Three Phoenix Bio Startups Among 30 Worldwide Selected for International Venture Capital Competition

By Eric Jay Toll for In Business Magazine. Athena Sanchez contributed to this article.

Three Phoenix bioscience startups have been selected as finalists in the BIO International 2020 Startup Stadium. This year’s virtual event pits the trio of companies against 27 other finalists for venture capital, strategic partnerships and collaborative opportunities.

BioMedical Sustainable Elastic Electronic Devices, Equus Innovations and i-calQ will face off in front of an international panel of judges in a “Shark Tank” competition of bioscience startups in competition for venture capital, strategic partnerships and collaborative opportunities at the BIO International 2020 Startup Stadium, June 8-12, 2020.  This year’s event will be virtual.

Phoenix-based Humabiologics, a Phoenix Startup Stadium finalist from last year’s competition, closed a $1 million seed money investment deal in May.

“Think about the thousands and thousands of bioscience startups around the world. Then out of all those companies located in hundreds of different global cities, only 30 have been selected as the best to compete in the Startup Stadium,” said Christine Mackay, director, Phoenix Community and Economic Development. “Of those 30 companies, three are from the city of Phoenix. That is an incredible accomplishment for the three companies and the Phoenix bioscience ecosystem.”

BMSEED to Provide Traumatic Brain Injury Repair Technology to U.S. Army

With an estimated 2.5 million Americans suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury each year, Oliver Graudejus turned a research project that he worked on at Princeton University into a groundbreaking biotechnology achievement today.

Graudejus, founder and CEO of BioMedical Sustainable Elastic Electronic Devices, headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, said that the company’s long-term goal is go to market with a “neuromodulation” brain implant that a patient’s body will not recognize as a foreign object, and therefore won’t reject it. The innovation landed BMSEED its first customer, the U.S. Army.

BMSEED’s technological advance is a more effective manner of sending electrical impulses to the brain to treat the symptoms of TBI. “Neuromodulation” is the name for the electronic impulse technique that helps repair and reverse TBI and other brain diseases.

“BMSEED’s quest to help treat traumatic brain injuries brings both a solution and hope for affected individuals and their loved ones,” said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego. “They are a great example of the many vibrant startups that have made Phoenix home.“

BMSEED’s first product is a research tool that helps researchers develop treatments to mitigate the damage after a traumatic brain injury. This product, called the MicroElectrode Array Stretching Stimulating and Recording Equipment, or “MEASSuRE,” is urgently needed because all of the 30 clinical trials to develop treatments for traumatic brain injury over the past 25 years have failed, according to professor Barclay Morrison III, director of the Neurotrauma and Repair Laboratory at the Biomedical Engineering Department at Columbia University, New York City.

“The product reproduces the biomechanical environment of cells during the injury, and our stretchable electrodes allow the assessment of cell health and function,” Graudejus said. “That’s where BMSEED technology comes in, making soft, flexible and stretchable electrodes. The next step is to use these electrodes inside the body, with the goal that the body doesn’t see the device as a foreign object and try to reject it.”

Mackay says that the discoveries by Phoenix bioscience companies seem like medical practices from a futuristic science fiction movie.

“Phoenix and our partners have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into building a bioscience ecosystem,” she said. “It took patience, strong partnerships like GateWay Community College, and today we see the results of relentless pursuits of cures.”

BMSEED is headquartered in the Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation at GateWay Community College on East Washington Street.

Turning Smartphones into Diagnostic Labs; i-calQ has an App for that

For mom and dad, an early-morning “I don’t feel good” from one of the kids while scrambling to get ready for work often means a calendar-clogging wait with other sick patients at the doctor’s office. While major medical incidents still need the office call, the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the use of telemedicine.

Telemedicine provides opportunities for patients and medical providers to converse face-to-face. One of the challenges facing telemedicine is the inability to conduct remote lab tests.

A biotechnology discovery by Phoenix-based i-calQ could change that. Though home testing is not yet approved, someday mom or dad may be able to perfume basic tests at home and send the test results from their mobile phone right to the pharmacy, where a prescription can be processed and perhaps delivered home by drone.

