Former OSU student makes professors research his business

By: 
Chris Day

Shoaib Shaikh’s cubicle in Oklahoma State University’s Riata Center for Entrepreneurship is tiny, but his business plans are huge.

Shaikh is co-founder and chief executive officer of Xplosafe, L.L.C., a company developing the commercial promise of two Oklahoma State University professors research into bomb detection and defusing.

It all started last year when Shaikh and two other students entered a business-plan competition, said Dr. Michael H. Moore, OSU professor and N. Malone Mitchell Entrepreneurship chair and head of the Department of Entrepreneurship.

“They are the first team ... that has come back and started a business in Stillwater. It’s being run at the Riata Center on campus,” Moore said.

It all started with that business plan, Shaikh said.

Drs. Allen Apblett and Nick Materer developed an nanotechnology-based ink that changes color when it detects a certain type of explosive and then neutralizes it, he said.

Apblett and Materer developed the environmentally-safe ink over eight years. The Oklahoma City-based Military Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism gave them a research grant.

The ink is dark blue, but turns yellow when it detects the vapors of an improvised explosive, Shaikh said. The ink doesn’t stop there, it uses nanotechnology to actually neutralize the bomb.

The three-person entrepreneurship team used the research to develop a business plan for a national competition. When the competition ended, Shaikh’s enthusiasm for the project didn’t fade, and Xplosafe was born.

Today, the product is more than ink. It comes in a crystal form, test strips and in tubes that prevent contamination of the source material, he said.

The product has military, homeland security and law-enforcement applications. It also may be useful in laboratories because some chemicals can explode as they degrade over time, he said.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol and Tulsa police bomb squads are testing the product, Shaikh said.

OHP Bomb Squad commander Capt. David Moffitt said his unit is satisfied with Xplosafe products.

“We have had an opportunity to test it and it does what they say it will do,” Moffitt said.

It helps the bomb squad identify unknown substances, he said, and helps bomb squad members identify the best way to handle the material.

Homeland Security has accepted Xplosafe products into its futureTECH program, Shaikh said.

The next step is finding more financial backing, and continue development and marketing, he added.

The university’s Technology Business Assessment Group awarded a $29,092 grant last week to Xplosafe to continue the commercial development of Apblett’s and Matterer’s explosive-detection ink. It was one of five faculty research projects that showed a strong potential for commercial success.

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