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Bootstrapping mass spectrometry, featuring Mazdak Taghioskoui of Trace Matters

Bearing a smile, Mazdak β€œMaz” Taghioskoui says he immigrated to the United States from Iran for a good education and same-day shipping, two key features that have supported his focus on building – from scratch – a sophisticated next-generation analytical tool: the Trace Matters mass spectrometer.

Maz is the Founder and CEO/CTO of Trace Matters, and we sat down with him for show-and-tell to discuss how he and his company is reinventing the mass spectrometer to save lives here on Earth and to advance our scientific understanding of the cosmos beyond our planet.

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Mazdak Taghioskoui  00:01

Building a mass spec from scratch that can compete with these companies. It’s almost it’s like trying to move a mountain.

Announcer  00:11

Welcome to Tough Tech Today with Meyen and Miller. This is the premiere show featuring trailblazers who are building technologies today to solve tomorrow’s toughest challenges.

Jonathan  00:26

Welcome to Tough Tech Today, we have with us Maz, who is the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Technology Officer, and founder of Trace Matters, which is a fascinating company that’s working on the next generation of mass spectrometry technologies. And so, Maz, we’re gonna need you to help explain to us what all that is, and you have a lot of hats that you’re wearing for this company.

Mazdak Taghioskoui  00:54

I think the best start point is just to talk about like a mass spectrometer is probably I think you’ve heard it in Big Bang Theory that when they want to talk about a very complex instrument, they say that ‘we’re working on this mass spectrometer’, but it’s really it’s not that complex, it’s basically you need just high school physics to understand what the mass spec is. So probably, again, everything high school [level], probably from high school chemistry, remember that you have molecules, and those molecules, they have protons and electrons and neutrons, and we have a nucleus, which most of the maths of a atom or a molecule is in the nucleus. And that stays constant. For example, for water, we have one oxygen, and two hydrogen, so 16 plus one plus one, it’s 18. So the atomic the molecular mass of water molecule is a key. So if somehow you’re, you’d be able to measure that, that mass, then you can, you can basically very accurately identify molecules. And obviously water is the is the simplest, simplest molecule, this can go up to proteins, and even like people have measured the master charge ratio of viruses and bacteria bacterias. So basically, the way it works is that you take him molecule, either you take one electron art, or you charge it with one electron, so that you can produce h produce a charged molecule, and that charged molecule arm began in high school back in high school physics, if you have an electric field, and a charged particle is moving in that electric field, then the trajectory is going to be dependent on the mass to charge ratio. And that’s what the right side is the right hand roll right with like gravity. Exactly. So we have like, we can use magnetic and also electric force and electric fields in both of them. There are different mass spec, technologies that either uses magnetic or electrical fields to to be able to separate the disk ions based on mastercharge ratio. And it’s kind of probably it’s a good analogy to say that it’s kind of similar to a prism that when you had a like, a light white light of prism separates the basically the light base according to the wavelength. So a mass spec is the same thing for ions that separates ions based on mass

Jonathan  03:34

ratio with this kind of like foundational science that if you can do this kind of assessment, then what are all that kind of applications that this could go to who would really benefit from being able to do this kind of analysis?

Mazdak Taghioskoui  03:47

Then that’s, that’s a very interesting question. Um, mass spectrum, probably, it’s a good idea to a little bit talk about the history of the mass spectrometry that actually the mass first mass spectrometer was used in the discovery of protons. So try these three, like, people have received five Nobel prizes for mass spec, and the applications are expanding. But for example, the most important application which I think it’s kind of relevant to your podcast is space and medical applications which are traced matters. We are very focused on both. For example, in the space application from the forest knows this better than me that in every space mission, there is a mass spec. If they’re trying to look at the composition of the these outer planets, even if it’s landed, or it’s a fly by somehow you need the mass spec to, to to basically see that the chemistry in a space and in the medical field, probably it’s closer to you than you can think. But if you go take a blood test the white Do your blood is measured with a mass spec, or if there’s this program called newborn screening, which, when a baby’s born, they take a small drop of blood, they put it on a paper and they let it dry, then they send it to state labs to, to just screen the blog for probably 10 to 10 to 20 amino acids, which based on that, they can, they can correlate that the lack of amino acids to to potential sicknesses. And if they can, they can identify that early they can put the baby on the supplement to prevent that disease. And these this newborn screening, it’s it’s a very, like, big program that everyday probably in us, every month, millions of tests are being conducted for for this with fitness specs.

