New sampling device created at UNMC gains investment boost

A UNMC startup company has announced a significant boost to its homegrown efforts at reinventing the painful and uncomfortable nasal swabs used for COVID testing.

University Medical Devices successfully closed a $1.6 million seed round of funding, which will fuel the company’s push to place its cornerstone device, MicroWash, into the hands of clinicians where it can potentially help patients everywhere.

Developed by a team of inventors in UNMC ‘s emergency medicine department — assistant professor Thang Nguyen, PhD, and department chair Michael Wadman, MD — MicroWash is nasal sample collection device that is far less invasive than the traditional swabs that gained notoriety.

“We’re incredibly proud of the University Medical Devices team,” said Michael Dixon, PhD, president and CEO of UNeMed, the technology transfer and commercialization office for UNMC. “Drs. Wadman and Nguyen are two of our most creative and inventive faculty members, and it’s great that others are now finally going to see what we’ve known for so long. They’re a great example of what can happen when you are focused on solving problems and helping patients.”

UNeMed worked with the inventors to secure additional development support for their technology, which ultimately led to the creation of the Omaha-based startup.

Although it was developed in response to the challenges posed during the COVID-19 pandemic, MicroWash could work in collecting samples for a number of viral infections, including flu, RSV and COVID. The device is a self-contained attachment that resembles a syringe without a needle. It contains a solution that is flushed into the nasal cavity with the plunger, then drains back into the device. The device is then capped and sent to the lab for testing.

A recent video using an earlier prototype demonstrates how the device works and can be viewed here.

“This collection system is especially crucial for higher-risk populations and a significant step toward mitigating the global impact of future pandemics,” University Medical Devices said in a press release.

The funding round, which began in March 2023 and closed in December, was led by Bright Minds Capital Partners, Invest Nebraska and leaders from AV Legacy Holdings LLC and University Medical Devices.

“Having our seed round close fully funded is a testament to investors’ belief in our concepts, recognizing we’re a trailblazer in how upper respiratory infection samples are collected for testing,” James Young, University Medical Devices founder and CEO, said. “It demonstrates confidence in UMD’s ability to impact national and global health security, as well as faith in our top-tier executive and inventor team.”


  1. Shelly Schwedhelm says:

    A practical easy less invasive way of collecting samples.
    Well done EM team!

  2. Laura Robinson says:

    Congratulations Drs. Wadman and Nguyen! So proud of the innovation and patient-focused creativity demonstrated here!

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