Four startups founded on inventions based on University of Arizona research made their pitches recently at an accelerator in one of the nation’s epicenters for technology and entrepreneurship: Silicon Valley.
The audience consisted not only of a live crowd at the TechCode offices. The pitches also were livestreamed to TechCode network locations around the world, including China, South Korea, Israel and Germany.
Companies that joined the event to hear UA startups tell their stories included Amgen Ventures, Life Science Angels, BCG Ventures and others.
Tech Launch Arizona partnered with TechCode to plan and execute the event in collaboration with TechCode investment director Ted Kraus. Kraus graduated from the UA in 2003 with a bachelor's degree in finance and entrepreneurship, and he now serves as a volunteer Commercialization Partner for TLA.
"We've now opened the network," Kraus said. "This is what it takes — bringing startups together with lots of investors. I'm looking forward to more of this with Tucson and the UA."
In recent years, the UA has greatly increased its dedication to, and activity in, commercializing inventions stemming from research, and it is garnering recognition as a leader in this area across the nation. One of the areas of focus for Tech Launch Arizona, the UA office focused on the work of commercialization, is the creation of high-quality, investable startups.
"We appreciate the hospitality and support of TechCode as we bring interesting UA biomedical technology to our friends in Silicon Valley and throughout the world," said David Allen, vice president of TLA.
In fiscal 2016, TLA launched 14 startups — more than any previous year in UA history — and is on track to break that record again in 2017.
Each company delivered a 10-minute presentation, followed by five minutes of questions and answers. Those that made presentations included:
- Regulonix, commercializing small molecule inhibitors for chronic pain, co-founded by Drs. May Khanna and Rajesh Khanna of the UA College of Medicine, and Dr. Vijay Gokhale, director of computer-aided drug discovery at the UA's BIO5 Drug Discovery and Development Center.
- Reglagene, offering a DNA quadraplex master switch to turn off cancer genes, with team members Dr. Laurence Hurley of the College of Medicine, Richard Austin and Gokhale.
- BDiAB, or "Big Data in a Box," a platform for the analysis of big health care data, with team members Dr. Marvin Slepian of the UA College of Medicine and Engineering, Dr. Fuad Rahman, John Jackson and Mehari Gebrekidan.
- Avery Therapeutics, offering a beating heart graft, with team members including Dr. Steven Goldman of the UA Sarver Heart Center and Drs. Jordan Lancaster and Jen Koevary.
Lancaster, who delivered the pitch for Avery Therapeutics, said going through this experience with all four teams was invaluable.
"It shows depth beyond the pool of people we work with on a daily basis," he said. "We're all part of one cohort and we're learning from each other. I'm building a network of people I can work with in the future."
Mike Sember formerly lived in Silicon Valley and now serves as a TLA mentor-in-residence, helping coach and build UA startups.
"It's a real testament to TLA and the UA to bring these four companies out here to Silicon Valley," he says. "This just hasn't been done before. We've improved the process, and now we're seeing the fruits of that work."
Said Allen: "Capital is fluid, but information about interesting deals does not reach all sources of capital. This event is one of many road shows TLA will pursue to help UA-created startups reach sources of capital."