Global startup summit taps Zymtronix as challenge finalist

Cornell startup Zymtronix – an industrial biotech company serving the pharmaceutical, food, agricultural and chemical industries – has been selected as a challenge finalist at the Hello Tomorrow 2020 global summit, March 11-13 in Paris.

The Hello Tomorrow group scouts the world for cutting-edge technology applied in the digital, quantum physics, biology, biotech and new-material realms.

“Hello Tomorrow is the equivalent of the Olympic games for ‘deep tech’ startups,” said Stéphane Corgié, CEO of Zymtronix, which is housed in Cornell’s McGovern Center.

“This is huge for us. This is huge for Cornell University,” Corgié said. “Deep technologies are challenging to translate from the lab into commercialization.

 

It starts with big ideas that can change the world, patents to protect those ideas, a demonstration of those ideas and execution to make those ideas into marketable products.”

Evaluating more than 5,000 applications from startup technology companies, Hello Tomorrow selected 80 finalists in 14 categories. Corgié will be among those finalists giving a three-minute pitch at Cent Quatre, Paris, to an audience of investors, representatives from major corporations, researchers, other startups and technology media.

Pitch winners in each of the 14 categories will get 10,000 euros (approximately $11,000). Those top pitchers then will make a one-minute final pitch. From there, the ultimate winner will receive 100,000 euros (approximately $110,000).

Zymtronix was selected as only one of six technology pioneers in industrial biotechnology, placing it in the top 2% of all applications from around the world. This is the first Cornell technology group selected for Hello Tomorrow’s final round.

“This is a chance for Zymtronix to be on a global stage, to network with global companies and share our work with some of the biggest entities in these industrial segments,” said Marie Donnelly, Ph.D. ’13, the bioengineering lead for Zymtronix.

Incorporated in 2013 by founders Corgié and Juan Diego Alonso, JD-MBA ’14, Zymtronix has since leveraged Cornell’s patents to provide materials and processes for cost-effective enzyme stabilization to enable green production methods. The company serves the pharmaceutical, agricultural, chemical, fragrances, and food, flavor and beverage industries.

Zymtronix’s adaptable materials allow precise control of enzyme performance. Similar to how wet sand can be formed into castles, Zymtronix metamaterials and enzymes can form structures that trap the enzymes in order to maximize productivity for industrial processes by making them reusable. These enzyme scaffolds can be adopted by manufacturers to produce ingredients for pharmaceutical, flavoring, fragrance, food, beverage and agricultural applications.

Last week, Zymtronix announced a strategic agreement with Tate & Lyle PLC, a British-based food ingredient manufacturer, for developing new ingredients, scaling-up and manufacturing.

“Pitching at Hello Tomorrow is fantastic recognition that we have been taking the right steps toward production at an industrial scale,” Corgié said.

Nerve-healing startup Renerva joins McGovern incubator

Renerva, a medical startup that is developing an injectable gel to speed the healing of damaged nerves and creating an off-the-shelf nerve-graft product that may spare patients life-long disability, has joined Cornell’s McGovern Center life sciences business incubator.

The company was formed concurrently at Cornell and the University of Pittsburgh.

“We’ve developed a novel way of manipulating nerve repair and improving the recovery of nerves,” said Jonathan Cheetham, associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine and chair of the company’s scientific advisory board.

“Other technology has focused on the late stages of nerve healing,” Cheetham said. “What we’re doing is trying to influence the early part of nerve healing that may lead to improved nerve function outcomes for patients down the road.”

Renerva’s first product, Peripheral Nerve Matrix, is an injectable hydrogel derived from porcine tissue that acts like a scaffold. It supports nerve-cell growth and tissue formation, said Bryan Brown, Renerva’s chief technology officer and an associate professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a former Cornell postdoctoral researcher.

Millions of people in the U.S. suffer from peripheral nerve injuries or problems, and peripheral nerve regeneration is slow and not always complete, Brown said.

“Acute nerve injuries don’t heal well, so more than half of the patients have unsatisfactory outcomes,” he said. “This is a material that can be injected into the nerve – after a surgical repair – to speed and enhance the recovery, improve a patient’s quality of life and help them heal faster.”

Renerva’s second product, which could offer surgeons an “off-the-shelf” nerve graft that restores motor and sensory function, is in development. It could spare patients complications, discomfort and loss of function associated with nerve autografts, according to Lorenzo Soletti, Renerva’s president and chief executive officer.

