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Kentucky SBIR match awardee Signal Solutions revolutionizes animal research with non-invasive technology

Lexington-based Signal Solutions is utilizing Kentucky’s SBIR/STTR match program to develop technology that will advance epilepsy research by reducing the time and expense required to conduct animal studies.

The company was started by two University of Kentucky professors – Bruce O’Hara (biology) and Kevin Donohue (engineering) – who developed a simple way for researchers to assess sleep in mice and rats. Traditionally, this was done with surgery or time consuming manual observations.

 The professors created a not invasive solution. Their device is called PiezoSleep.

“While we had great success in the development of this technology for ourselves and several collaborators around the world, it was difficult to develop a more commercially viable system with consistent hardware and software – and difficult to get others to accept a new technology,” O’Hara said. “We overcame these difficulties by bringing in additional expertise in these areas and convincing some high-profile early adopters to use our PiezoSleep system, which allowed us to grow by word of mouth, publications, and eventually grow into a ‘real’ company.”

This technology, created and developed in Kentucky, could also make it easier to study the effects of other disorders on rodents in a laboratory setting. It is another success story of the Commonwealth’s SBIR/STTR match program – which provides non-dilutive funds to develop innovative ideas within the state.

“The Kentucky match is a great added incentive for researchers to establish companies here in Kentucky and/or expand their research in new innovative areas,” O’Hara said. “The greater flexibility of the matching funds can be helpful in many areas.”

O’Hara also recognizes the talent that can be found throughout Kentucky’s excellent university ecosystem, saying that the state has a culture of helping each other to build things.

“Our company has greatly benefitted from this spirit and culture of Kentucky, through multiple rounds of growth, in good times and in more difficult periods,” O’Hara continued.

As for advice, O’Hara says to be realistic, plan well, and get collaborators in the loop early to formulate and map out goals.

“Things change, so be ready to adapt and pivot when opportunities or challenges change the course,” he said.

Kentucky offers beginning-to-end support when applying for SBIR|STTR funds, so what are you waiting for? Reach out to KY Innovation and let’s get started today!


The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) | Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are known as America’s Seed Fund. They provide vital non-dilutive capital in the form of grants and contracts for promising technologies, while allowing founders to maintain their intellectual property.

Kentucky is a national leader in maximizing SBIR/STTR, both supporting entrepreneurs through the application process and providing matching funds through its SBIR|STTR Match Program. To learn more about SBIR|STTR, click here; to learn more about Kentucky’s matching funds, click here; to view KY Innovation’s SBIR|STTR 101 Series, click here; to get in touch with KY Innovation, email us at



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