“That’s just where my brain went when I started thinking about all the ways we could help people with this type of technology,” said Pamela J. Turbeville, CEO and founder of the Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.-based startup. “Long-term, you remove the need to go to urgent care and getting exposed to other sick people who are carrying a variety of different things. This will also protect your family with whom you live.”

The immediate use is bringing remote areas of the world direct access to high technology laboratories. Routine tests can save children’s lives with expedited results. The i-calQ device works in any setting where there is internet access without the need for costly local laboratory and testing infrastructure.

“The importance of high-quality telemedicine has perhaps never been greater than it is now during Covid-19,” said Mayor Kate Gallego. “This technology can truly help revolutionize how we interact with healthcare providers. I-calQ is a true testament to the diverse innovation ecosystem housed in our city.”

i-calQ, headquartered at Grand Canyon University’s Canyon Ventures incubator, is another example of the innovation and creativity coming from Phoenix startups, says Mackay. She points out that GCU’s rent-free program for startups helps spread bioscience collaboration across the city.

“Watching how the i-calQ device went from a concept to a marketable product with life-saving possibilities is typical of the kinds of innovation Phoenix and our partners are supporting,” Mackay said. “Seeing the bioscience work from our desert recognized by the international scientific community is something special.”

Horses Need Advanced Healthcare Too

Find a problem and solve it. That’s what drives bioscience entrepreneurs. And Grant Senner MD, DABRM, CEO of Equus Innovations in Phoenix, believes that it’s time to move solutions for equine health and performance into the marketplace.

“We’re taking century-old human medical science, applying current bioscience techniques, and using it as a next-generation clinical option for use in horses,” said Grant Senner MD, DABRM and CEO of Equus Innovations. “We saw a critical need (in equine health care) for a highly (effective), cost-effective, off-the-shelf product to bring truly regenerative medicine to this field.”

Equus Innovations, a Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. startup, has the first product of its kind on the market.  RenoVō is an acellular, liquid allograft comprised of amnion and amniotic fluid intended to cover and protect tissues. An allograft is a tissue transplant from one, in this case, horse to another horse.

“Ranching and agriculture are engrained in Arizona’s economic and cultural traditions. Horses have played a key role in that history,” said Mayor Kate Gallego. “Equus Innovations shows just how much can come from looking at existing technology with fresh eyes to create new solutions.”

RenoVō, used in treatments for more than 2,000 horses, is enjoying rapid adoption among owners and veterinarians as the preferred alternative to other clinical options.

Senner said that with the support from the city of Phoenix and GateWay Community College’s Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation, Equus Innovations is “an entrepreneurial success story.”

“Equus is an example of the companies the Phoenix innovation ecosystem is generating, and not just in human health solutions,” said Mackay. “We are recognized as a city where it doesn’t matter how long your roots have been in the Valley. Phoenix is the place where discoveries are welcome, and collaboration is a routine way of life.”

Innovation and Collaboration Build Phoenix’s Global Reputation in Bioscience Discovery

The Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation at GateWay Community College is expanding from its East Washington Street origin into the new 850 North Fifth Street building under development by Wexford Science + Technology. CEI attracts the emerging bioscience companies for incubation and acceleration.  The collaboration between tenant companies propels each forward from discovery to delivery. CEI is a major player in the Phoenix innovation ecosystem.

The city of Phoenix has America’s fastest population growth for the fourth year in a row. Phoenix is the anchor of the Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, metropolitan area, which in 2019 passed Boston-Cambridge Newton Massachusetts and New Hampshire, to become the 10th most populous U.S. metropolitan area. The city and its partners have invested more than $500 million into development of the Downtown Phoenix Biomedical Campus.

The doubling in size of the Mayo Clinic campus with the Arizona State University Health Solutions Campus in northeast Phoenix is nearly a $1 billion investment. Bioscience and healthcare organizations in the city of Phoenix are in the process of investing more than $3 billion into 4.6 million square feet of new primary research and treatment facilities. Including Mayo Clinic and ASU, there are more than $1.3 billion in facilities under construction today.

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