“Renerva epitomizes the research nature of Cornell,” said Lou Walcer, director of the McGovern Center. “The company uses University research and technology, and it is extending that technology to help patients alleviate problems and pain. This is quite exciting.”

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense provided $2.4 million through a Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium award to Renerva to complete a preclinical program and begin human trials. Additionally, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health awarded $500,000 to accelerate development of the company’s products.

Peripheral Nerve Matrix is expected to enter clinical trials this year.

Source: https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2020/01/nerve-healing-startup-renerva-joins-mcgovern-incubator

Two McGovern Center startups graduate from incubator

With a pinch of pomp and circumstance, Cornell’s McGovern Center life sciences business incubator recently graduated two companies – Bactana Corp. and Conamix.

“Entrepreneurship is a part of Cornell’s founding mission as New York state’s land-grant university – [where researchers can] discover and disseminate knowledge for the benefit of people across the state and beyond,” Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff said Sept. 24 at the McGovern graduation ceremony.

Conamix’s Charles Hamilton speaks about his company at the McGovern Center’s graduation.

“With the aid of venture development and incubation, entrepreneurs are putting research and inventions to good use,” Kotlikoff said. “Conamix and Bactana were both selected by the McGovern Center for the excellence of the science behind their products, their potential for commercial success and the potential benefits to society.”

Bactana, steeped in Cornell veterinary research, is developing products for companion animals to improve digestive health and for livestock to increase feed efficiency and weight gain while reducing morbidity and mortality. The company originally explored the benefits of their naturally occurring bacterium by introducing them into livestock to stave off disease and promote healthy growth.

For decades, antibiotics have been used liberally to promote growth and prevent disease in livestock throughout the United States and around the world.

Rodrigo Bicalho, Ph.D. ’08, associate professor of dairy production medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine and chief scientific officer at Bactana, said that because loading livestock with antibiotics contributes significantly to human antibiotic resistance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration implemented the Veterinary Feed Directive, created by the Animal Drug Availability Act of 1996. This bans antibiotics from being administered to livestock as a precaution.

John Kallassy, MBA ’03, Bactana’s chief executive officer, said as livestock producers seek new and cost-effective alternatives, Bactana’s breakthrough technology is ripe to fulfill this emerging demand.

In his remarks at the graduation ceremony, Kallassy said: “It takes a village to create a successful company. And if the McGovern Center was our village, Lou Walcer (director of the McGovern Center) is the mayor and he helped make important connections and navigate resources in and outside the Cornell community.”

Conamix produces advanced materials for rechargeable batteries – materials that can yield 30% to 50% more energy than current batteries. The company was founded by Charles Hamilton ’95, chief executive officer; Bart Riley, Ph.D. ’90, chief technical officer; and Tobias Hanrath, professor in Cornell’s Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; and it runs in part on technology developed by Hector Abruña, the Emile M. Chamot Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.

“Conamix simply wouldn’t exist in its current form without the partnership and support of Cornell and the McGovern Center every step of the way,” said Hamilton. “In fact, our very first funding was from the Cornell Technology Advancement and Maturation award.”

Conamix has garnered a $10 million investment from Volta Energy Technology Partners, Hegemon Capital, and from New York state’s Innovation Venture Capital Fund.

Rapid Lyme disease test may be available in late 2020

The drawn-out process for diagnosing Lyme disease could become a thing of the past – good news for the thousands of people each year who get the tick-borne illness.

A new detection test created by Ionica Sciences – located at Cornell’s McGovern Center life sciences incubator – has been sparked by a FuzeHub grant to begin moving from the laboratory bench into approvals, production and doctors’ offices.

Sarah Poole and Joel Tabb of Ionica Sciences examine samples incubating on a proprietary Lyme disease assay plate.

“For a long time, the medical community has wanted to detect Lyme disease directly, but the marker proteins are at very low levels and medicine has relied on tests of the body’s immune response – which sometimes takes weeks,” said Joel Tabb, president and co-founder of Ionica Sciences. “We have resolved this problem and can directly detect those markers in a very small blood sample. It’s a major breakthrough.”

Ionica Sciences, which joined the McGovern Center in 2014, has developed a serum-based assay called IonLyme that targets the blood protein Osp-A, which provides an active-protein “fingerprint” left behind by the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

If a patient’s skin shows a rash resembling a bull’s-eye, the body’s response to Lyme disease has started. But confirmation of the disease can take weeks, since the body’s immune response usually has not reached detectable levels yet. New and old infections cannot be differentiated.

