Two Purdue agricultural startups receive $100,000 from Ag-celerator fund

May 22 2017

Two Purdue University agriculture-based startups each have received $50,000 investments from the Purdue Ag-celerator, a plant sciences innovation fund operated by Purdue Ventures, the capital access arm of the Purdue Foundry, with assistance from the Purdue College of Agriculture, Purdue Research Foundation’s Office of Technology Commercialization and the agricultural industry.

One recipient is Akanocure Pharmaceutical Inc., a startup commercializing an innovative synthesis platform that will allow them to synthesize complex polyketide building blocks to act as crop protection agents (fungicides and herbicides). The other is VinSense LLC, a company developing a software platform to help grape growers and winemakers optimize quality and yields in their vineyards.


Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund commits $160,000 to eight startups

May 15 2017

Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund officials announced Thursday (May 11) that eight Purdue University-affiliated startups have attained “Black Award” status and will each receive $20,000 in investment funding.

“We again had an outstanding and competitive round of applicants for this round of funding,” said John Hanak, Purdue Ventures managing director. “We are in the midst of the third year of this program and are proud to say we have consistently seen quality and strong companies apply. We look forward to once again witnessing the early success of the companies in which we are investing.”

The Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund is operated jointly by officials from the Purdue Foundry and Elevate Ventures. The funding is used by entrepreneurs to advance their startups and innovations through various commercialization activities including market research, product development and prototype creation.

Criteria to receive funding include being a Purdue Foundry client; founded by Purdue students, faculty or staff; and/or being based on intellectual property patented through the Purdue Research Foundation. Companies also are evaluated on additional factors, including market potential, operational viability, return potential and their leadership team.

“The Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund has become a strong economic contributor for Indiana in terms of job creation, talent retention and technology development,” said Chris LaMothe, Elevate Ventures CEO. “The startups receiving these awards are a clear testament to the entrepreneurial environment at Purdue which we’re excited to support. We look forward to our continued engagement and the commercialization of Purdue technologies as this program accelerates.”


Finalists named in area entrepreneurial competition of startups designed to assist women, families

May 11 2017

Seven entrepreneurs with ideas to assist women and families have a chance to compete for $70,000 in national prizes as local finalists in Purdue’s 2017 InnovateHER Challenge.

Organizers announced the finalists Tuesday (May 9) after reviewing executive summaries and 20-page business plans for the competing entrepreneurs.

“We had an overwhelming amount of quality submissions,” said Juliana Casavan, entrepreneurial programs manager for Purdue Foundry and co-director of the InnovateHER Challenge by WomenIN. “As a result, we decided to choose seven finalists instead of five.”

The Purdue competition is organized through the WomenIN initiative hosted by Purdue Foundry, a Purdue-based entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator. The InnovateHER Challenge was launched nationwide in 2015 by the U.S. Small Business Administration to highlight innovative products and services designed to assist women and families.

Local entries were judged on their measurable impact on the lives of women and families, potential for commercialization, and ability to fill a need in the marketplace.

Finalists will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges May 23 at the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship. The local winner will receive $5,000 and that entry will be submitted to the national competition to compete for $70,000 in prizes. National winners will be announced July 31.


Purdue opens one of the country’s largest coworking facilities for innovators, entrepreneurs

May 10 2017

Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette dedicated a coworking facility Wednesday (May 10) called the “Purdue Railyard,” where Purdue and community members can meet, network, hold events, use conferencing space and eat or have a cup of coffee at the Express Café.

The Purdue Railyard is located in Purdue Research Park at the Herman and Heddy Kurz Purdue Technology Center at 1281 Win Hentschel Blvd. in West Lafayette, Indiana. The 26,140-square-foot coworking facility is one of the largest in the country.

The coworking space pays homage to the Purdue Schenectady No. 1, the first full-scale locomotive used in the Purdue Locomotive Testing Plant in the late 1880s and early 1900s, which established Purdue as a national leader in transportation research and innovation. The space is highlighted with antique railroad memorabilia, 14 conference rooms, three phone rooms, a stage for presentations, and a wooden two-story water tower meeting space.