Jonathan  06:01

If this if mass spectrometers have been, we’ve already got, you know, five Nobel laureates for it. So it’s been around for for at least probably decades, right many decades. And if it’s so widely deployed, for example, for newborn screening, then what else? What’s unsolved about it? And what’s what’s created the opportunity then for for your work with trace matters.

Mazdak Taghioskoui  06:23

That’s a great question like mass picks, usually you don’t see many startups and mass spec space, because usually, they’re like these big companies, Thermo Fisher and Agilent and perkinelmer, and waters, bruker. And shimadzu. There’s like five or five to seven like big companies that and cx Fitch, all of them. They’re public companies and the mass fix that they have it there, they’ve been working on this for four decades. So it’s it’s like probably, it’s a good analogy to say that it’s like a phone like Finnigan, a thermal probably, in 1960s 70s, started out, made the first mass spec. And from there, the new aspects are just our new generation, which is built upon that that first mass spec so it’s really building a mass spec from scratch that can compete from these companies. It’s it’s almost it’s like trying to move a month in.

Jonathan  07:26

It certainly sounds tough, which is a great fit. Well, but why why go after this David and Goliath kind of situation.

Mazdak Taghioskoui  07:37

But again, there’s lots of room for improvement in mass spec space. Because you can imagine like, again, I like to give this phone example, if you imagine that Apple is started iPhone, BlackBerry was a huge hit, and everybody was using that. But the problem is, is that the architecture, Blackberry couldn’t just get rid of the keyboard and put a big screen, in order to just solve the problems which is in the DNA, you have to start from scratch. And if you don’t start from scratch, then somebody else is going to do. And so there’s really you can’t go back in that at the later stage of the stages of the development to to change that. And for mass spec, you can imagine all these mass specs, they have them, the first generation was at 1970s or 1960s 1980s. So the components are a steal from Bank them. So even though there are many advances in technology, usually spaces the same thing like proudly for us to say that, like if you have a working, if your system is complex, and it’s working, you don’t change that. And that’s why NASA is still using quads from many 60s because they’ve never failed. And it’s kind of similar with the mass spec companies that they’ve kept architecture to seem that big, becoming bigger and bigger, more complex. But again, but for example, the new microcontrollers that you have today just think can get very small, much smaller, much cheaper, simpler and would deliver higher performance share.

Forrest Meyen  09:31

So what’s I mean, I understand that there’s an opportunity, right like you’re you’re looking at the shift in the iPhone and the mass spec that you can’t get when you’re locked in with a you know blackberry like architecture. But what is that that shift that you see? Is it you’re just making it smaller with better processors or can you describe what let’s set your product apart from what exists

Mazdak Taghioskoui  09:59

in order to I think to answer that question, it would be nice if I tell you a little bit about the history that how I got into this, okay. In my my Ph. D program, I was basically using a mass spec and these commercial aspects, they come like a box, you have only access to the England. So my my PhD dissertation was on plasma ionization sources, basically how to produce ions so that the mass spec can and can analyze that. So I got really interested to really move further to see what’s happening to the ions after they get inside the mass space. But again, these commercial instruments, they’re just so complex that there’s no way that he can open and, and modify a component. So I said, You know what, I’ll build my own mass spec. So I started building my own mass spec. And I chose quad quadrupole, which again, in the back to Paul and 1989, got the Nobel Prize for that.

Forrest Meyen  11:00

So tell me, how many years were that what ago was this when you started building your first mass spec,

Mazdak Taghioskoui  11:05

It was 2015, almost, probably five years ago now. But again, the theory is simple. So if I go back, probably, I wouldn’t dare to start building my own mass spec. Because in the books, you read that, Oh, it’s so simple. Therefore rods and you apply voltages, like these voltages to these four rods, and it acts like a filter, and you put into Take care. And there you go, you’ll have your mass spec.

Forrest Meyen  11:31

Easy!

Mazdak Taghioskoui  11:33

Easy peasy. It’s like really the theory, it’s like in 10 minutes, you can understand. And it’s it’s super simple. I was kind of naive. And I’m like, Oh, that’s simple, I can make that. So I started putting together mass spec, and Amen, just producing the voltages, it took me three years to be able to produce a high voltage, high frequency and highly accurate voltage, and like, even to making a quad like those four rods, they need to be aligned to Don to micron level. Otherwise, it’s like, you’re not going to get a good resolution. So I’m in the process, I started spending like, days in V’s and just playing with that, my, my, my prototype, and probably you’ve heard this, but there’s a 10,000 hours rule that they say that if you, if you are totally new to something, if you just spend 10,000 hours, you become an expert, if you want to play piano, if you want to dance, if you want to go mountain climbing, if you want to do anything, just spend the time start from somewhere and after 10,000 hours, you’re gonna become an expert.