The new test uses an aptamer (a single-stranded DNA molecule) that binds with the Lyme disease target protein. A clinician places a patient’s blood sample on a proprietary surface that reacts with the target protein, where its presence is determined using a surface-enhanced Raman scattering spectrometer.

“This test is capable of finding a Lyme disease infection or reinfection quickly,” said Omar Green, chief executive office and co-founder. “Once you are exposed to Lyme, the antibodies can be present for decades; and once you are positive, it’s almost impossible now to determine if you were infected last week, last month, last year or in the 1990s. Our test also will be able to differentiate a fresh infection from an old one – a test that isn’t available to clinicians today.”

Tabb and Green believe the test could be available to doctors by late 2020. Before that, Ionica Sciences must complete its test validation with samples from Lyme patients, and then transfer the test to a qualified laboratory partner to make it available to clinicians, Tabb said.

Nationally, the majority of Lyme disease cases occur in the northeastern United States; the disease also has a heavy presence in Wisconsin and Minnesota. In 2017, a total of 42,743 confirmed and probable cases of Lyme disease were reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tabb said this CDC total number is likely  an undercount, and there could be as many as 300,000 cases annually.

In 2017, Pennsylvania recorded the most confirmed and probable cases, at 11,900. New York was a distant second with 5,155 cases; New Jersey had 5,092.

Tick-borne diseases practically doubled from 2004-16, according to the CDC; Lyme disease accounted for 82% of all tick-borne cases.

“This is a strong proprietary test that can confirm Lyme disease and hunt for the proteins to determine if the disease is active,” said Lou Walcer, director of the McGovern Center. “This test will offer a valuable, certifiable service to doctors and their patients.”

FuzeHub is a non-profit organization that serves as the statewide New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership center, supported by Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation.

Source: https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2019/09/rapid-lyme-disease-test-may-be-available-late-2020#

McGovern Center Graduate EMBARK digs up $10M bones to end preventable disease in dogs

Biotech startup raises Series A funding to build out the world’s largest database of canine DNA for genetic disease research

Boston, MA (April 10, 2019)—Boston-based Embark Veterinary Inc., the world leader in dog genetics, announced today that it raised $10 million in Series A funding, a milestone that enables the young biotech company to build on its early consumer success and expand its research in canine health and genetic disease. Dog DNA has inherently fewer privacy concernsand dogs’ faster generation times can lead researchers to a more rapid pace of discovery thanpossible in human genetic studies. Canine DNA research, historically underfunded, is now nipping at the heels of human genetics research, with Embark leading the pack.

“Owners want to know all about their dogs – not just the breed, but the genetic markers thatcan shed light on possible diseases they may face in the future,” said Ryan Boyko, Embark’s CEOand co-founder. “Embark provides that critical information with comprehensive and accuratetesting that is unique in canine genetics. Some of the most common diseases found in dogs are genetic conditions – bladder stones, heart disease, and cancer can be traced genetically. This round of funding allows us to move faster to provide more information to existing customers while doubling down on research to ensure that all the dogs live healthier lives.” In 2018, Embark tripled its database, now numbering in the hundreds of thousands of canine DNA samples. It’s the only canine DNA test that looks at the dog genome with as much resolution as human DNA tests look at the human genome. Embark plans to use the funding to expand its team, doubling in size over the next year.

This round of funding was led by F-Prime Capital, with participation from previous investors including Slow Ventures, Section 32, Third Kind Venture Capital, Freestyle Capital, FJ Labs, and Anne Wojciciki, CEO of 23andme.

“Embark has rapidly made significant strides in canine health,” said Carl Byers, partner, F-PrimeCapital. “They’re a company founded by scientists who are combining scientific researchprinciples with an easy-to-understand consumer interface that is changing the way we approach caring for our dogs.” Embark’s Dog DNA Test consistently ranks highest in the marketfor dog DNA tests and is also used by thousands of dog breeders to make informed breeding decisions.

Founded in 2015 by brothers Ryan and Adam Boyko, in partnership with Cornell UniversityCollege of Veterinary Medicine, Embark uses a simple swab of a dog’s mouth to test for morethan 170 health conditions. Embark is the only canine genetics company that uses a research- grade DNA genotyping platform, similar to those that back human direct-to-consumer genetictests. “We took the approach that dogs are cherished family members, and deserve theaccuracy and health potential being created for people. So, we built a genetic test that provides accuracy and actionability for our customers. By doing this, we’re creating a genetic databasethat can make key veterinary discoveries possible like never before. Our customerssimultaneously improve the lives of their dogs today and every dog born in the future,” saidRyan Boyko.

