What's New at 722

From the Desk of...  Michael P. Straightiff

April 2018

April 2018

Spring has finally arrived and with it comes a reignited energy and season of renewal. The UVA Licensing & Ventures Group (LVG) is proud to share our 2017 Annual Report in this issue of What’s New at 722. Our Annual Report, Engaging Ideas, includes a collection of inspiring stories from entrepreneurial UVA faculty members who are pursuing translational research and working alongside LVG to advance their discoveries toward commercialization.

LVG depends on faculty like the ones you’ll read about in Engaging Ideas to create opportunities through research that enrich the UVA portfolio. We hope these stories illuminate the resources and support available to UVA faculty through LVG and encourage early and often engagement with our team during all research activity across Grounds.

The LVG licensing team is currently gearing up to attend the 2018 International BIO Convention, the world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry. In preparation, LVG has launched a 12-week internship program with UVA graduate and Ph.D. students to support the creation of marketing materials and industry diligence for the assets in our intellectual property portfolio.

In this month’s issue, we highlight news and activities from the UVA LVG Seed Fund and profile one of the new ventures in our portfolio, Cerillo. You'll also find spring industry happenings including LVG’s sponsorship of the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council awards gala and our participation in the Tom Tom Founders Festival.

To schedule a guest lecture, seminar, or technology transfer workshop, please submit an inquiry to lvg@virginia.edu.

2017 Annual Report

Engaging Ideas

LVG is proud to share our 2017 Annual Report, Engaging Ideas. The collection of stories featured in the report highlight faculty members from the UVA School of Engineering & Applied Science, the School of Medicine, and the College of Arts & Sciences who are pursuing translational research. Each profiled researcher is currently engaged in commercialization activity and working alongside LVG as we support their discoveries in reaching their full potential.

2017 Annual Report

UVA LVG Seed Fund & New Ventures

Bob Creeden, Managing Director of the UVA LVG Seed Fund & New Ventures

The UVA LVG Seed Fund & New Ventures team assesses new ventures founded on technologies developed at UVA, and companies with strong UVA affiliations for opportunities to invest seed capital. Our pipeline continues to strengthen with opportunities coming to us from the School of Engineering, School of Medicine, School of Nursing, Curry School of Education, UVA Health System staff, among other departments on Grounds.

In late March the Fund made two more commitments to invest – a medical device company that is developing a new transseptal puncture tool for left atrial applications, and a diagnostics tool company with a unique technology to increase sensitivity and accuracy in the sample preparation space.   

From a portfolio perspective, TearSolutions, now with more than 26 sites continues to see an increased enrollment of subjects in its Phase II trial for Sjogren’s disease. Mission Secure proudly reported signing on two additional oil and gas customers and one in the defense marketplace. Also, the company announced earlier in 2018 the launch of MSI Platform 3.0. TypeZero Technologies continues to complete development of its software platform for monitoring diabetes while generating revenue from sales of its artificial pancreas product. 

As we move into the final quarter of our fiscal year, we wind down another Due Diligence in Seed Fund class at Darden. The students this year, as in the past, have provided significant value to our diligence and support of the portfolio. We look forward to a new group of students starting with us in August and fostering our relationship with Darden. We're excited to welcome two rising second-year MBA students who will be joining us this summer as interns in collaboration with the BVIP program.

To support our new venture creation efforts, we are pleased to announce the launch of our Advisory Board. This group of successful entrepreneurs, investors and domain experts will be a great addition to our network and enhance our ability to create and launch new ventures.

Highlighted below is the story of a UVA LVG portfolio company, Cerillo. The technology for a miniature multiwell plate reader developed by a collection of undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral fellow in the UVA Biomedical Engineering Papin Lab, and furthered through the NSS I-Corps program. Continue reading to learn how LVG supports the Cerillo team’s efforts toward patenting the technology.

In the heart of every UVA research lab are the students working alongside faculty to advance ideas. Jason Papin, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at UVA runs the Computational Systems Biology Lab where undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral fellows alike gain valuable lab experience working on projects that correlate to their classroom studies. 

One of the projects in the Papin lab involved measuring the growth of specific bacteria under varying conditions and required the use of a plate reader. An expensive and large lab instrument, plate readers are used to detect and monitor changes in material samples. The extensive list of controls used in the project resulted in labor-intensive data collection for the post-doctoral student managing the study. 

During 24/7 monitoring of the samples in the plate reader, a graduate student, Paul Jensen, now an assistant professor at the University of Illinois, had an idea for a more efficient way to execute massive data collection. Instead of altering the study, Jensen explored the possibility of redesigning the plate reader to accommodate a significant number of samples by shrinking the size of the instrument. That way, you could use multiple miniature plate readers as opposed to rotating the samples through a single, large plate reader. 

After preparing a prototype that was tested in the Papin lab, Jensen and Papin described the device to their close collaborator Erik Hewlett, at the time a Professor of Medicine and Microbiology, who was the Chair of the LVG Board of Directors. Hewlett tried the prototype in his lab and, at the same time, encouraged Jensen and Papin to disclose the idea to LVG in order to utilize the organization’s resources to determine a commercialization path forward. The idea developed in Papin’s lab and was passed down to the students that followed Jensen after he graduated. These students furthered the technology through the NSS I-Corps program and were awarded translational research funding from the Coulter Foundation which helped the team outsource part of the design of the prototype. 

An undergraduate biomedical engineering student who was working in Papin’s lab on the project stayed on after graduation as a lab technician to further develop the prototype of the device. That student was Kevin Seitter who is now the Chief Engineer of Cerillo, a new venture that formed around the world’s smallest multiwell plate reader. 

LVG licensed the intellectual property for the device to Cerillo to launch the company and has supported the team’s efforts towards patenting the technology. 

The Cerillo team including Papin, Hewlett, and Seitter also employs two UVA biomedical engineering student interns and their offices are located on the Charlottesville downtown mall. They have been awarded Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) which was matched by the state of Virginia to encourage economic development in the Commonwealth. The team is using these resources to test the prototype and refine the software. They will pursue a Phase II SBIR grant to begin exploring manufacturing options for the device, the next step toward commercialization.