“The Purdue Railyard provides unparalleled amenities and space for early-stage entrepreneurs and will support the entire entrepreneurial culture in West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and the surrounding areas,” said Greg Napier, director of Purdue Research Parks and the Purdue Railyard. “The location of the co-space is another great asset as we have 160 companies in this Purdue Research Park; that provides co-space members with the access to meet other fully established entrepreneurs who are happy to give advice and create strong opportunities for partnerships.”

West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis said the community will make good use of the Purdue Railyard.


JUA Technologies named in top 10 for All Africa Postharvest Technologies and Innovations Challenge

May 04 2017

JUA Technologies LLC, a Purdue Startup Class of 2016 member developing a solar-powered crop-drying device, was recently ranked sixth among the top 10 innovations for the All Africa Postharvest Technologies and Innovation Challenge.

The challenge winners were announced at the first All Africa Postharvest Congress and Exhibition, which took place March 27-31 in Nairobi, Kenya. The challenge identified the top 10 innovations from across Africa aimed at reducing postharvest food losses. Judges drawn from diverse sectors selected the top 10 innovations out of 112 entries.

JUA Technologies was co-founded by husband and wife team Klein Ileleji, an associate professor in Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and Reiko Habuto Ileleji, a Purdue alumna who earned her Ph.D. from the College of Education.

The company is developing an affordable, solar-powered crop-drying device that could provide smallholders, small to medium agro-processors in developing countries, and small organic farms in the United States, a way to reduce post-harvest losses and add value to their crops using renewable energy. A video about the company can be viewed here.


Life sciences company to provide novel natural products for cosmetics industry through partnership

May 04 2017

A company created by a Purdue University visiting scholar will commercialize novel products that show promise as natural ingredients in the cosmetics industry with assistance from a consulting company of Purdue experts.

Bioprocol has entered into a collaboration and partnership agreement with the Purdue Enterprise Co. to commercialize renewable resources originating from the rich biodiversity found in plants from the Andean and other South American rain forests.

Bioprocol’s founder, German Schäfer, is a visiting scholar working at Purdue with Distinguished Professor Michael Ladisch, Director of the Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering. Schäfer’s first two ingredients developed from these resources, SOLANUM COMPLEX™ and SOPEX™, are registered in the International Nomenclature of Cosmetics Ingredients for skin-care products, were launched overseas in 2016 and are poised to enter the market in the United States.

“SOLANUM COMPLEX is a natural compound rich in saponins that stimulates internal revitalization and regeneration of the skin,” Schäfer said. “SOPEX protects and stabilizes cosmetic and dermatologic formulations, acts as a natural non-synthetic preservative and is a replacement for parabens in our proprietary skin-care formula. Because of the high purity and bioactivity of these ingredients, only very low concentrations are needed to achieve their multifunctional benefits in cosmetics.”

“We are excited to mature our academic and science-based relationship with Purdue to a commercial one,” Schäfer said. “With Purdue as our partner, we will innovate, manufacture, and market never seen before products for beauty and well-being.”


Low-cost rocket engine startup wins the PNW Big Sell competition

May 03 2017

Three Purdue Foundry startups walked away with the top three awards during the PNW Big Sell competition Saturday (April 29) at Purdue University Northwest.

Alex Finch, co-founder of Tri-D Dynamics and graduate student in Purdue’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, won first place and $5,000 at the annual business plan competition hosted by the Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center at Purdue University Northwest’s Hammond, Indiana, campus. The event draws competitors from across the nation.

Tri-D Dynamics is commercializing low-cost rocket engines that can be manufactured quickly through 3-D printing and other additive manufacturing processes.

“We have signed our first client and are looking to add more,” Finch said.

Finch is now automatically entered into the inX3 (formerly Innovation Showcase) competition June 13-16 in Indianapolis to compete for prizes totaling $100,000.

Taking second place and $2,000 was Scott Massey, co-founder of Hydro Grow LLC and a senior in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute. Hydro Grow is commercializing refrigerator-sized vegetable growing pods consumers can place in their homes.

Oliver Wendt, co-founder of Speak MODalities and Purdue assistant professor of speech, language, and hearing sciences, captured third place and $1,000. Speak MODalities is commercializing the SPEAKall!® and SPEAKmore!® apps to help children diagnosed with the autism spectrum or other communicative challenges.