Source: https://embarkvet.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/FINAL_Embark-Funding-Announcement-1-1.pdf

McGovern Center Graduate Sterifre Medical Announces the Successful Completion of its Series B Financing

KIRKLAND, Wash., July 29, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Sterifre Medical, Inc., today announced that it has officially raised $8 million in a Series B private equity round of financing. Sterifre had previously raised $12 million in a 2017 Series A offering, bringing total capital financing to $20 million to date. The company is commercializing a suite of products based on an innovative disinfection and sterilization technology to address the acute need for rapid, point-of-care device disinfection in healthcare facilities.

“Proceeds from the Series B financing will fund our initial commercialization in the U.S. Acute Care Market beginning early next year,” said Richard Shea, CEO of Sterifre. “We appreciate the ongoing support of our investment partners. This financing will enable the company to play a unique role in increasing staff and patient safety.”

Preventing healthcare-acquired infections is a key challenge for hospital staff. Handheld portable medical equipment can harbor pathogenic communicable organisms such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), Pseudomonas, Influenza, Staphylococcus Aureus, Clostridioides Difficile and other harmful bacteria, viruses and spores. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 31 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection, and more than one in 17 (98,000 patients) dies from them. In addition, the U.S. healthcare system spends billions each year battling these infections.  

Sterifre’s patented technology, called Aura™, is a compact one-touch system that treats multiple organisms on hard-surface items used in doctors’ offices and hospitals. A fully automated medical device disinfection system, it replaces manual processes that are frequently deployed incorrectly, damaging to equipment and ineffective.

A New Solution for Challenging Environments
The Instructions for Use published with point of care medical devices prescribe specific chemical disinfectants chosen for compatibility with each device’s surface materials. “Selecting the proper wipe-based chemical for a specific device in the fast-paced healthcare setting is challenging for any provider,” Shea explained. “Often the proper chemistry-based solution is not readily available at the point of use and a substitute is chosen strictly out of the need to complete the disinfection task.”

By adding the Aura system to Instructions for Use, Shea said, “medical device manufacturers help customers protect their equipment investment, automate the manual disinfection process and reduce environmental impact.”

Preventing Materials Issues Following Disinfectant Usage
Materials such as plastics compounds, glues and the coatings of display screens are susceptible to corrosion, cracking, fogging and general material destruction over repeated exposure to many commonly used chemical disinfectants. Yet, the various manual ‘wipes’ and sprays typically used to deliver these chemistries can be both very abrasive and corrosive. 

“Multiple studies have shown that the use of improper disinfectants results in Environmental Stress Cracking and premature device failure,” Shea noted. “These harmful effects can be virtually eliminated by using Sterifre’s Aura™ point of care system to disinfect these devices – while still achieving the appropriate EPA regulated pathogen kill.”

A New Approach to Rapid Disinfection
Aura enables the safe and effective use of Hydrogen Peroxide, the widely recognized microbicide, via a novel approach that does not damage the items being processed. This extends equipment’s useful life, delivers standardized disinfection without exposing users to chemicals and reduces the cost of infection control.

The company is actively pursuing registration with the EPA for common problematic pathogenic organisms found in the healthcare setting. Sterifre believes Aura will be the first technology of its kind to achieve full EPA approval.

Aura is a game-changer for infection control,” concluded Shea, the former CEO of Olympus Respiratory America, a leader in novel treatments for patients with severe COPD; and one of the founding executives of Stericycle Inc. (SRCL), a worldwide leader in infection control related products and services.

About Sterifre
Sterifre Medical, Inc., is a privately held medical technology company located in Kirkland, Wash., focused on commercializing innovative, cost effective, environmentally friendly approaches to protect patients and caregivers from the pathogenic organisms that contribute to complications associated with hospital acquired infections that result in more than 100,000 annual deaths. Find the company online at www.sterifre.com.

Source: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/sterifre-medical-announces-the-successful-completion-of-its-series-b-financing-300891982.html 

Ecolectro receives $1.7M from DOE to accelerate hydrogen fuel development

Kristina Hugar, Ph.D. ‘15, Ecolectro’s chief science officer, conducts research in the startup’s laboratory space at Cornell’s McGovern Center.

By Blaine Friedlander

A Cornell startup is working toward a day when harmful carbon dioxide in automobile exhaust vanishes into thin air – for good.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has granted $1.7 million to Ecolectro to accelerate production of hydrogen – a green fuel of the future. Ecolectro is based at the McGovern Family Center for Venture Development, a Cornell business incubator.

