Josh Eckman

Wasatch Microfluidics: From the Lassonde Institute to Pfizer Research Offices

After forming on the University of Utah campus in 2004, Josh Eckman, business administration graduate and mechanical engineering masters graduate, made pharmaceutical research technology to a million-dollar company. Wasatch Microfluidics epitomizes the success of companies from the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute.

Wasatch Microfluidics develops the technology used by leading pharmaceutical companies for drug discovery and life science research. Their new biosensor measures the kinetics of biomolecule binding, which gives information on the strength and speed of binding. This allows for researchers to identify false positives and increases the probability of success.  Their biosensor can process the equivalent of 24 competitor’s instruments simultaneously, allowing one month of results to be completed in a day.

“When we first started looking at the idea, we knew that it would be successful. We knew there was a clear market of existing technologies, and what we provided was better,” Eckman, founder of Wasatch Microfluidics, said.

Their technology began with an idea in 2004. Bruce Gale, a professor of mechanical engineering, originally developed Wasatch Microfluidics. Wasatch Microfluidics builds instruments that researchers can utilize to develop new drugs. Today, the company’s tools are found in universities and biotech companies worldwide.

Eckman began developing the company with advisor Gale in the Lassonde New Venture Development Center. The Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute’s oldest and most prestigious program, the New Venture Development provided Eckman with the first steps of how to grow a company. He was paired with fellow New Venture Development student associate and current co-worker Jim Smith and Professor Gale.

“Working one-on-one with students in these intra-disciplinary areas in business and technology can’t be found in other programs,” Gale, current chief science officer of Wasatch Microfluidics, said.

In 2005, Eckman submitted Wasatch Microfluidics to the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge. The Utah Entrepreneur Challenge is one of a three-part series of business idea competitions with the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute. That year, Wasatch Microfluidics won the top prize of $40,000.

Nearly 10 years later, the company’s success is undeniable. Wasatch Microfluidics earned millions in revenue this past year. The company has received more than $7 million in investments and grant money combined, and Wasatch Microfluidics is not stopping there. With contracts with big name pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, Wasatch Microfluidics has grown exponentially from its days at the Lassonde New Venture Development.

“The hands-on entrepreneurial experience that we have gained at the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute is a very important part of forming a company; everything that we have learned still impacts how we do our company today,” Eckman said.

The Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute continues to grow its programs such as Lassonde New Venture Development and the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge to foster the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators like Eckman.

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