Cancer Detection, Oil Spill Cleanup, Quantum Computing, and a New Medical Device: Meet the Spring 2022 Innovation Fund Finalists

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Previous finalists have built exciting technologies across a wide range of industries representative of the core strengths of the University and its partners. (Image: iStock.com/AntonioSolano)

Three teams have been selected as finalists for the George Shultz Innovation Fund spring 2022 investment cycle – bringing to the forefront solutions for scaling quantum computers, sustainably cleaning oil spills, detecting cancer with saliva, and improving medical devices.

Managed by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the George Shultz Innovation Fund provides up to $250,000 in co-investment funding for early-stage tech ventures coming out of the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, Fermilab, and the Marine Biological Laboratory.

>> Register to attend the virtual Innovation Fund Finals on May 25th.

“Through the Innovation Fund’s programmatic scope, we are able to surround these tech startups with a community of support – including distinguished angel and venture capital investors, potential customers, advisors, scientists, entrepreneurs, and industry partners – to help move their projects forward, ” said Ozge Guney Altay, director of Polsky Science Ventures.

“The startups we invest in go through a rigorous, venture-capital-style due diligence conducted by a multi-disciplinary team of Innovation Fund Associates,” added Altay. “Our core mission with the Innovation Fund is to help researchers turn their innovations into ventures that are positioned to succeed in their fund-raising efforts.”

The spring 2022 finalists include:

  • Flow Medical // Flow Medical is a physician-founded company focused on data-driven interventions for pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis. Flow is developing the first catheter-directed thrombolytic (CDT) device designed specifically for acute pulmonary embolism interventions, with features that will optimize the safety and efficacy of this life-saving procedure.
    • Team members: Jonathan Paul, founder; Osman Ahmed, founder; Kathleen McGing, business development fellow; Adelyn Gunawan, business development intern
  • lismyro // Lismikro develops innovative microchip controllers to solve the hardware bottleneck and unleash the full potential of quantum computers. Its novel low power architecture is capable to scale the control electronics beyond today’s 100 qubits for superconducting, ion trap, and photonic quantum processors. Lismikro’s low-power microchip controllers enable quantum computers to solve the biggest computational challenges from autonomous driving to new drug and chemical discovery.
    • Team members: Shaorui Li, founder; Hongzhi Sun, senior engineer; Benjamin Parpillon, senior engineer; Gregory Topel, advisor; Xiang Qiu, business development fellow; Rishi Chebrolu, business development intern
  • Oil Sponge // Oil Sponge provides clean water with a clean conscience. Oleo Sponge effectively cleans up oil spills without generating secondary problems. The solution enables a reusable, sustainable approach to mitigate the damage caused by oil spills.
    • Team members: Harrison Paul, founder and CEO
  • OrisDX // OrisDX is a venture that is poised to launch a novel saliva-based molecular diagnostics test to detect pre-cancers and cancers of the oral cavity. The science behind the test was developed through a decade of foundational research by leaders in the field of liquid biopsy and cancer genomics who are top physicians and scientists at the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins University. OrisDX seeks to help alleviate the burden of cancer morbidity globally through greater access to non-invasive diagnostics and screening resulting in early detection of head and neck cancers.
    • Team members: CEO Nishant Agrawal, CEO; Jacob Stangl, CBO; Rifat Hasina, COO and secretary; Chetan Bettegowda, CMO; Yevgeny Izumchenko, CSO

The core mission of the Shultz Innovation Fund is to help researchers turn their innovations into ventures that advance cutting-edge technologies, generate significant financial returns, and create lasting impact for humankind.

The teams receive guidance and dedicated support from the Polsky Center, business experts, an advisory committee, and student Innovation Fund Associates who are training in venture capitalism.

Over the last 11 years, the George Shultz Innovation Fund has invested $9.2 million in 90 companies that have gone on to raise $235 million in follow-on funding. Companies launched with the fund’s support include ExplORer Surgical, Corvidia, ClostraBio, and Super.Tech.

“Discussions with the Innovation Fund leadership and associates helped us clarify our core strategy and business model. We also benefited from the training and support on crafting a pitch deck, which will help us in conversations with future investors as well,” said Pranav Gokhale, CEO and cofounder of Super.tech. Building on its success after securing $150,000 from the Innovation Fund in 2020, Super.tech went on to secure millions of dollars in federal research and was recently acquired by the global quantum ecosystem leader, ColdQuanta. Major organizations, including Fortune 500 companies and national research laboratories, today relay on their software as part of their strategic quantum initiatives.

A finalist in the 2021 spring cohort, Esya Labs CEO and Cofounder Dhivya Venkat said: “All startups at the University of Chicago should apply to go through the George Shultz Innovation Fund. It was such a beneficial experience.” Esya Labs earlier this year announced that Novartis is among the first companies to use its technology.

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