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New tenants in the Bioscience and Technology Business Center in Lawrence

November 11, 2010

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Here’s a look at the two newest tenants at the Bioscience and Technology Business Center.

BrightEHR has developed an electronic records system specifically for mental health centers. The mental health niche makes it rare in the growing electronic medical records industry, but its most unusual aspect is its ownership. The Lawrence-based Bert Nash Mental Health Center is one of the partners in the company.

Bert Nash — along with the Wyandot Mental Health Center in Kansas City and the Family Service and Guidance Center in Topeka — were using an electronic records program from a fledgling company. In 2009, when the company indicated it may move out of the medical records industry, Bert Nash along with the Topeka and Wyandotte centers each paid $50,000 to purchase the company in order to keep using the software.

“We wanted to keep the record system because it is the only one we’ve found that we really like,” said David Johnson, CEO of Bert Nash. “The decision was fairly simple because the amount of money we’ve put into the company is much less than it would cost us to switch to a new system.”

Johnson said a comparable system likely would have cost Bert Nash close to $500,000.

Once the three firms took over ownership, though, they began to wonder whether there was the potential to sell the software to other mental health centers. At that point, the Lawrence Regional Technology Center reviewed the company and became excited about its prospects.

The new company — which now has three employees — hired Lawrence resident Bob Etzel to serve as its CEO, and it moved into the incubator facility in October. Etzel, who is a former executive with Southwestern Bell, said the company has a bright future because about 90 percent of all patient records are still kept on paper.

“There’s a really strong need to get those records converted over to an electronic format,” Etzel said.

The company believes its software system has an advantage over others because it has been developed by actual mental health centers.

The project is not without risk, though. Bert Nash has had to invest another $300,000 into the company since its original $50,000 investment.

But Johnson said he still feels good about the decision. He said the $300,000 is expected to get the company to the point of making sales, and that the total amount is still less than he would have spent to buy a new system.

He also stressed none of the money has come from the city or county grants that Bert Nash receives. Instead, Bert Nash has an endowment that has been funded through private donations.

“At this point, we feel like the risks have been pretty limited and the rewards could be great if this takes off with a lot of sales,” Johnson said.

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Sunlite Science and Technology is looking to make the jump from a company that makes specialty LED flashlights to a major player in the $4.9 billion high-power LED lighting industry.

Jeff Chen, a founder of the company, said Sunlite has patented technology that reduces the heat output of high-power LED lighting, and ultimately increases the life expectancy of LED products.

The company, which has a manufacturing presence in China, is focusing on making lights for industrial users. The big selling point is that a 150-watt high power LED light can take the place of a 400-watt traditional industrial light.

The company actually has existed in Lawrence since 1997, but has made its living by selling specialty LED flashlights through the SnapOn company and to various security firms. Flashlight sales have grown to $1.2 million, but Chen said the company wants to get into traditional lighting as the incandescent light bulb appears destined to disappear.

“We think it could be a huge market,” Chen said.

The company has four full-time employees in Lawrence, but anticipates adding sales and marketing positions in the future.

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