What if we could sense cancer?

Methylated DNA Sensor Detects Cancer

Prof. Amir Saheb, a GT Ph.D. alumni and Dr. Ehsan Najafabadi, who graduated last summer from Prof. Bernard Kippelen’s lab at GT, have collaborated to commercialize aspects of Prof. Saheb’s graduate and professorial research. This DNA chip has 16 sensors capable of detecting up to 16 types of cancer in one pass using novel electrochemical ‘fingerprints.’ Cancer cells have specific methylated gene patterns. These epigenetic traits can be measured by this sensor with extremely high specificity. This means that in diagnostic tests, such as the PSA, (which looks for prostate cancer) false positives could potentially be reduced by an order of magnitude.

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Pindrop Security raises $35M

Pindrop Security, provider of phone fraud prevention and call center authentication solutions, recently closed $35m in Series B financing.  pindrop

Pindrop technology was developed at the Georgia Tech Information Security Center. The company was founded by CEO Vijay Balasubramaniyan and is backed by serial cybersecurity entrepreneur and investor Paul Judge.

The Series B financing round was led by Institutional Venture Partners with participation from existing backers Andreessen Horowitz, Citi Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Redpoint Ventures and Webb Investment Network.

Stephen Fleming captured the story of how Pindrop started in a 2013 blog post. Check it out here.

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Polio vaccination with microneedle patches receives funding

Polio vaccination with microneedle patches receives funding for patch development, clinical trial

Microneedle patch

Microneedle patches are shown in the foreground of this photograph, with a vial of vaccine and examples of traditional hypodermic needles shown in the background. (Credit: Gary Meek)

The funds will support research and development of vaccine-filled microneedles that are designed to dissolve in the skin to provide protection against the polio virus in humans. Studies with animal models have shown that microneedle patches containing polio vaccine effectively stimulate the immunological responses necessary for immunization.

Micron Biomedical (www.micronbiomedical.com) is commercializing a novel vaccine and drug delivery technology, based on dissolving microneedle patches and aimed at achieving better health outcomes through enhanced therapeutic efforts, simplified logistics and improved patient compliance.

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Better Walk Closes $450,000 in Series A Funding

Better Walk, an Atlanta-based medical device company, closed a Series A round of $450,000 this past week. This is the company’s third round of funding to date, bringing the total funding raised to $600,000. better walk

The round was led by MB Venture Partners, a Memphis-based venture capital firm.  Gary Stevenson, co-founder and Managing Partner, will join the Better Walk board of directors.

“The funding will help us to continue down the path of manufacturing and distributing the Better Walk crutch to patients who need it,” said Partha Unnava, CEO of Better Walk.

The Better Walk crutch was created after Partha Unnava broke his ankle, spent time on crutches, and experienced the pain suffered by so many crutch users firsthand. The Better Walk crutch is an alternative to traditional underarm or forearm crutches that removes force from the user’s underarm area. Since founding, the company has focused on developing the product and is gearing up for a launch this spring. [Read more…]

New year, new funds!

Two VentureLab startups, Polaritek Systems Inc. and Carbice Nanotechnologies, were awarded GRA Ventures seed funding in the first two weeks of 2015. GRA Ventures (previously known as the GRA VentureLab program) was established in 2002 to facilitate the commercialization of technologies emerging from the state’s universities through the formation of start-up companies, with the stated objective of increasing the number of innovation-based jobs in Georgia.

Polaritek Systems  is commercializing a novel, patented residual stress measurement technology based on polariscopy, under license from the Georgia Tech Research Corporation (GTRC). polaritek

Carbice Nanotechnologies develops market-leading material solutions for efficient, reliable, and adaptable energy transfer. By enabling superior thermal management, its current products create substantial value in electronic device markets: mobile, power modules, servers, displays, aerospace, energy, and defense.


DHX Electric Machines launches

Rhett Mayor

Rhett Mayor

Andrew Semidey

Andrew Semidey


Prof. Rhett Mayor with Georgia Tech Mechanical Engineering and Dr. Andrew Semidey launched their new electric motor company, DHX.


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Calling all serial entrepreneurs!

Are you a serial entrepreneur looking to give back? VentureLab is always looking for experienced entrepreneurs to match with startups on campus. Topics include customer discovery, pivots, raising capital, and understanding specific industries. Mentoring takes many forms.

  • Quick: Often we’re looking for a one-time mentoring session for a team. Focused on a particular industry or issue, these sessions are 30 to 90 minutes, in person or via Skype.
  • Short-term: Some teams need a deeper dive, so you may work together for an hour a week for several weeks.
  • Long-term: Long-term mentoring has it’s own rewards, including helping a team with grant fundraising, equity fundraising, team recruiting and the startup CEO hire.

Want to learn more? Reach out to Brandy Nagel.

SonoFAST is picking up speed

SonoFAST is a team of four recent GT grads (Keller Tomassi, Gabriela Lamas, Stephanie Camstra and Jorge Mena) who created a technology for improving the ultrasound examination procedure by replacing the messy, cold ultrasound gel. Their technology is a solid, “goop-free” pad placed on the ultrasound probe. It is single-use, clean and neat for the patient as well as healthcare provider.  sonoFAST logo

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Peter Thiel Foundation Breakout Lab

Imagine learning that an ancient protein could have been the wonder drug that cured gout, a disease that affects over 70 million people worldwide. However, that protein existed millions of years ago and has since evolved into something completely different in modern organisms. Frustrating, don’t you think?