Forrest Meyen  12:50

And I that’s that’s a lot of hours. So I think it’s, it’s like five work years,

Mazdak Taghioskoui  12:57

probably three and a half. Yeah. What I, in my experience, it works because basically, I’d never designed them as because I had no idea what’s inside just by reading and following and buying stuff on eBay and opening up and see how they made it. I was able to make it work. So I was able to actually, you know what, let me show you the spectrum that that was a big achievement that I made, I still have that in my favorite album of my my phone. So so this is basically what what what you’re looking at, okay,

Jonathan  13:40

actually output right on the screen

Mazdak Taghioskoui  13:43

on the screen. So this is that moleculer mass, and this is the intensity. So basically seeing those sharp peaks, it’s like, Ah, I’m able to separate separate my ions.

Forrest Meyen  13:56

When you saw that image that that particular image was the one that made you know that you finally got it to work.

Mazdak Taghioskoui  14:03

I would never forget that feeling. It’s like you you’ve been trying to climb Mount Everest and you kind of you’re you’re tired but you you were able to get get to the apex and, and that’s like really joyful. But in the process, you’d see many many points and areas of improvement in the design. So then when you’re designing something, you’re like, oh, for example, what if you do this what if you do that? So basically by mystery in the interest matters kind of evolved. And I was also I was like most of the funding from from trace entries matters come from NASA said at the time I was working on this project for plasma ionization for for basically Mars. And the idea was to make it ion source probe so that instead of scooping the soil, and bringing soil to the, to the rover, and doing the analysis so that you can put really the ion source at the robotic arm, and to be able to produce the ions and do the analysis. So I was able to make the ion source and that led to bigger, bigger NASA project. But the question was that, okay, now that we build the ion source, the mass spec is on the body of the rover, either you have to make small and put demands on the bot, the robotic arm, which is kind of not positive, it’s difficult, because you have to go provides the performance, or you have to find a way to transfer the ions. And then I was like, Ah, so if we take this taching ion guide, and we make it flexible, then that would provide a lossless path for ions to reach the mass spec. And from from there, the this the idea of spy on started and yeah, so that was kind of the story behind. Awesome.

Jonathan  16:14

Yeah, like the trace matters, it’s, it’s it started, I wouldn’t say it started, but part of its value proposition, say is that it’s about that you’ve nailed the way to do an ion guide. So that it, it helps to, in some ways, sort of physically separate where the ion sources to the more traditional sort of mass spec instrumentation.

Mazdak Taghioskoui  16:37

That That is correct. It’s kind of also one analogy can be optical fibers. So we didn’t have like there’s that there’s this analogy one to one analogy between math space and like optical setups, but for optical setups, we had our optical fibers that you can basically contain photons and a flexible path to deliver that from point A to point B. For for ions. We didn’t have any technology like that and spy on field fields that Yeah,

Forrest Meyen  17:15

so amazing. I think, I think now would be a good time to, to watch that video. And, you know, so people can see what you’re what you’re talking about it, let’s just play it.

Announcer  17:25

What if you could advance your mass spectrometry capabilities? What if you were able to transfer protein ions from a tissue to a mass spectrometer for in vivo analysis, to transfer ions from a distance to a mass spectrometer, there was no sensitive choice to turn to, until now, introducing spy on from trace matters. spy on is an ion transfer device that extends your reach, it can transfer ions for several meters, spy on it’s flexible, you can freely move it around, spy on is efficient, it’s active ion transfer mechanism focuses ions on its central access and allows for their high efficiency transfer, be part of the flow be part of the future. And imagine the possibilities

Jonathan  18:15

As a biologist, would I be doing that to help understand that the chemistry that’s on the surface of that, that living creature without harming it?

