June 1, 2011

High-energy thin-film polarizers are among Precision Photonics' products.

Chris Myatt ’91 had the perfect ingredients for a startup – a good idea, a spare room and a lawyer-partner – wife Sally Hatcher ’91. The couple founded Precision Photonics, which specializes in precision optical components, in Boulder, Colorado, in 2000. The telecommunications boom was at its peak, so the timing seemed right.

“We started as a telecom business. When the bubble burst in 2001, 70 percent of our customers went out of business and those remaining weren’t spending money,” says Hatcher, who earned undergraduate degrees in philosophy and history from SMU and a J.D. from the University of Colorado. “It took ‘enduring perseverance’ to keep going.”

The little company that could gradually morphed into a successful “specialty optics shop,” Hatcher explains. “We improve the performance of lasers used in almost any industry: the medical field, in aerospace and even large industrial lasers that precision-cut materials in factories.”

While retooling the company’s focus, Myatt, who holds undergraduate degrees in math and physics from SMU and a Ph.D. in atomic physics from the University of Colorado, became interested in medical testing equipment. His “little side science project” has grown into a separate business: MBio Diagnostics.

Myatt developed a portable, affordable device for blood tests that is ideally suited for use in emerging nations where small clinics rarely have diagnostic equipment. Next month field trials of the device will begin Kenya.

“Getting results in minutes for a battery of tests, rather than waiting days or even weeks, can make a huge difference in outcomes,” Hatcher says.