The National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer has ranked two Ohio State startup companies among its list of Best University Startups of 2016
The two companies, Neurxstem Inc. and 3Bar Biologics Inc., which launched based on research done at OSU, were recognized along with 34 other startups from across the nation by NCET2, a membership organization for those involved in university-linked startups from top research universities in the country. The two companies were honored in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday for the council’s University Startups Demo Day.
“I think (the selection of the two companies) is a big recognition of the quality work that our faculty are doing,” said Matt McNair, vice president of economic and corporate engagement at OSU. “We have some people here on campus that are doing groundbreaking research that is going to change the world.”
More than 200 startup companies applied for recognition by the council, but only the 36 companies that were chosen will attend the event, said Jeff Grabmeier, senior director of research and innovation communications at OSU.
The two OSU startups sent representatives to the University Startups Demo Day, where they had the chance to showcase their technologies to investors, venture capitalists and members of Congress.
“As always we are hoping to talk with potential investors to accelerate the growth of the business,” said Bruce Caldwell, the CEO of 3Bar Biologics, in an interview before Demo Day. “We will have the chance to talk with congressmen on the importance of startups, and particularly university spinoffs.”
3Bar Biologics was recognized by NCET2 for its licensing of living beneficial microbes that farmers can use to improve the health and productivity of crops, Caldwell said.
“(The recognition) is a nice validation of both our business model and our relationship with the university,” Caldwell said.
The company’s breakthrough delivery system was created to increase crop yields, improve sustainability of the land and decrease costs.
“I saw the need in the markets to improve biologic products for agriculture, I saw an opportunity that existed with research that OSU has done and I saw that I had specific skills and background to commercialize the research,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell co-founded the company with Brian Gardener, a former professor of plant pathology.
Rene Anand, the founder and CEO of Neurxstem, said he is excited about the exposure his company will get and is looking forward to speaking one-on-one with congressional representatives at the event.
“Individuals that are financially successful in other business sectors can leave incredible legacies of change in society by critically supporting high risk biomedical science research,” said Anand, who is also a professor of pharmacology at OSU. “This then fosters giant leaps in health care through disruptive innovation that then precedes the applied successes that benefit all humanity.”
Neurxstem was recognized by the council for its development of neural organoid stem cell technology, which essentially is a model of the human central nervous system. This allows researchers to study conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, autism, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and brain cancer, Anand said.
“It is indeed an honor to represent nationally impactful applied biomedical science developed within the OSU College of Medicine and Wexner Medical Center,” Anand said. “It honors those of us academic entrepreneurs who are nurturing a new academia, one that is not dependent solely on taxpayer’s support.”
Anand was inspired to develop the technology after Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home and the neuroscience center at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, where he worked in 2005. The volunteers who helped him and all of the other locals affected by the hurricane motivated him to volunteer with Autism Speaks.
“We then were funded by generous philanthropy by the Wexner Medical Research Fund, and then by the Ingram Autism Fund to take a high-risk approach to make these mimics from adult skin cells,” Anand said. “We eventually succeeded, and then I started Neurxstem to commercialize its use for all brain disorders.”
Anand developed the technology with Susan McKay, senior research assistant in his laboratory at OSU, he said.
Both of the startup companies received funding from the Ohio Third Frontier Technology Validation and Start-up Fund.
David Goodman, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency and chair of the Ohio Third Frontier Commission, said that the commission funds ideas that can be commercialized and that can bring jobs to Ohio.
“(The two startup companies) had technology that looked like it had significant market viability and the potential to be successful,” Goodman said.