Mazdak Taghioskoui  18:24

Yeah, that’s a very good point. Probably one very important application of this technology is in in surgery in cancer surgery. We have a ongoing collaboration with Harvard Medical School on that and basically, one of the most important applications of mass spectrometer – a mass spec is a universal molecular profiling tool – and historically, the way they examine tissue is they take biopsies, they diet like different colors and the pathologist just looks at under microscopes and from from experience tells you Okay, this is cancer, this is not and usually the process is very lengthy. But the process is gold standard and my collaborator, Professor Nathalie Agar at Harvard, she pioneered in using a mass spec during surgery to aid the surgeon in removing the cancerous tumors.

Forrest Meyen  19:38

Wow

Mazdak Taghioskoui  19:39

Yeah, they basically they have and that surgery room it’s called AMIGO [Advanced Multimodality Image Guided Operating suite] and they basically they had a mass spec in the surgery room and they’ve done multiple clinical studies that they aid the surgeon to analyze the tissue and tell the surgeon if it’s cancer or not.

Forrest Meyen  20:06

So it’s not like visibly… it’s hard to just see with your naked eye, whether it’s cancer or not.

20:13

That’s a very good point, like probably for skin, it’s visible. But this group is focused on brain cancer. For brain cancer, the tumor looks exactly as far as I know exactly like the brain. So the surgeon doesn’t know if it’s brain or if it exits the cancer tumor. And the usually the procedure is that prior to operation, they, they take care of MRI from from the head. And then they also in this amigo surgery room, they they have a MRI on the on the rail on the ceiling that in the middle of the surgery, they can they can bring it in. So usually the prop procedure is that they take an MRI, they kind of registered the location of the brain, after they open this call, they have to take another MRI because the brain expands. So again, they register the locations again, and that surgeon basically with the help of MRI would take up the tumor. But the problem is the margins. Because for brain if it’s like for breast or skin, it’s easy to remove, remove extra tissue, but for brain you can’t do that then probably seen people going to like brain surgery, they’re usually they’re conscious, some of them play while in, they somehow keep them active to make sure that they’re not damaging the brain. And the problem is, again, is the margins that you can’t cut extra and if you leave the the tumor in the brain, it’s going to grow and it’s going to come back Oh yeah, so the process that they’re using today at the at amigo is that when the surgeon when they get to the border, the surgeon start slicing the brain and just hand some requests and immediate biopsy, which usually takes half an hour. And they’re also they’re doing clinical studies to to image the tissue with the help of a mass spec simultaneously. So with the help of spy on the we’re hoping that the the eliminate that step because usually this is an intrusive process, like you have to cut the tissue and then do the analysis. If it’s healthy, you can just put it back. So spy out is going to help basically do the analysis before removing the tissue. And that’s very powerful. And again, it’s going to be a long road but you can have like immediate biopsy results and probably it’s going to be much much more accurate than

Forrest Meyen  22:53

The surgeon can just grab your ion siphoning pen and just pop it right in their brain and take a little sample.

23:02

Exactly that’s it and you’ll get immediate readings because the analysis time it’s less than a second like if you are wow like that like from the moment you produce your ion till the the mass spec gives us picture of them it’s almost it’s in seconds time scale so if you add the like algorithms for them processing the data probably in less than 510 seconds you can have immediate results

Jonathan  23:29

It looks like the motion activated lights in your your lab slash improvise studio have have gone off would would this be the time to do a show and tell at the lab bench just at a distance to so that the folks who are watching could see sort of that this is like a pen with an umbilical cord.

Mazdak Taghioskoui  23:45

Yeah. Do you want me to show it show that?

Jonathan  23:48

Well, I mean, if you could slide the whiteboard I

Forrest Meyen  23:51

I don’t know if you can show the secret prototype hasn’t been unveiled yet!

Mazdak Taghioskoui  23:58

This is the first prototype. I’ve taken this apart but this is the flexible ion guide that ion transfer efficiency is close to 100%. The ions enter from this portion and would be introduced to the mass spec on this portion, this portion, the end is going to be connected to them aspect. And this can be several meters long. And yes, yeah, that was Yeah, we were planning to test that I took it apart. Um, but basically if you want to, you want me to show you the actual tube. It’s it’s something like this.

Forrest Meyen  24:45

Okay. That’s awesome.

Jonathan  24:47

Are you fabricating that getting in the lab like where you are now?

24:51

Yes, yes, the fabrication process was a complex process. I spent like almost two years to perfect that

Forrest Meyen  25:03

You’re building it yourself, like just you, or do you have a team working with you?

