The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

UI start-up gets NSF boost

The University of Iowa researchers will have more opportunities to find commercial applications for their research thanks to a $300,000 grant to the UI Venture School from the National Science Foundation.

According to the NSF website, the agency’s Innovation Corps — which provided the grant — was created to “foster entrepreneurship that will lead to the commercialization of technology that has been supported by NSF-funded research.”

The Venture School, part of the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, was created in collaboration with the NSF for just this purpose, said David Hensley, the executive director of the center.

“Our main goal is to provide these teams with entrepreneurial training,” he said. “We want them to be able to take their original research and make it to where it can be sold on the market.”

Teams in the program consist of at least one researcher, one entrepreneur, and one business mentor, Hensley said.

The $300,000 grant from the NSF will allow the Venture School to give each team more money for such things as market research, consulting, and prototypes of products, said Jennifer Ott, the liaison for training and engagement at the Entrepreneurial Center.

“This grant also makes our start-up teams eligible for the national program in Washington, D.C.,” Ott said. “There, the teams will get more money and learn how to market their product to a national audience.”

Since forming in 2013, the Venture School has helped 81 start-up teams, she said.

“Not all of them have been successful,” Ott said. “Many of our teams do succeed, though, and there are some great examples out there of businesses that got started with us.

Ott said CartilaGen, a biotechnology start-up that specializes in cartilage-repair strategies, and Immortagen, a cancer-treatment planning start-up, were two notable examples.

Kristi Thiel, the president of Immortagen, said things have been moving fast for the company since her team got started with the Venture School.

“We consulted Venture School in either March or April of last year,” she said. “We’re still in the research and development phase, but it really was a crash course in business.”

Immortagen will use a predictive algorithm to give a person personalized cancer care based on the her or his tumor’s genetic profile, Thiel said.

“A tumor has a different genetic profile than the person it is inside,” Theil said. “For the last several years, there has been a Cancer Genome Atlas in development online.”

This online database contains years of research and treatment on all known types of cancer, she said, and by going to doctors and pharmaceutical companies, her company was able to find out which drugs and which therapies are most effective against certain types of tumors.

“Our algorithm will use all of these sources together to match up a patients with the therapy, doctor, and drug regimen that is most effective against their type of cancer,” she said. “We’re still in the testing phase, but we’re very excited about the direction we are headed.”

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