Newswise — A COVID-19 diagnostic tool invented at Texas Tech University is getting a big push into global markets.

EviroTech LLC announced today (May 7) a $4 million investment into the company by 1701 Ventures GmbH of Göttingen, Germany, which will allow EviroTech to complete the final design, production startup and market introduction of its Ultra-Fast COVID-19 detection sensor.

The Ultra-Fast COVID-19 detection sensor is a rapid and portable tool for COVID-19 diagnosis with the ability to sense the presence or absence of the virus SARS-CoV-2 in a saliva sample within seconds. The portability and speed of results makes this sensor a transformational diagnostic tool for rapid initial screening and continuous monitoring of an individual.

“This is a very exciting partnership that will accelerate access of the Ultra-Fast COVID-19 sensor worldwide,” said Gerardine “Gerri” Botte, who invented the sensor and founded EviroTech to commercialize it. A professor and Whitacre Department Chair in the Department of Chemical Engineering within the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering, Botte also is EviroTech’s chief technology officer.

She notes the presence of COVID-19 variants around the world will make the need for testing even more important going forward.

“We are more than excited to accompany EviroTech on this amazing journey,” said Felix Dossman, CEO of 1701 Ventures GmbH and a member of the EviroTech board of directors. “It is a rare opportunity to not just invest but help bring a product to life that will have such a big, positive impact for so many people.”

The entrepreneurial programs available through Texas Tech’s Innovation Hub at Research Park aided in the early growth and development of EviroTech. An initial $13,000 awarded through the Prototype Fund helped launch the startup. The company received $25,000 through the Presidents’ Innovation Award then became an Innovation Hub tenant. Participation in the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program provided $50,000 and helped EviroTech focus on its market fit.

“Texas Tech supports innovation and entrepreneurship of its faculty, staff, students and community,” said Kimberly Gramm, associate vice president for innovation and entrepreneurship. “EviroTech is a perfect example of how our West Texas innovation ecosystem helped reduce risk, validate the technology and ensure product-market fit, which resulted in its ability to quickly raise the necessary capital to enter the market. We have seen this team accelerate its growth and development over the past year, and we are extremely excited to see its growth and impact in the years to come.”

EviroTech is dedicated to the development of transformational technologies to combat infections and viral transmitted diseases. Electrochemistry is its core technical competency, with an approach that integrates electrochemical technology and biomedical engineering.

The Ultra-Fast COVID-19 sensor is an antigen-based electrochemical device, meaning it can detect SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins at an early stage of infection, unlike its antibody-based testing counterparts. The technology has been patented and EviroTech is seeking Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Dr. Botte’s innovative technology is a wonderful example of the impact higher education research has on global societal issues,” said Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec. “This valuable diagnostic tool was born in the research labs of Texas Tech University and raised in our very own entrepreneurial system. We are proud of the example Dr. Botte sets for our students and the manner in which she represents the institution through her groundbreaking research.”


About Gerardine “Gerri” Botte

Gerardine “Gerri” Botte joined the Texas Tech Department of Chemical Engineering in 2019. She has more than two decades of experience in the development of electrochemical processes and advanced water treatment systems, and is a visionary and recognized leader in electrochemical science and technology.

She has served in leadership roles for the International Society of Electrochemistry and currently serves as the third Vice President of the Electrochemical Society. She also is the Editor in Chief of the Journal of Applied Electrochemistry. In 2014, she was named a Fellow of the Electrochemical Society for her contributions and innovation in electrochemical processes and engineering. She became a Chapter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors in 2012. In 2010, she was named a Fellow of the World Technology Network for her contributions on the development of sustainable and environmental technologies.

Prior to Texas Tech, Botte was a University Distinguished Professor and Russ Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Ohio University, the founder and director of Ohio University’s Center for Electrochemical Engineering Research, and the founder and director of the Consortium for Electrochemical Processes and Technology, an industry university cooperative research center. Botte also is an entrepreneur; she has been involved in the commercialization of technologies and has founded and co-founded companies.


About the Innovation Hub at Research Park

This 40,000-square-foot facility is designed to be a resource for the faculty and students of both Texas Tech and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center as well as community members interested in launching new ventures. Texas Tech is a national research university, and the Innovation Hub at Research Park is critical to building the knowledge-based economy of West Texas through the development of innovators and entrepreneurs who solve society’s problems and develop innovations to make impact.