Mazdak Taghioskoui  25:09

I have a team. But usually, if it’s something challenging, I have to focus and solve that. And this is probably made probably more than 10 different prototypes for 10 different technologies to be able to make it manufacturable. So the way so these these rings right now, they’re they’re basically built with the PCBs. So it’s basically I can grab a beer piece and show it to you. So it’s basically it is a 3d PCB structure like this, that basically it’s connected flexibly and the capacitors and resistors embedded in this structure.

Jonathan  25:55

So for the folks who can’t see better listening, what we’re seeing is it’s kind of like a really swanky slinky, I guess where, but it what it does is it’s able to it’s like, flexible, hollow cord, right? And then and that acts kind of like a fiber optic cable where we might use for like internet or data communications, that it helps to guide the ions that are coming from the probe end, and guiding them through a flexible tube into the mass spectrometer.

Mazdak Taghioskoui  26:24

That’s correct. Basically, what what is happening here is that, as you can see, probably, I can also show it here, that so basically, the structure is is made up of individual rings. So you can imagine, like the first prototype that I made, probably I spend like two, three weeks just to make something this long. And it’s just adding individual PCBs on top of each other and soldering everything on the microscope. Basically, what what’s happening here, you apply to auto phase RF voltages to od, and like every other ring. So for example, the odd ones, one RF, the evening was the second out of phase RF. And what happens then. And basically, the potential veil is created around the ring, so it channel is produced in the middle, that contains forces to ions to the middle. And that’s why the ions wouldn’t hit the walls and get neutralized. So it’s kind of an active ion transfer, because people have tried to just use bear tubing. And the problem with bear tubing is that an ion travel in embedded to you being unlike photons, which they travel in a straight line, ions diffuse. And if you have a plastic tubing, it’s gonna sit on the tubing, and they’re going to have charge buildup problem. And if it’s metal, it’s going to get neutralized, but either way, it’s going to get lost. But so this structure, basically producing a channel for the ions to move losslessly to be able to reach the mass spec and the speed of travel. It’s literally it’s very fast 10s to hundreds of meters per second.

Forrest Meyen  28:17

That’s amazing.

Jonathan  28:19

Was this a? You? Are you following a vision or say maybe more of a wandering path when you were as as a young student? You were you were studying at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Iran, and then you immigrated into the United States did graduate studies and beyond? And you have such a deep understanding of, of mass spectrometry and ionization? What has it been? That’s been kind of your guiding light to keep following this idea and going so deep on it?

Mazdak Taghioskoui  28:56

Well, that’s a good question. Usually, they say that, like looking forward, you don’t know what you’re doing. But looking back where the dark dots get connected, I probably I liked chemistry. I see myself as a chemist, but I my formal training my bachelor’s and PhDs in electrical energy engineering, and I kind of switched back and forth between chemistry and electrical engineering. But looking back my first real project that I really loved to do was to build a pH meter when I was in elementary school so it was really interesting for me how you can turn a kick Kemp chemical composition chemical property into an electrical signal that he can you can measure that it was making the membrane I didn’t recognize never able I was never able to make the pH meter but it’s it was the passion that I really tried to do that and I have my own lab and everything. But again, it’s it’s just the that passion to turning chemic called property to electrical signals that looking back I can say that led me to to mass specs because down the road, I noticed that the most complex, probably system that I can work on is a mass spec. And from there, basically mass spec failed. It’s there’s a like informal saying that if you try it once you’re hooked to the end of your life and really famous, it’s something that’s really addictive. I don’t know what what it is be

Forrest Meyen  30:30

careful if you’re playing around with masback right. Yeah, because you’ll get addicted to buying all these circuit boards.

Mazdak Taghioskoui  30:38

Yeah, it is really addictive. And probably the reason for that is that there’s so many unsolved challenges that you just want to, like you can’t imagine yourself working for there’s, I can’t see an end to to the field of mass spectrometry, like probably like for computers, you can like the Moore’s law that eventually we’re going to limit people are pushing that. But for mass spec again, every day you find a new application every day you find a new technology. So also in mass spec, we have the Moore’s law, which basically they say every 20 year from probably a new analyzer is going to be made. And usually those people get Nobel prizes like the last one was Dr. Alexander Makarov who invented orbitrap, which basically gives this enormous resolution that he can probably resolve mass of like, 110 thousandth of a mass of a proton.

Forrest Meyen  31:37

Yeah, you’re gonna get in for a Nobel Prize someday?

