VelocityTX TechNovum accelerator graduates 5 new life science startups

By Iris Gonzalez
VelocityTX CEO David Fonseca gives remarks at TechNovum Demo Day, courtesy photo

The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio hosted a demo day Tuesday showcasing life science researchers who participated in UT Health’s six-week TechNovum accelerator program.

VelocityTX, a San Antonio-based nonprofit innovation center, signed an agreement with UT Health San Antonio in February to run TechNovum. The TechNovum accelerator program was first launched in 2019 to support UT Health investigators interested in learning entrepreneurship to commercialize their inventions.

Read: VelocityTX signs UT Health San Antonio agreement to run TechNovum accelerator

The cohort included six UT Health San Antonio researchers from five new companies developing advances for the market.

Jeremy Davis is an associate professor in UT’s Department of Neurology and Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases. His clinical work involves assessing adults with memory and other cognitive issues. His experience in evaluating and diagnosing cognitive disorders informed his approach to an AI-based language model and interface that can be used to increase patient access to cognitive screening tools and treatments.

Michael Liss is a physician and associate professor specializing in cancer of the genitourinary system, including kidney and prostate cancer. He has led efforts to discover the potential of the human microbiome as a modifiable risk factor for cancer and cancer outcomes. He started his company to translate his research into viable products to encourage prostate cancer screening and to tailor the use of natural products and lifestyle changes to prevent certain cancers.

Maria Gaczynska and Pawel Osmulski are a husband-and-wife team of biophysicists and associate professors. Their research has uncovered the possibility of using non-toxic compounds to curb cancerous tumor growth to prevent the metastatic spread of harmful cells. These compounds have already shown effectiveness in other use cases, such as in treating prostate cancer.

Ratna K. Vadlamudi is a professor and vice chair of research in UT’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. His work uses laboratory-based discoveries to create new therapies for treating women’s cancers, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, gynecological malignancies, and estrogen signaling in these diseases.

Vaida Glatt is the research director at UT’s Department of Orthopedic Surgery. She is focused on bone regeneration and accelerating bone healing by manipulating the mechanical conditions surrounding the fracture. She is actively developing therapies to improve the regeneration of bone using scaffolds that mimic natural healing processes within the body.

UT Health works closely with VelocityTX to source program participants with continued support from John Fritz and Sean Thompson of UT Health’s Office of Technology Commercialization. VelocityTX leverages its network and resources to connect, support, and fund companies and founders at UT Health San Antonio.

VelocityTX’s cohort-based program provides growing companies with a structured curriculum, mentoring, business coaching, pitch development, peer collaboration, and connections to VelocityTX’s and UT Health’s networks. The founders will also be able to use the VelocityTX Innovation Center to access dedicated office or laboratory space and collaborate with other innovators and entrepreneurs already working at VelocityTX.

According to David Fonseca, VelocityTX CEO, only 18% of all U.S.-based innovation centers are focused on the life sciences. VelocityTX is one of the nation’s innovation centers focused on the life science sector, currently the largest sector within the healthcare industry. As demand rises for new therapeutics, breakthroughs in multiple scientific disciplines have enabled researchers to develop new therapeutic candidates more quickly and efficiently, with innovation increasingly coming from early-stage biotech startups.

The UT Health accelerator program fits within VelocityTX’s charter to accelerate the path to commercialization for companies focused on medical devices, biotech, and healthcare IT. Adding the TechNovum accelerator to VelocityTX’s portfolio of programs and services reinforces its mission to help more founders develop life science advances for the market.

“We have always been focused on company building with founders who already had a team and intellectual property,” Fonseca said. “With this UT Health agreement, Velocity will be working with early-stage innovators who have an idea based on their research that they want to commercialize.”

After Tuesday evening’s Demo Day event, two of the five companies had attracted the interest from investors, Fonseca said. Because VelocityTX’s parent organization, Texas Research & Technology Foundation (TRTF), owns and operates the Alamo Angels investor group, “Velocity can leverage that investor network for the founders we’re working with,” Fonseca added.

This was the first cohort to graduate under the new VelocityTX management. Discussions are underway about the next steps, including the possibility of holding more than one cohort annually, according to Fonseca.

“Seldom do you see the level of community we’re seeing now,” Fonseca said. “Founders from this first cohort have formed beneficial relationships with each other that should serve them well in the coming years. Adding to our entrepreneurial density will help the growing number of life science startups in San Antonio.”

The featured image is a photo of VelocityTX CEO David Fonseca giving remarks at the TechNovum Demo Day. Photo courtesy VelocityTX.

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