The winners of a new business plan competition—five promising biotech startup companies—were recently announced by Albany Medical College and Siena College during a press conference at Albany Medical Center. OrthoGraft, a company founded in 2013 by Atharva Poundarik, Ph.D. ’13, a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies at Rensselaer, received the first-place prize. Rensselaer student Vincent Arena, vice president of Sanguine Diagnostics, which was founded by Dominic Gelfuso ’16, received the award for best presentation.
As part of the inaugural BACC Academy Biomedical Innovation Business Plan Competition, the startups received cash prizes totaling $25,000 and in-kind services based on business plans for innovative biomedical ventures presented to a panel of judges last December. The companies are working to bring their science from “bench to bedside to business,” and their novel products were presented publicly, some for the first time, in December.
The BACC Academy, an extension of the work of the Biomedical Accelerator and Commercialization Center (BACC) at Albany Medical College, is a collaboration of the Medical College and Siena College. The Academy, the region’s first-of-its-kind educational program, is focused on creating biotech entrepreneurs. Its inaugural class included biomedical researchers, a GE scientist, an intellectual property lawyer, a business executive, nurses, and medical and graduate students.
According to James Barba, president and CEO of Albany Medical Center, “The BACC Academy is giving some of the best and brightest in our region a way to take their ideas or startup companies to the next level or levels—great ideas that might have languished in the lab or on a computer but now are well on the road to helping make this region a center for biomedical innovation and fueling a growing sector of our economy.”
Rensselaer, through its Emerging Ventures Ecosystem (EVE), is a partner with AMC/BACC through the NYS Certified Business Incubator Program.
The award-winning companies are:
First Prize: Albany Medical College Innovation Award: OrthoGraft, founded in 2013 by Atharva Poundarik. Poundarik received $7,500 in cash for developing biomaterials that stimulate the regeneration of bone for patients with bone defects in the spine, extremities, and pelvis. The company’s products will be used for spinal fusions, a procedure that is performed over three million times annually, for patients suffering from degenerative disc disease.
iSimulate Best Bench-to-Business Award: Praxis Biotechnology Inc., founded in 2016 by Alejandro Adam, assistant professor at Albany Medical College, and ophthalmic surgeon Edward Wladis, M.D. Adam received $1,500 to continue development of Praxis’ drug treatment to reduce skin inflammation associated with rosacea. The condition affects an estimated 16 million people in the United States alone.
KeyBank Best Science Award: RiboDynamics LLC, co-founded by Rebecca Rose, postdoctoral associate at the University at Albany, and her adviser, Dan Fabris. Rose received $3,500 in-kind space at the BACC for her novel software that creates unique signature profiles of organisms and has the potential to more rapidly and efficiently detect bacterial infection and contamination than any existing diagnostic tools. Rose is a National Science Foundation researcher.
Pisa Bio-Pharm Most Promising Technology Award: Deborah M. Busch, M.S., R.N., a nurse manager at Albany Medical Center, has developed a novel solution for ostomies—an example of bedside-to-business innovation. Her award is $2,500 in-kind services for legal assistance and customer discovery.
Siena College Best Presentation Award: Vincent Arena of Sanguine Diagnostics, founded in 2015 by recent Rensselaer graduate Dominic Gelfuso ’16. Sanguine’s plan was presented by Vincent Arena, the company’s vice president for business development and a senior at Rensselaer. Sanguine is developing a low-cost, point-of-care paper device to diagnose a range of diseases and determine a patient’s blood type. Sanguine received $1,500 in in-kind services that come with its affiliate membership in the BACC.