Mazdak Taghioskoui  31:40

Not really. I’m just Yeah, no, I think it would be cool. But again, I’m, I’m just a poor guy in the lab, bricking my own stuff to to just enjoy the enjoy enjoy the science. But again, you never know.

Forrest Meyen  31:58

I just wanted to bring up your your story that was we talked about earlier, that was kind of funny. So what really what really drove you to come study in the United States?

Mazdak Taghioskoui  32:11

It’s Yeah, back then I had no idea. But again, it’s the quality of higher education that’s robbing us. It’s like, these types of things you can’t do in probably any other place on the planet, like the most important thing is just these the infrastructure, the infrastructure in the US that from, from the shipping companies, to, to suppliers to all of them, they’re really working hard for you to be able to achieve something, again, like make master Digi key FedEx ups, it’s like, all of these, like, together lets you just focus on what you’re doing and not worry about anything. So usually, whatever, when I order, I can have it on hand like the next morning at 10am. And that’s a luxury that I don’t think he can find in any other place on the planet.

Jonathan  33:03

I suppose that does speak to the idea of of how best for building a scientific instrument or an a company around it is how to do the rapid prototyping of this. And there may be listeners who are thinking like, Okay, well, where did you get this lab? How do you How does one, build this kind of stuff? And what kind of environment? So could you elaborate on where you’re based right now

Mazdak Taghioskoui  33:30

mess, your trees matters is based in green town labs. And again, one of the great things in being in the US is being in Massachusetts, that he sees so many, like minded people, many like state run resources, and like, again, the ecosystem as just, it’s something that the only limitation is your time that he can, you can have access to everything. It’s really always you’re short on time. And greentown Labs has been a like a really game changer for us. Because here we have a machine shop, we have Steve, who is a physics department of Harvard, he comes here to help us in machining. Basically, we have a CNC, we have 3d printers, so we have all the resources and then we can just go and focus on what what we’re making. And that that is something that I haven’t seen anywhere else that in greentown Labs, also you get your prototyping or on prototyping space that you can really start doing like hardcore prototyping.

Forrest Meyen  34:36

So one of the challenges that a lot of you know, tough tech startups have is, you know, basically getting enough funding to, you know, to create their idea and to get it into market before just running out of cash and going bankrupt or something. And I think it’s interesting because it seems like you’ve kind of bootstrapped your whole operation can Can you talk more about, you know, your strategy that you’ve been taking for your company to get get things to market?

Mazdak Taghioskoui  35:05

Yeah, that’s a good question again, because probably, its funding these days, it’s, it’s not that easy. Well, there’s good and bad to this, because there’s lots of VC money available that he can, you can just approach them and be able to raise money, but that on its own, it’s a full time job. So if you want to do that he can focus on on the actually doing the work. So mostly, I’ve focused my efforts in working with NASA, and fortunately, with NASA, and like many, unlike many government agencies, it’s really, you need to know them, and you need to know their needs. And then you can really work with them on like, like NIH, or NSF, NASA is an end user, so they need the technology, they just don’t fund the like, projects and and as a grant to for for public good. So that’s why I decided to just focus my efforts on to working with NASA. And one reason for that is that they miss the probably make the best math space. Like if you buy a mask from thermo, probably every month, you have to call them for service. But in NASA, they make mass space descent in space after like five years still there. They’re getting data from that mass spec. So part of the the vision for footrace matter is to learn from NASA to be able to commercialize those great technologies and also in the in the process, make technologies for for NASA to make it the mutual mutually beneficial relationship. But the funding situation again, it’s it’s been tough, and it’s it’s really just all these proposals would. Again, the problem is that it really requires work, you have to focus like cuvees, three weeks up to two months on a proposal and funding rate is like probably 10% 20%. So you really, really need to be kind of focus your efforts to make sure that you don’t you don’t didn’t waste any time, which is your most valuable commodity.

Jonathan  37:31

Are you seeing that, that with device instrumentation, whether it’s publicly funded, privately funded, that there’s going to be that there is a shift now as we’ve gotten getting more comfortable with digitization, automated automated automation, even Internet of Things that these different kinds of drivers are coming together to really transform the way that that we as humans are building scientific instruments to make science go faster to make it more applicable for for the engineers who want to just to build stuff? Are you seeing some sort of shift because of that with trace matters being at the forefront for the mass spec?

