Los Alamos National Lab program announces 2024 fellows for ‘deep tech’ entrepreneurs

Fellows will collaborate with Lab scientists to perfect a life-saving surgical device, a fiber-optic fabric and a system for levitating in the mesosphere

February 7, 2024


The New Mexico Lab-Embedded Entrepreneur Program (New Mexico LEEP) announced the fellows in its 2024 cohort, launching now. Now in its third year, the Los Alamos National Laboratory program provides a two-year fellowship for entrepreneurs focusing on deep tech for national security.

“New Mexico LEEP is just one more way the Laboratory is a force for good in the spheres of community economic development and national security,” said Lab Director Thom Mason. “Deep-tech innovators in this new cohort are bringing new technologies to New Mexico, which they will develop and perfect with the help of Lab talent and technology.”

“Deep tech” refers to technological solutions to society’s biggest challenges including chronic disease, climate change and clean energy, space systems, and the need for next generation materials and computing. Deep tech is often pioneered by start-up companies with the freedom to be innovative but not the resources to take their technologies to the next level. Partnering with a national laboratory such as Los Alamos can help them move faster. 

More than 70 innovators from across the nation applied for the program last spring. The selection process consisted of rigorous evaluations from industry experts, investors and Lab scientists.

“We are seeing a strong growth of interest in our program, indicating the need for accelerated innovation in our target areas: advanced computing and artificial intelligence, advanced materials, space systems, energy transition and biotechnology,” said Duncan McBranch, program director of Entrepreneurship for Mission Innovation at the Laboratory.

  • Devin Fell of Sentiré Medical, developers of Perf-Alert, a monitoring system making laparoscopic surgery safer by detecting life-threatening bowel perforations.
  • Ilayda Samilgil of LLume, creators of Light Lace, a stretchy fabric equipped with fiber-optic sensors that measure the vital signs and physical performance of soldiers and athletes.
  • Benjamin Schafer of MicroAvionics, inventors of lightweight platforms that can levitate and carry payloads in the upper atmosphere without any power supply or moving parts.

Incoming fellows will interact with an experienced network of mentors and business resources, including Los Alamos Commerce & Development Corporation, and participate in a curriculum tailored to support high-tech business growth. Fellows are also paired with Laboratory scientists in a Cooperative R&D project to accelerate demonstration of a viable product.

Recent graduates of the New Mexico LEEP program are: 

  • Kam Wai "Cliff" Chan, OAM Photonics: Providing photonic sensing solutions for 3D imaging with applications in autonomous driving, drones and robotics.
  • Srikanth Kodeboyina, Blue Eye Soft: Building artificial intelligence models that predict satellite anomalies due to space weather events.
  • Kristina Trujillo, TNeuroPharma: Detecting and deterring Alzheimer’s disease using T-cells.

Second year New Mexico LEEP participants are: 

  • Yun Li of Filtravate Inc., which produces efficient, ultra-sensitive filters for biological and pharmaceutical applications.
  • Scott Ziegler of Space Kinetic, which is developing a new space-logistics technology to move payloads between different orbits around the earth.

Applications for the fourth New Mexico LEEP cohort open in late February 2024. For more information, visit nmleep.com.

Light Lace is a product in development from Llume. The stretchy fabric incorporates fiber-optic sensors that measure the vial signs of soldiers and athletes. Llume co-founder and CEO Ilayda Samilgil will work with Lab scientists for two years to perfect it.