Inaugural event at Petit Institute puts innovative, homegrown businesses in the spotlight
Four heavy hitters at the BioInnovation Showcase: (left to right) Bob Guldberg (executive director of the Petit Institute), Gary Reedy (CEO of the American Cancer Society), Harold Solomon (principal, Georgia Venture Lab), and Bud Peterson (president of Georgia Tech).
The Georgia Institute of Technology focuses substantial time, energy, and resources on fostering a campus-wide culture of entrepreneurship, and faculty and students have responded, developing the commercial potential of their innovative ideas.
The inaugural BioInnovation Showcase (August 31) at the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience provided the opportunity to see what happens when that potential is realized, as 20 companies at different stages of development, set up shop in the atrium, highlighting their products for more than 130 invited guests.
“This is a first, a bit of an experiment, and I hope you all enjoy it,” Petit Institute Executive Director Bob Guldberg told guests at the outset of the showcase. “I think everybody in this room appreciates the challenge of taking research from a lab and turning that into a successful company. It’s huge a leap.”
Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson helped kick off the event, saying the showcase fit in perfectly with, “what’s been happening here at Georgia Tech for some time, maybe the last 10 or 12 years, and that is a real strong focus on innovation and entrepreneurship.”
But the highlight was the showcase itself, the 20 bio-companies spread out in the atrium, demonstrating the novel ideas that have made (or, are in the process of making) the transition from the lab to viable businesses designed to improve patient health, increase energy production, or feed the world.
For example, there was Grubbly Farms, founded by Georgia Tech graduates, who formed the company to combat the rising cost of livestock feed through the growth and processing of black soldier fly larvae, which are then dried to become ‘Grubblies,’ an eco-friendly food source for chickens.
There was Axion Biosystems, a thriving business founded by former Georgia Tech biomedical engineering student James Ross, who started developing the company’s patented microelectrode array technology with fellow students while still at Tech.
And there was Dikaryon, a company born in the mountains of Montana, where Frank Rosenzweig, now a professor in the School of Biological Sciences and a Petit Institute researcher, initially developed the technology. “I started this at the University of Montana and brought it here to Atlanta, and Georgia Tech has recently filed a provisional patent,” said Rosenzweig.
Dikaryon aims to, “help ethanol companies produce ethanol more efficiently,” according to Jordan Gulli, a graduate student in Rosenzweig’s lab. “We do that by improving the fermentation step. This could be used to improve other processes as well, anything you make with synthetic biology, such as vaccines, insulin, industrial lubricants – tons of products.”
Meanwhile, across the atrium from where Gulli was demonstrating the chemical process that makes Dikaryon a worthwhile endeavor, Rafael Andino was talking about his company’s thrilling future. Clearside Biomedical’s first drug is in Phase 3 clinical trials.
“Our drug treats two diseases of the eye that, if left untreated, will cause blindness,” said Andino, vice president of engineering and manufacturing, and adjunct professor in the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. “This is a very exciting time for us, we have studies going on now around the world.”
Ultimately, though, as Guldberg explained, “this is just the tip of the iceberg of what is coming down the line.”
Partnerships, he said, and the multi-disciplinary approach the Petit Institute has become known for, continue to inspire and drive the kind of innovations that become a commercial success. He spotlighted the ongoing, fruitful partnership with Emory University, for instance, and presence at the showcase of industry partners like Boston Scientific, Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health, and event sponsor, Flad Architects (who designed the Petit Biotechnology Building, where all of this was happening). Underlying much of that, he noted, are agencies that support early-stage efforts, organizations like Georgia Tech’s VentureLab and the Georgia Research Alliance.
It always comes back to the collection of parts (and not the parts themselves) working in concert. It always comes back to collaboration.
“Collaboration,” Guldberg said, “is the real driver for biotech innovation, and for the truly transformative work going on now in our labs.”
Clean Hands – Safe Hands
Clearside Biomedical, Inc.
Microfluidic Systems for Cell Engineering and Analysis
Micron Biomedical, Inc.
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience