The entrepreneurial spirit at UConn has led to the launch of world-changing startups across a variety of industries. Students, faculty, and alumni have grasped the resources available to help turn their ideas into products and services that improve lives. UConn-supported businesses make a lasting impact on Connecticut’s economy and the future of industry. The Technology Incubation Program, for instance, has backed more than 100 startup companies, contributing to the creation of more than 2,000 jobs supported and sustained annually by the University. In addition, more than 600 U.S. patents have been granted based on UConn innovations, with 39 issued last year alone. Read on for a sample of companies with UConn roots, including those developing new medications to treat everything from blindness to gastrointestinal conditions, leading-edge technologies that make life easier, novel devices that cut health care costs, and more.
Company Man and College Student
By their sophomore year in high school, Ben Grosse ’21 (BUS) and his good friend Bharat Pulgam had amassed an impressive collection of broken earbuds. But their parents were less than impressed at the bills for replacement sets. This sparked an idea for a customizable earbud business and now, Grosse is co-owner and sales director of a $100,000 a year company.
Read more on UConn Today.
Startup Advances Carbon-Zero Fuels through UConn Partnership
When Rob McGinnis needed a well equipped lab for his startup company, his graduate school friend, Jeff McCutcheon, associate professor of chemical and biomedical engineering, suggested he apply for UConn’s Technology Incubation Program (TIP) at the Storrs campus.
Read more on UConn Today.
Hillside Ventures is an early-stage venture fund supporting companies either founded by UConn alumni or that are in the sustainability, insurtech, or edtech industries. Hillside provides students real world venture capital experience as they invest into startups while receiving mentorship and guidance from a panel of expert alumni. The fund's mission is to support the rapid growth of entrepreneurship at the University, engage diverse personal and professional backgrounds, pave the way for students heading towards private capital and present many other opportunities that would otherwise not be available from the undergraduate level.
Biorasis, Inc. is a privately held company committed to developing a wireless, needle-implantable (0.5 x 0.5 x 5 mm) biosensor platform for real time, continuous metabolite monitoring. Based at UConn's Technology Incubation Program, Biorasis is a faculty-owned startup.
Cornovus Pharmaceuticals, Inc. commenced operations in October of 2011. The company is focused on the development of a novel cardioprotective compound, MRS2339, for the treatment of heart failure. MRS2339 is a small molecule that stimulates cardiac myocyte P2X4 receptors, which in turn increases myocyte eNOS and cGMP. The compound has been shown effective in multiple preclinical models of heart failure and currently is progressing through IND enabling studies.
Lipid Genomics is developing its FDA-approved investigational drug targeted at people with variations in the HDL ("good cholesterol") SCARB1 gene. More than 117 million people in the U.S. could benefit from this drug. Lipid Genomics has a potential to generate a very sizable profit as the market size for this therapeutic is $2.8 billion and the market size for their second product, novel immune checkpoint inhibitor lymphocyte activation gene-3 (LAG-3), is $1.4 billion.
Eir Medical Devices
Eir Medical Devices developed a device designed to help physicians measure patients’ blood viscosity, a traditionally unused, but promising indicator of cardiac risk and health for patients on dialysis and certain types of cancers.
Encapsulate LLC develops automated tumor-on-a-chip systems that can grow patient-derived cancer cells ex vivo, and screen them against chemotherapeutic drugs. With this technology, the oncologist can choose the most effective chemotherapy drug prior to treatment on an individualized basis. This will I) reduce the number of unnecessary chemotherapy cycles a patient undergoes, II) lower the costs and duration of treatment, III) increase the success rates of treatment, and IV) improve the patient’s overall quality of life. Encapsulate's mission is to offer personalized cancer therapy screening in the most accurate, expedited, and cost-effective manner. Encapsulate is currently validating its technology clinically in partnership with Hartford Healthcare. Their biochips grow cancer cells similar to their innate in vivo conditions and can thus serve as a clinical model that recapitulate the behavior of the tumors. For more information, please visit:
Hans Health's platform technology, known as a Genomics Driven Immunoproteomics or GDI, allows rapid identification of personalized tumor mutation profiles that are recognized by cancer patients’ own immune system. This new immune assessment tool has the potential to offer more effective treatment options for some of the most aggressive cancer cases.
Land Maverick is bringing big data and precision property management to the golf industry. Our system deploys autonomous measuring devices to efficiently and comprehensively collect data enabling property managers to intelligently distribute material, equipment and human resources. Maintenance cost savings and environmental compliance will be achieved by decreasing the application of water, fungicide, and fertilizer to levels that the soil can effectively absorb. Land Maverick’s mission is to revolutionize an improved outcome for property managers with both economic and environmental benefits. Insufficient or bad data creates an intuitive circumstance causing wasted labor, water, and material. Land Maverick collected 20X the data currently collected to be able to paint a full picture of what the soil needs, even if it's under a tree, at the bottom of the hill, or in the shade. With its autonomous measuring devices and dashboard performance metrics, Land Maverick is focused on disrupting the traditional management of golf course assets and large tracts of land.
Christian Heiden is a senior at the University of Connecticut majoring in Agricultural and Resource Economics. Heiden started Levo after traveling to Haiti where he saw both the depth and scope of the food security challenges in that country and the real possibilities for solutions. Christian incorporated his organization, Levo International in 2017, when when he was a freshman. Levo’s mission is to deliver food security solutions and leverages those solutions to strengthen communities across the globe. They innovate in hydroponic farming methods, simplifying technology and maximizing impact through community partnership. Recognizing the innate human ability to solve problems, Levo combines that ability with a distributed, sustainable approach to empower individuals to strengthen their own communities.
Pisces Atlantic is reimagining the essence of how fish are fed on commercial farms. Started in 2018 by founder and proprietor Peter Goggins, the company has developed a proprietary feed formulation designed to end dependence on, and serve as an economical alternative to, environmentally harmful conventional feeds. The feed is made from a blend of sustainable protein sources as well as food waste byproducts. Pisces Atlantic is more than just a company, it is an attempt to reshape the way that seafood is sourced, helping to provide high-quality protein to a growing global population while reducing humanity’s impact on our precious marine ecosystems.
Peter Goggins is a junior pursuing an environmental science major in the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources. Originally drawn to aquaculture by his interest in fish farming, he chose to start Pisces Atlantic as a means of advancing and improving the industry. Having recently launched with its first commercial customer, Pisces Atlantic is focusing on continued R&D while exploring unique business and manufacturing models.
Bastion Health has developed an at-home testing kit for male fertility. A couple who is having trouble conceiving can get a kit from a fertility specialist or the pharmacy. The test is simple. The process requires the user to load a semen sample onto Bastion Health's paper-based testing device. The sample then reacts with the reagents in test zones on the paper and produces an array of colors. Finally, the user images the results with his smartphone, and within 10 minutes the QR Fertile mobile app will return measurements of sperm count, sperm motility, fructose, and pH. In addition to analyzing your fertility, the app will also track your lifestyle, looking for clues of any detrimental habits that are affecting your reproductive health. Bastion Health will then give you smart insights to help you better understand how your life is affecting your health, and when necessary, will suggest lifestyle tweaks to guide your path. Last but not least, the app connect users to doctors through its state-of-the-art telemedicine platform, allowing users to get lifestyle planning, prescriptions, and more from a real physician.
Voxion, Inc. is a voice technology company, making interactive content for Alexa and the Google Assistant. Voxion connects your phone to your smart speaker to provide visually engaging party games that you can share with friends and family.
YouComm is a tablet-based platform that allows a patient to choose their problem or need from a list or write a custom message that will be sent via text message directly to their caregiver. YouComm incorporates head-movement tracking and voice recognition technology for patients who are immobile.
Avitus™ Orthopaedics, Inc. was established in 2011 with the mission of developing new orthopaedic technologies that improve clinical outcomes while decreasing health care costs. The company is developing a novel surgical device that will enable surgeons to use autologous bone graft material to improve the lives of patients. Avitus is currently looking to close their Series A round.
