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A Company is Born!
Primis Technologies was born during a road trip to Boston last fall.

Engineering graduate students Anthony Hoffman and Scott Howard were driving up together for an academic conference when they came to the conclusion that their combined expertise and mutual respect was a firm basis for a start-up.

Upon returning, they recruited fellow graduate student Kale Franz and formed Primis in January 2007 to commercialize a new generation of low-cost, lightweight, exquisitely sensitive sensors made possible by advances in Mid-Infrared quantum cascade lasers.

Kale Franz, a member of the start-up Primis Technologies, displays a quantum cascade laser, the technology behind a new generation of sensor technology. With him are (from left) Scott Howard, Anthony Hoffman and their adviser Claire Gmachl.

Photo by Mark Czajkowski


The technology holds great promise because the same laser can be used for a wide range of applications, from detecting biological and chemical weapons to monitoring and diagnosing disease.

“There is this huge potential market and nobody is there to fill it — yet,” said Howard.

Last May, the National Science Foundation funded a new multimillion-dollar engineering research center at Princeton called MIRTHE, for Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment. The three graduate students are all affiliated with MIRTHE and also do laser research for Claire Gmachl, associate professor of electrical engineering and MIRTHE’s director, as part of a separate Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency grant.

Each of the three partners brings complementary expertise to the company. Franz offers a broad engineering background, Hoffman functions as the chief scientist, and Howard brings software modeling expertise.

“We can design lasers holistically, looking at every aspect that affects performance,” said Franz.

With MIRTHE's help, the graduate students have teamed up with a group of MBA students at Rutgers, who are fleshing out a business plan and marketing strategy for Primis.

Why are Franz, Hoffman and Howard starting the company now? “It would be hugely rewarding to get our technology out of the lab and into general use so that it makes an impact on society,” said Franz. Besides, he adds, “We’re young and we can and this is the time to do it.”