display at the PAS Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, Booth 1226, from April 30 – May 2, 2016. The platform is expected to be commercially available in 2017.

About Baebies, Inc.

Baebies is guided by the vision that “everyone deserves a healthy start”. Baebies is saving lives and making lives better for children by bringing new technologies, new tests, and new hope to parents and healthcare professionals worldwide. The FINDER™ product is not available at this time for sale or use in any territory. Baebies is headquartered in Durham, NC. For more information, please visit www.baebies.com.

Jessica Kettler

NIRvana Sciences Successfully Closes Series A

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC, September 1st, 2015 – NIRvana Sciences, Inc., the leading developer of synthetic bacteriochlorins and chlorins in the field of fluorescent dyes, announced that it has successfully closed its Series A investment round. The oversubscribed round includes investments from many angel investments groups in North Carolina and South Carolina as well as some private angels.

Baebies, Inc. Raises $13 Million in Oversubscribed Round of Financing

Pioneering Digital Microfluidic Technology with a Singular Focus on Newborn Screening

DURHAM, N.C., July 28, 2015 – Baebies, Inc. today announced the completion of a round of equity financing totaling $13 million. The oversubscribed round of financing included key investors Rex Health Ventures, DUMAC, LLC (managers of the Duke endowment), Cunning Capital, Triad, LLC, the Duke Angel Network and a loan from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. Many of Advanced Liquid Logic’s (ALL) former investors including Charleston Angel Partners, and Baebies’ executive team, also invested.

“Rex is pleased to support this promising young company,” said Steve Burriss, president of Rex Healthcare, the Raleigh-based health system that started Rex Health Ventures in 2012. “Not only will we further our mission by improving the health of newborn babies, but we are in a unique position to aid Baebies in the development of their groundbreaking products.”

Baebies is developing innovative and easy-to-use products using state-of-the-art technologies to advance newborn screening worldwide. “Over 100 million babies born each year are not screened for even the most basic treatable congenital disorders. This translates to nearly 250,000 children each year whose lives could be dramatically improved with screening. We can make a real difference,” said Vamsee Pamula, Baebies president and co-founder.

Pamula and CEO Richard West founded Baebies to address the need for better tools in global newborn screening after the sale of Advanced Liquid Logic to Illumina, Inc. and have built a strong team, including many employees that have previous experience with the digital microfluidics platform. “The impressive team and product vision of the company reinforced the decision by our members to make Baebies our first investment,” said John Glushik, Managing Director for the Duke Angel Network.

The company licensed its core technology, digital microfluidics, from Illumina. In addition to a technology license in newborn screening that does not include sequencing, Baebies also received equipment, contracts, and other consideration in exchange for a share of ownership in the new company. “What all this means is that we get to start the company in the middle, instead of at the beginning,” said West.

About Baebies, Inc.

Baebies is guided by the vision that “everyone deserves a healthy start”. Baebies is saving lives, making lives better, and enabling easier access to testing for babies around the world by delivering a new paradigm to newborn screening. Baebies is bringing new technology, new tests, and new hope to parents and healthcare professionals worldwide. Baebies is headquartered in Durham, NC. For more information, please visit www.baebies.com.