Mazdak Taghioskoui  38:16

I think so it’s been really slow, like the change that he’s seen the world, it’s in the scientific instrumentation, especially mass spectrometry, it’s like you’re just starting to see that and it’s it’s really the momentum is not that great. So, one of the areas that mass spectrometry has really exploded is and then the field of proteomics, which we kind of also hoping to use a spy on for that and that is for the analysis of proteins. And so that you can you can basically by studying the proteins you can you can tell like you can gather valuable information. And there has been a huge momentum for the for the machine learning and AI side because these are coms really complex data that is being produced with mass spec. But other than that, basically, the hardware is not, there’s not improving. And the reason for that is because again, it’s not trivial to make a mass spec and usually if it’s working, just people just use that. Sure,

39:25

but the

Mazdak Taghioskoui  39:27

momentum is is not created yet. But I think there’s it’s going to come to this fail at some point.

Forrest Meyen  39:35

So you’re kind of using NASA to get back to the path of your company, kind of using NASA to help fund your company and get you further along in ways that you know, also grow your commercial interests. What it what do you view is your beachhead market like when this thing’s ready, and you start selling it? Who are you going to sell it to? Is it the brain surgeons or is that the first group

Mazdak Taghioskoui  39:59

that I know Actually, I probably that’s going to be the last group, because probably you probably can imagine that being a medical device, even like a simple like, really a simple thing takes years. So, basically, our target is at this point that like security market, because, for example, probably have seen at the airports, they use AI and mobility. So the next generation is mass spectrometry. So that’s one market or the market is in food analysis and pharma companies that basically they need the point of point of point analysis, and that’s very spy on is very powerful. And hopefully, first, we’re going to go in in those applications. And then by matching the technology, eventually, we’re going to build a very robust prototype for the medical field. How do

Jonathan  40:51

you think about tech roadmaps in terms of like when when your device supports so many different industries? And and acknowledge that like, okay, a medical device, but to get it registered as a medical device would take a long time. But how do you how do you use the the stuff that you’re learning from, say, working with NASA to inform and improve the, like spy on overall so that it could you could go after food and medical down the road?

Mazdak Taghioskoui  41:20

Yeah, I should also add that he also got into this radix program for COVID. detection. And again, we partnered with Harvard, and we submitted a proposal to this radix program. And we were not selected for for the the one that’s going to be deployed by the end of summer. But they gave us a chance to prove the technology for an a one year program. So you never know, it’s like, if you did help a radix. Because of because of the need, it might happen sooner. The medical market is it’s usually it’s difficult because of all the standards or regulations in FDA, which is good, which is good, because you don’t want to just harm the patient, and you want to make sure everything is under control.

Forrest Meyen  42:11

So do you have any any advice for your younger self, like maybe when you started dabbling with mass spec?

Mazdak Taghioskoui  42:20

Yeah, it was probably I was kind of young and naive that you think that this is this is easy, I can make it in a day. Looking back, the difficulties that I’ve seen, it’s scary, like having a startup and how probably, we call it tough tech. So it’s really tough. It’s not easy, because of funding, the technology, everything is working against you. So you have to be really persistent. You have to really love what you’re doing. So whenever I’m in the lab working on something I even forget to eat. All of a sudden, like, ah, it’s 8 at night. You need to have that passion, otherwise, you’re going to quit, you’re going to run out of money, your technology… the chances that it’s not going to work is much higher than you get it to work because again, these are complex technologies that people like universities have decades to find something new. You need to really love what you’re doing. If you don’t love it, you’re going to quit because it’s difficult. It’s difficult. It’s not easy. But again, it’s the joy that you can get when something is working. It’s so much that you can just work for two years non stop and all of a sudden something is working and you feel really, really good. That’s also another perk that you get working on tough tech.

Forrest Meyen  44:17

Yeah, that’s pretty powerful.

Jonathan  44:20

Yeah, it is. And it’s a challenging and, dare I say, self-selected responsibility to be working at the frontier of science and engineering on the small but nonzero chance that it could work and it can really make a difference for for the medical community for space exploration and so many other fields in between. Maz, thank you so much forcoming on the show.

Mazdak Taghioskoui  44:44

No, thank you, guys. Thank you for having me!

Forrest Meyen  44:48

Thanks for joining us on this episode of Tough Tech Today. If you enjoyed listening to the podcast, please leave a five star review. And if you enjoyed watching it on YouTube, please like and subscribe. In two weeks, we sit down with Caleb Carr of Vita Inclinata Technologies and discuss his load stabilization technology for helicopters and even cranes. Stay tough!

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