Dashride is the leading provider of mobile dispatching software for transportation companies, supporting nearly 500 transportation companies in most major U.S. cities, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Australia. The comprehensive software grew out of Sobrio, a sober rides company that won UConn’s Business Plan Competition and the School of Business’ first Innovation Quest competition when its founders were students.
Enviro Power is a Connecticut-based company bringing to market heating equipment that provides high-efficiency heat and generates low-cost electricity. Called SmartWatt, it gives building owners and homeowners the ability to lower both their heating and electricity costs with something every home and building needs anyway – heating equipment.
Phoenix Tailings turns a liability into an asset by recycling and re-mining hazardous mining waste (tailings) from the metals industry to creating valuable raw metals at a fraction of the cost. Phoenix Tailings was founded with the mission to make truly sustainable mining possible, by making it profitable for everyone.
Phoenix Tailings was founded by Mike Martin, a UConn Materials Science alumnus, and three other world-class entrepreneurs. After completing Accelerate UConn, UConn Summer Fellowship, and winning the Wolff New Venture Competition, they are now backed by Techstars Boston, one of the top startup accelerators in the world. Phoenix Tailings is currently working with several top-tier mining companies to re-mine their tailings to eliminate waste and generate value.
Torigen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has developed a treatment that can work for multiple tumor indications, treating more than 2 million companion animals diagnosed with cancer each year. Its product, VetiVax, is a novel, personalized immunotherapy that uses the animals’ own tumor cells to fight cancer. When combined with an innovative bulking agent, MIMTM (Matrix Immune Modulator), an overall reduction in tumor size and inhibition of metastasis have been noted. The treatment has been proven safe in a Phase I trial.
LambdaVision, Inc. (LVI) is developing a high-resolution, protein-based retinal implant to restore vision to the millions of patients blinded by retinal degenerative diseases, including retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Based on a UConn chemistry discovery, the patent-protected retinal implant technology developed by LambdaVision uses the light-activated protein, bacteriorhodopsin, to replace the function of the damaged photoreceptor cells. The flexible, subretinal implant is powered by incident light and does not require any external power supplies or bulky hardware on or outside the eye, and offers the potential for far greater resolution than competing electrode-based technologies. LambdaVision, whose CEO is a UConn alumna, is currently at the pre-seed stage, but is looking for seed money to support further preclinical development.
Thetis Pharmaceuticals LLC is developing novel drugs to treat inflammation-related gastrointestinal diseases with high unmet medical needs. The lead candidate, TP-252, is rapidly advancing through pre-clinical evaluations with the goal of beginning clinical FDA studies in 2018. Thetis aims to partner with a large pharmaceutical company to bring TP-252 to market by 2023.
UConn entrepreneurs have access to several competitions and programs for funding, and major investors such as the ones below back UConn startups.
Peter J. Werth
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Peter J. Werth has pledged $22.5 million to UConn to ensure a legacy of entrepreneurship and innovation for students for generations to come. Werth's donation will establish and support the Peter J. Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which will bring together student and faculty programs fostering entrepreneurship and innovation that potentially have commercial application and can be used to create new companies. In addition to nurturing innovation, the Institute will facilitate entrepreneurship speaker forums and host an entrepreneur-in-residence to instruct students.
Read more on UConn Today.
Connecticut Bioscience Innovation Fund (CBIF)
Connecticut Innovations invests CBIF funds in the form of grants, equity investments, and loans to help bring bioscience innovations to market. CBIF investments have supported UConn-related startups including LambdaVision and Shoreline Biome.
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grant
Federal SBIR grants are among the largest sources of early-stage capital for technology commercialization in the United States. Run by various federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, these grants allow U.S. small businesses with strong commercialization potential to participate in federal research and development. SBIR grants support UConn-related startups including Thetis Pharmaceuticals, Biorasis, and Mobile Sense Technologies.