Device utilizing molecular technique could provide ultra-sensitive, automated system to detect viruses, disease

May 02 2017

An innovation at Purdue University could allow highly sensitive detection of an infectious disease such as HIV or whooping cough by using a low-cost, automated, point-of-care test similar in packaging to a pregnancy test.

The paper-based test could allow ultra-sensitive detection of pathogens with minimal user interaction and without having to send the test to a lab and wait for results.

Jacqueline Linnes, an assistant professor in Purdue’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, is developing the technology using nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT) on paper, which is a molecular technique used to detect a particular virus or bacterial pathogen in a specimen of blood, tissue or body fluid. Other co-inventors of the technology are Megan Chiu and Rui Shen, two undergraduate students, and Elizabeth Phillips, Kristin Byers and Orlando Hoilett, graduate students, all in Purdue’s College of Engineering.

“Existing NAATs often require the use of a large, bulky instrument that contains complex, injection-molded plastic cartridges that can each cost $30 or more, more than twice as expensive as high-throughput lab-based tests,” Linnes said.

Linnes said current paper-based NAATs pose limitations.

“Other research labs have been developing paper-based NAATs that require multiple, user-activated steps to move the sample from preparation to amplification and then to detection subsystems,” Linnes said. “These user-initiated steps are points of potential error that can result in sample contamination and in uncontrolled timing of amplification reactions. With our technology we aim to integrate each step into a single, low-cost, automated process.”

The Linnes Lab specializes in developing ultrasensitive, low-cost, point-of-care diagnostics by harnessing fluid flow properties of paper and wax. The Linnes Lab has developed a technology to print wax-ink valves that open and close with localized heating to enable multi-step reactions within a single paper-based test.


SPEAK MODalities wins Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition, Gold Edison Award

May 02 2017

SPEAK MODalities LLC, a Purdue-affiliated company developing technology that helps communication and language development for children and families affected by severe, nonverbal autism and developmental disabilities, was recently announced as a winner of three prestigious awards.

SPEAK MODalities won the ChanceLight Behavioral Health and Education Prize and the Milken Family Foundation Grand Prize at the Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition, the nation’s largest business plan competition for education-related startups. The company received $60,000 in prize money.

SPEAK MODalities was also announced as a gold Edison Award winner in the language learning category. Edison Awards honor excellence in new product and service development, marketing, human-centered design and innovation. The Edison Awards symbolize the persistence and excellence personified by Thomas Edison, while strengthening the human drive for innovation, creativity, and ingenuity.

SPEAK MODalities was co-founded by Oliver Wendt, Purdue assistant professor of speech, language, and hearing sciences, and educational studies; Michael Zentner, an Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP) senior research scientist who assists faculty with research projects through the Purdue Foundry; and Diana Hancock, ITaP commercialization director.

Wendt traveled to Philadelphia’s Penn campus on Tuesday (April 25) to pitch their venture to investors, researchers, and practitioners.


Creators of augmented reality classroom technology win fourth annual Boiler Business Competition

May 01 2017

Explore Interactive LLC, a startup created by a team of Purdue students commercializing an interactive platform to foster STEM education in elementary school students, took top honors during “Demo Day” of the fourth annual Boiler Business Competition, or Boiler, on Friday (April 28) at the Anvil in West Lafayette, Indiana.

During the eight-week competition, participants receive professional advice from entrepreneurial experts at the Purdue Foundry, an entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator in the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship in Purdue’s Discovery Park. They also get mentoring from industry leaders, free office space, funding and workshops enabling their startups to advance to the next level.

Explore Interactive won $5,000, free office space at the Anvil and free legal advice from Gutwein Law in Lafayette, which will provide services to the top three finishers. The Anvil is a student-operated startup co-space adjacent to the Purdue campus.

Explore Interactive’s app turns learning into a game where students complete learning-based tasks in pursuit of completing a mission.

“The platform uses augmented reality technology to add a new dimension to STEM teaching for elementary students,” said co-founder Wesley Virt, a senior in Purdue’s Krannert School of Management. “With our product, students can touch, move, experiment with a concept and practice skills through smart devices and laptops schools have already purchased.”