Month: August 2016

Accelerate UConn Spring 2016 Participant, Dr. Courtney Townsel, is featured in UConn Today.

Dr. Townsel, Accelerate UConn participant

“In the Accelerate UConn program, ‘entrepreneurial leads’ like Townsel spend much of their time conducting interviews with potential customers to evaluate their preconceptions about who their customers will be and why they would buy a future product. More often than not, would-be entrepreneurs realize their initial thoughts are off the mark.”

“Before Accelerate UConn, I had an idea with no knowledge or skills to advance it. I was used to talking to patients, but I had never approached people or asked for feedback in this way before,” she says. “Now I understand that I have a viable product, and I have a toolkit to move toward clinical use. I never viewed myself as an entrepreneur before, or thought this would be something I love.”  (quote from Townsel in article).

Read full article here.


CCEI’s Accelerate UConn and Summer Fellowship participant, Oral Fluid Dynamics, featured in Hartford Business Journal 8/22/16

Farmington startup seeks mechanical solution to dry mouth

Hartford Business Journal (8/22/16) by Keith Griffin

Robert Kelly said Oral Fluid Dynamics’ artificial salivary gland is at least three years away from clinical trials, but he’s hopeful it will eventually provide relief to a share of the 60 million Americans who suffer from dry mouth.

For many bioscience startups obtaining funding is usually a roadblock, but Farmington’s Oral Fluid Dynamics has found early success, raising $175,000 in two years, with hopes of raising another $1.5 million by September.

The early momentum could be related to the uniqueness of Oral Fluid’s product, as well as the size of its potential customer base.

The company is developing an artificial salivary gland to help the estimated 60 million people in the U.S. who suffer from dry mouth, a possible side effect for hundreds of prescription and nonprescription drugs that can also be brought on by aging, tobacco use, cancer therapy or autoimmune diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Sjogren’s Syndrome.

Currently, over-the-counter mouthwashes are the only treatment option.

“I know people who suffer from this and I know there has been no solution either over the counter or prescription that works,” said Robert Kelly, a UConn School of Dental Medicine reconstructive sciences professor who developed Oral Fluid Dynamics’ technology. “These people are desperate.”

The solution Kelly and his partners — Douglas Adams, a mechanical engineer with a Ph.D., who works in orthopeadic surgery at UConn Medical School, and Martin Freilich, an implant surgeon and prosthodontist at UConn Dental School — have come up with is a dental implant with a pump that takes fluid already present from the mandible bone and supplies it to the mouth. Kelly says it’s the first mechanical solution for dry mouth.

Oral Fluid Dynamics is about three years out from clinical trials and is working on getting a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes for Health (NIH) by September. The startup is currently testing its product on rabbits with miniature pigs up next.

“By the end of this we should have enough information for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a limited clinical trial,” that will focus on a small number of people to test the implant’s safety, Kelly said. There are potential infection risks related to changes to the jawbone, where the implant is placed, similar to how a dental implant is done.

Kelly, who owns 60 percent of the company, said people have already been trying to get on the waiting list when human clinical trials begin.

“It’s either going to work really well or it isn’t,” Kelly said during a recent interview in a conference room outside his UConn Health office in Farmington.

The company’s main competition comes from the University of Texas Health Center at San Antonio and Rice University, which are working on another possible solution for dry mouth that focuses on tissue engineering through the use of cells to grow salivary glands.

“It’s not going to work. The technology isn’t far enough along and won’t be for 30 years,” Kelly said. Kelly doesn’t express those words with any form of braggadocio. He has a scientist’s detachment when discussing his device. His excitement, it seems, comes more in the response to the new world his invention has opened for him.

In July, for example, he took a trip to Basel, Switzerland, to meet with the heads of three companies that could manufacture the implant if it eventually receives FDA approval. The implants could also be made as close as Andover, Mass. “We don’t want to manufacture this ourselves,” he said.

Local connections

So far, Oral Fluid has raised money from various sources including Connecticut Innovations, the state’s quasi-public venture arm, the UConn SPARK Technology Commercialization Fund and Acclerate UConn. [Oral Fluid Dynamics, with Dr. Robert Kelly and Graduate Student – Gopinath Rajadinakaran, was part of the Fall 2015 Cohort]

Recently, the company picked up an MBA student on a half-time fellowship because Oral Fluid Dynamics received $10,000 for general business purposes as part of Accelerate UConn, a university startup incubator and funder made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps. [This was actually a grant from CCEI’s Summer Fellowship Program]

The student gets a $5,000 stipend. Outside of some specialty accountants and lawyers, Kelly said he has found most of the support Oral Fluid Dynamics needs in Connecticut. [This was actually a grant from CCEI’s Summer Fellowship Program]

Read full story here.


Summer Fellowship Summer 2016 concludes

Summer Fellowship
Summer Fellowship

The inaugural launch of the CCEI Summer Fellowship program concluded on August 4, 2016, with presentations from the 10 participating teams, a word of thanks and appreciation to our entrepreneur-in-residences, and the presentation of the first-ever FCP Euro Prize in Entrepreneurship. 27 teams applied to the Summer Fellowship program. 10 teams were selected. These teams represent some of the best entrepreneurs from across the colleges and schools at UConn.

Teams represented Engineering, in Materials Science and Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering; CLAS in Marine Sciences, Molecular & Cellular Biology, Chemistry, and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Health - in Dental Medicine, and Reconstructive Surgeries; Pharmacy in Pharmaceutics; and Business in Management and Marketing.

The top 5 teams were selected to move on to compete at the Wolff New Venture Competition to be held on September 29, 2016.

Congratulations to the top 5 teams

Eleframes - Rosse Gates and Gazment Sosoli
EVA Systems - Joseph Warren and Penny Vlahos
LambdaVision - Nicole Wagner, Jordan Greco, Audrey Gallo, and Molly Zgoda
Oral Fluid Dynamics - Robert Kelly and Gopinath Rajadinakaran
Protectiscope - Elizabeth Pouya

A special congratulations to Elizabeth Pouya of Protectiscope who was the top team and was awarded the FCP Euro Prize in Entrepreneurship.

UConn Alum and Entrepreneur-in-Residence Team

A huge thanks to our Entrepreneurs-in-Residence and UConn Alumni who graciously donated hours and hours of their time and experience to these teams throughout the summer, attending sessions every week, providing mentoring support by phone, email, and in person to teams as needed, and lastly by opening their businesses to the teams for field study, as teams took to the road, in August and got to experience first hand the hard work it takes to be successful, exploring both FCP Euro in Milford and Tea-rrific Ice Cream in Milford. Scott Drozd of FCP Euro, Mario Leite of Tea-rrific Ice Cream, and Rick Kollmeyer of Blue Edge Labs - Thank you!