ApoGen receives $7 million investment for cancer therapy

Researcher in a lab

A University of Minnesota startup recently attracted a major investment to support continued development of drug therapies that make cancer treatments more effective.

ApoGen Biotechnologies Inc., launched in October 2014, announced last month that it had received $7 million from life science investment firm Accelerator Corporation to continue developing a new class of drugs that slows the evolution of cancer cells and to move these treatments toward clinical trials. ApoGen is based on discoveries by two U researchers: Reuben Harris, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysics; and Daniel Harki, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicinal chemistry. John Santini Jr., Ph.D., is the company’s president and CEO.

Cancer therapies often become less effective over time as cancer cells become resistant to treatment. ApoGen’s drugs are designed to block a key enzyme that causes drug resistance, potentially making current and future treatments more effective. Continue reading

Two U startups named among “Best University Startups 2016”

Sun shining over city street

Two University of Minnesota startups received national recognition today for their potential to create jobs, advance technology and meet societal challenges in industry and the environment.

Innotronics and Minnepura, both launched by the U’s Venture Center, were named among the 35 “Best University Startups 2016” by the National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer (NCET2), an association of university startup officers. The startups were chosen from a group of 200 submitted companies launched by universities across the U.S.

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New startups take on societal challenges in health, environment

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When it comes to finding solutions to some of the largest challenges facing society today, research and innovation are some of the best tools available.

The University of Minnesota’s 10-year strategic plan, Driving Tomorrow, lays out the role that cutting-edge University research will play in addressing the grand challenges that face Minnesota, the U.S. and the world. The plan highlights how innovative research conducted by interdisciplinary teams can lead to new solutions that help society succeed in finding ways to feed the world sustainably, foster just and equitable communities and more.

The focus on the five Grand Challenges is growing throughout the University’s research endeavors, and its startup enterprise is no exception. Fiscal year 2016 saw another record number of startups launched, and several of these companies are working to implement promising new discoveries that connect to these priorities.

Below, Inquiry highlights two new startups that are further developing U research to create solutions in the Grand Challenges areas of advancing health through tailored solutions and assuring clean water and sustainable ecosystems.

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Venture Center launches record 17 startups in FY16

The University of Minnesota announced today that it launched a record 17 startup companies over the past year based on discoveries and inventions by its researchers.

Launching new companies is one of the primary ways the University turns cutting-edge research discoveries into commercial products that fuel the economy and contribute to the public good. The 17 startups include 14 in Minnesota, with 13 of them in the Twin Cities metropolitan area and one in Duluth.

The FY16 record follows a milestone accomplishment in early June, when the University’s Venture Center announced it had launched its 100th startup since its founding 10 years ago, with 82 percent of those companies still active. A part of the Office for Technology Commercialization, the Venture Center matches intellectual property resulting from university research with experienced CEOs to provide a platform for that research to reach the public.

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U launches 100th startup company to commercialize technology

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The University of Minnesota announced today that it has launched 100 startup companies over the last 10 years based on technology developed through University research.

The 100 startups, which have been launched since the Venture Center was formed in 2006 as part of the Office for Technology Commercialization, mark a milestone in the University’s efforts to assist faculty and staff in forming new companies to commercialize their inventions. Launching new companies is one of the primary ways the University turns research discoveries into commercial products that fuel the economy and contribute to the public good.

“The University of Minnesota is committed to connecting our researchers to experienced entrepreneurs and to innovative programs, transforming extraordinary discoveries into the birth of 100 companies,” said University President Eric Kaler. “We are proud of our remarkable and ongoing contributions to Minnesota’s innovation culture and entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

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Seminar series: Launching startups around U research

Interested in expanding the impact of your research, but unsure how to make it happen?

An upcoming event series hosted by the University of Minnesota’s Venture Center will help researchers demystify the process of launching a startup company to bring their discoveries beyond the lab and into the marketplace. The Venture Center, part of the Office for Technology Commercialization, invites University faculty, staff, postdocs and grad students who are involved in research to attend these free events.

“Startups are a great way for University researchers to bring their inventions to life,” said Russ Straate, associate director of the Venture Center. “These seminars allow them to understand what their role is in launching a new company around their technology and give them the knowledge they need to help the whole process go smoothly.” Continue reading

Research leads to record 16 startups in FY15

Bright Ideas

Technology commercialization transforms the latest breakthroughs into everyday solutions that improve our health, environment and quality of life.

At the University of Minnesota, researchers are developing inventions that aim to tackle some of society’s greatest challenges. In fiscal 2015, the Venture Center at the U’s Office for Technology Commercialization formed a record 16 startup companies around these inventions, topping the previous record of 15 companies in 2014 and bringing the total number of startups launched to 84 since the Venture Center formed in 2006.

“It is exciting to see university research leave the lab and be applied on a larger scale to solve societal problems,” said Brian Herman, Ph.D., the U’s vice president for research. “By bringing these ideas to market, the U is helping to spur entrepreneurial activity and advance Minnesota’s economy, strengthening its competitiveness in key industries and creating the basis for new ones.” Continue reading

Discovery Capital bringing U discoveries to market

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For startup companies strapped for funds, making it to product launch can take a long time. Most get there in three to five years, but for others it can take longer, even a decade.

The University of Minnesota’s new Discovery Capital Investment Program will help accelerate the process of turning breakthrough research into a commercially available product by providing startups the seed funding needed in the highly critical early stages. The program, part of the Office for Technology Commercialization, will invest up to $350,000 in qualifying startup companies formed from university technology that are currently developing their product or service. The amount must be matched by an equal or greater investment from an outside investor and approved by the U’s Discovery Capital board of advisers.

“We’re excited to launch this first-of-its-kind program in response to a shifting startup environment where seed-stage funding plays a growing role,” said Brian Herman, the U’s vice president for research. “The Discovery Capital Investment Program shows the U is committed not only to advancing knowledge and transforming the resulting breakthroughs into real-world improvements, but also to supporting entrepreneurship for the benefit of our community and Minnesota as a whole.” Continue reading

How to create a successful startup – a university’s perspective

Idea concept

Since 2006, the University of Minnesota has created 67 startup companies and of those, only 18 percent are no longer in business. Compared to the national average, that’s pretty low. (Research out of the Harvard Business School says about 75 percent of all startups will fail.) And yet, universities provide a unique environment that may contribute to a greater likelihood of startup success. Here are three key ingredients that help to create startup companies with long-term viability.

World class technology

Research universities are knowledge-generating institutions that provide the ideal platform to pursue discoveries. The University of Minnesota has a long history of producing cutting-edge research and innovation in energy, life sciences, medical devices software, agriculture, food science, engineering and other industries. The U is home to such groundbreaking inventions as the pacemaker, the AIDS drug Ziagen and the flight data recorder.

Inventions that originate in a university lab continue to benefit from ongoing research and can be continually refined. Since university-developed technology is typically in a very early stage of development, it needs significant market-based input and improvements before it can be commercialized via a startup. Information gained from the lab and the marketplace is shared and leads to a better product in the long run. Continue reading