Hydrogen fuel is costly to produce because it requires the use of platinum, an expensive precious metal. The grant by the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy will support continued development of Ecolectro’s alkaline exchange membrane materials, used in fuel cells (with hydrogen as a fuel) to power automobiles and electrolyzers that separate water into hydrogen and oxygen.

As a fuel, hydrogen generates electricity to run vehicles, and the resulting exhaust is pure, clean water vapor. “Our company will be enabling clean ways of producing hydrogen today that will have an immediate impact on reducing carbon emissions. This grant is game-changing,” Rodríguez-Calero said.

The alkaline technology is simple, cost effective and well-suited to large-scale processing and production, said Rodríguez-Calero: “We will provide a simple and durable route to clean renewable electricity and hydrogen production.”

Ecolectro grew from collaborative research in the laboratories of Héctor D. Abruña, the Emile M. Chamot Professor of Chemistry, and Geoffrey W. Coates, the Tisch University Professor of Chemistry, both of whom serve as scientific advisers to the company. Both are fellows with Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

“Considering that we’re all facing climate change, we need to make this fuel a reality,” said Kristina Hugar, Ph.D. ’15, Ecolectro’s chief science officer. “But it’s not going to happen overnight. It will take hard work, thought processes and design.

“Our company is an enabling component,” she said, “and what we’re doing has the ability to just catapult this science from the laboratory into something that changes the world.”

Ecolectro will partner with Proton OnSite and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for this project. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will sponsor part of the project; the work has also received support from the National Science Foundation.

Source: https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2018/11/ecolectro-receives-17m-doe-accelerate-hydrogen-fuel-development

McGovern Center incubator graduates a trio of startups

The McGovern Center’s graduation ceremony in 2017

Cornell’s Kevin M. McGovern Family Center for Venture Development in the Life Sciences business incubator graduated three companies at a ceremony in Weill Hall Nov. 13. Embark, Lionano and Sterifre Medical join the McGovern Center’s previous two graduates, Agronomic Technology Corp. and ArcScan.

Provost Michael Kotlikoff gave the commencement address and conferred certificates. “Incubation in early stage technology companies is a proven model for increasing the success and sustainability of startups. And these young companies … bear this strategy out,” Kotlikoff said. “The three companies graduating today developed innovative products that reflect the breadth of exciting research going on at Cornell.”

Kotlikoff reminded the festive crowd: “The McGovern Center plays a special role in Cornell’s fulfillment of its mission as the land-grant institution to New York state. This mission dating back to the university’s founding is to develop and disseminate knowledge for the benefit of people across the state and across the country.”

New incubator alumni are:

Embark Inc., a dog DNA testing service, was founded by Ryan Boyko, the company’s chief executive officer, based on research by his brother, Adam Boyko, assistant professor in biomedical sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Through genetic testing and analysis, Embark offers pet wellness advice with comprehensive ancestry, morphological trait and genetic disease information for dog owners.

Lionano Inc. has developed a patent-pending, nano-engineered material for lithium ion batteries that improves charge capacity, extending battery life better than any material on the market today. It is environmentally friendly, cheaper and significantly safer than currently available materials. It was invented in the laboratory of Hector Abruña, the Émile M. Chamot Professor Chemistry and Chemical Biology, by Yingchao Alex Yu, Ph.D. ’14 and postdoctoral research associates Deli Wang and Weidong Zhou.

Sterifre Medical Inc. specializes in sterilization and decontamination. The company was founded by Czeslaw Golkowski, Ph.D. ’91. Using a “cold plasma” laboratory, medical and dental instruments can be sterilized at room temperature in half the time of autoclaves. A cell phone can be sterilized in about 10 minutes.

Also speaking at the ceremony were founding donor Kevin McGovern ’70; Emmanuel Giannelis, vice provost for research and vice president for technology transfer, intellectual property and research policy; and Jocelyn Rose, director of the Institute for Biotechnology and Cornell’s NYSTAR Center for Advanced Technology in Life Science Enterprise.

The McGovern Center incubator helps companies develop their products, build their business plans, and strengthen management teams to achieve self-sufficiency or receive investments, said Lou Walcer, the center’s director.

“All of these companies at one time were startups. All of these companies at some point were nothing more than a vision in the minds of their inventors and entrepreneurs,” Walcer said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to work with them, taking them pretty far forward. Now we have a triple graduation, indicating that the center is reaching its stride.”

Source: https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2017/11/mcgovern-center-incubator-graduates-trio-startups#