Then imagine a process that can “reverse evolution” so that proteins can be devolved to cure disease. That is exactly how Prof. Eric Gaucher uses his novel biologic platform to fight human diseases and promote agricultural development. Evolutionary synthetic biology is the core research area for The Gaucher Group at Georgia Tech.    general genomics

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Customer Discovery Jumps the Pond

As anyone familiar with I-Corps can attest, the program works to help develop scientific and engineering discoveries into useful technologies, products and processes. If you haven’t been through the program, however, you can’t possibly have a feel for what that really means. To gain a deeper understanding of the I-Corps experience, I recently spoke with Chris Bishop, a Rome, GA, native currently working on his Ph.D. at Georgia Tech Lorraine in Metz, France.

Chris Bishop earned a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from Georgia Tech, and stayed to follow it up with master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering and Optics. He knew he was interested in the startup world because he’s always wanted to be his own boss, with that desire becoming even more firmly established as he began working on his Ph.D. Learning that the I-Corps Lafayette Program at GT Lorraine was a startup-like class piqued his interest, and he made the decision to participate.

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Jamaican/Thai/BBQ Tacos

- by Josh Wine, VentureLab Graduate Assistant

During my time at VentureLab I have learned many things. One is that [Principal] Harold [Solomon] really likes metrics…But one of the more important things is the concept of customer discovery.  The whole aspect of talking to people (customers) before you start something (a startup!) sounds like common sense, but as many of us know common sense ain’t that common.  Especially when you have a GREAT IDEA. After all, how could anyone not want to buy my widget if it solves every problem and I have been perfecting it for some time now?  People just need to be made to understand how much better their lives would be if they buy my product, right?

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Juicing for Ideas

Wayne Li 11_2014

Last Wednesday evening, 20 Georgia Tech students, faculty and staff gathered in the Idea Incubator in the library to ideate with Professor Wayne Li.

Using juicers.

Li provided a Cuisinart juicer and a Philip Stark design and asked opposing teams to juice as many oranges as they could in 5 minutes. The exercise engaged everyone in the room – if you were not actually squishing oranges, then you were cheering for a team from your seat. starck

At the end of 5 minutes, Li challenged the room to answer, “Which product is best?”

Crickets…There wasn’t a clear answer! The “best” product depends on design, and users’ needs.

“Design is a participatory exercise,” says Wayne Li, and so are his workshops. Li’s workshops are free and open to everyone on campus.   Cuisinart juicer

Interested in attending January’s event? Send an e-mail to Brandy.nagel@venturelab.gatech.edu to have your name added to the invite list.


Why Should Entrepreneurs Visit the Library?

Ever had one of those great ideas that just burns a hole through your brain?  It’s all you think about.  And now you’ve managed to get your closest friends worked up about it, too.  But you’re not sure where to go from here: you don’t want to give the secret away to the wrong people, but you need to find out if the world thinks it’s as awesome as you think it is. And you don’t want to waste time or break the bank finding out how important this idea is to the world.

Where do you go next? VentureLab, to learn Customer Discovery: the process of interviewing potential customers before you invest time and resources into a “really cool idea.”

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Chicks Rule.


Rachel Ford, Second Place in the 2014 InVenture Prize Competition

Did you know that women founded about half of all small businesses in the United States? Even in areas such as high tech startups, where this number has been historically much lower, we are seeing a change in the trends. Women have begun pitching a broader range of startup ideas, which has lead to more involvement from venture capital firms. This is great news, not just because diversity is almost always a good thing, but also because women have the potential to make darned good entrepreneurs.

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Life Sciences Folks: Accelerate Your Startup!

Are you a Life Sciences student, researcher, or early-stage startup? Then we’ve got an opportunity for you! This September through October, Georgia Tech is hosting the 2014 Southeast Regional Life Sciences Startup Accelerator to help scientists explore commercializing their research.

Our Life Sciences Startup Accelerator offers an opportunity for folks involved in therapeutics, diagnostics, medical devices, and health IT to learn and grow. Here, you’ll learn about FDA approval, prototyping, IP reimbursement, testing, and SBIR. There will also be opportunities to tour GCMI and the T3 Labs.

For Life Sciences students and researchers, this startup accelerator is a chance to learn from customers and take the first steps in launching a business around your research. By participating, you’ll be part of a proven program that has helped researchers dramatically increase their SBIR application success rate, allowing them to launch companies in one-third the expected time.

Have you already launched your Life Sciences startup? The program is open to early-stage companies that are pre-clinical or have done minimal testing. If you’re interested in filing your first SBIR applications, this program could be a great next step for you.

Based on the Lean Launchpad Life Sciences program developed by Steve Blank, the Life Sciences Startup Accelerator was first launched at UCSF in 2013, and is being adopted by the NIH for their I-Corps curriculum. The six-week I-Corps curriculum is designed for 3-person teams who want to commercialize research. After a 3-day kickoff, there are 5 weekly meetings and a 2-day conclusion. In-class lectures and keynotes are combined with out-of-class learning—getting out of the building and interviewing people to learn about your business model. It is necessary to commit one day per week on top of class time in order to be successful in this program.

This program is not open to individuals; you must participate as a team with 3 or 4 members. These members should consist of:

  • One or two entrepreneur leads to provide leadership and organization of customer discovery activity, as well as acting as spokesperson for the project
  • One principal investigator (optional) for technical leadership
  • One mentor to provide business expertise and guidance for the team—this person should be an entrepreneur or executive with deep industry experience

The 2014 Southeast Regional Life Sciences Startup Accelerator is open to researchers in the Southeast, and all Life Sciences research projects are eligible. Unlike the national I-Corps program, there is no requirement for a lineage to NSF research funding. The last day to apply is August 29so if you’re interested in learning more, visit http://www.icorpssouth.com today.