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April 15, 2015

The 21st century mouthguard is being built in Washtenaw County


by JON ZEMKE for Concentrate Media

Innovation in a medical office

Not all of the biotechnology being developed by local startups spins out of universities. The mouthguard developed and marketed by Akervall Technologies is coming from a local medical practice.
Dr. Jan Akervall, a local ear, nose and throat specialist, first started playing around with the idea of building a better mouth guard about a decade ago when he couldn't find a suitable one on the market. The result was a thin-yet-tough mouthguard made of non-compressible, perforated material. It is 30 percent stronger than conventional mouth guards.
The SISU Mouth Guard is marketed toward athletes as a stronger alternative that is both lighter and less obstructive that traditional mouth guards. SISU is a popular word in Finland that roughly translates to "determination, strength, resilience." 

Akervall Technologies also recently released the SOVA mouth guard which is designed for people who grind their teeth in their sleep. The company is now working on a mouth guard that can be used for patient during oral surgeries and a new mouth guard made of reactive material.

"We call is the first reaction mouth guard," says Sassa Akervall, CEO of Akervall Technologies and Dr. Jan Akervall's wife. "It reacts on impact. It's like a safety belt for your teeth."

Akervall Technologies was built out of the basement of the Akervalls' Ann Arbor home for its first seven years. The company reached a staff of eight people before it took its first office in Saline this spring. Now it's doing everything from research and development in its own wetlab (it's also doing a study in conjunction with the University of Michigan School of Denistry to manufacturing and packaging the item in an adjacent light industrial space.

Akervall Technologies recently signed a co-branding agreement with Reebok and a few other companies. It cleared $900, 000 in revenue last year and is on track to make $1.5 million in revenue this year. The company recently hired six people and has expanded its R&D team to three scientists and one assistant scientists with plans to add more people soon.

"We have all this talent," Sassa Akervall says. "We can do it in-house. Why would we send that work out to a lab? We're looking to help create more jobs here."

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