490 BioTech wins Innov865 Alliance’s Startup Day; Dr. Peter Tsai is Recognized for Global Pandemic Support

Innov865 Week Ends with a Virtual Celebration of Trailblazing Entrepreneurs and Life-changing Impact

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The startup 490 BioTech, which developed bioluminescent human cells to show changes in cellular health, won the Innov865 Judges’ Choice Award at Startup Day 2020 with a pitch that explained how its technology can improve development of pharmaceuticals.

“Healthy happy cells are bright, sick cells go dim, and dead cells go dark,” 490 BioTech co-founder and CEO Dan Close said. “Our product provides continuous information about a drug’s effect on human health so pharmaceutical companies can operate more efficiently.”

As winner, his company will receive a $7,000 cash prize that they will use to develop its business further. 490 BioTech was named among several winners during Innov865 Week, which celebrates entrepreneurship and innovation in Knoxville and the region. He and others pitched their businesses on Startup Day, Tuesday, Sept. 29.

Winners were named in an awards ceremony on Friday, Oct. 2 that included the judges’ choice, 490 BioTech; the Innov865 Crowd Favorite prize, presented by BB&T and SunTrust Bank, now Truist, was given to Quantum Lock; and the first recipient of the Innov865 Impact Award, presented by Verizon, was named – N95 mask developer Dr. Peter Tsai.

The look and feel of Innov865 Week may have been a little different, but the excitement of the eighth annual Startup Day was woven throughout the a week of virtual events designed to introduce investors to burgeoning startups in the process of gaining traction in the market.

The festivities started with a discussion from University of Tennessee President and entrepreneur Randy Boyd during a Facebook Live segment on Monday morning, followed by the Spark Innovation Center Showcase on Monday afternoon. On Tuesday nearly 200 attendees heard from Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon and then were introduced to six investable pitchers in what was deemed by judges as the closest Startup Day to date. The virtual “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition included previously taped pitches and virtual question and answer sessions hosted on the local startup virtual platform Lunchpool.

Quantum Lock, co-founded by Erica Grant, won the $3,000 Innov865 Crowd Favorite prize as voted on by viewers of the competition on Startup Day.

Quantum Lock creates random, untraceable combinations for locks that prevent hackers from doing things such as creating a master key for hotel rooms, among other safeguards. Later plans for Quantum Lock’s technology include securing the energy grid, hospitals, homes, smartphones and personal security.

“Encouraging entrepreneurs to creatively solve problems and build businesses is one way Truist delivers on its purpose of inspiring and building better lives and communities, said Christian Corts, regional president for BB&T | SunTrust now Truist, East Tennessee. “We appreciate the hard work and ingenuity of all of Startup Day’s participants, and congratulate Quantum Lock and Erica Grant as the crowd favorite award winner for Startup Day 2020.”

The inaugural Innov865 Impact Award, presented by Verizon, was given to Peter Tsai, University of Tennessee researcher who developed the N95 mask material.

“Verizon is proud to present the inaugural Innov865 Impact Award, and pleased to announce the winner, Peter Tsai,” said Thomas Green, Managing Partner for Government and Public Safety at Verizon. “As the architect behind the essential technology in N95 masks, his work is essential to the global response for fighting the pandemic. This is the kind of life-changing technology that the Innov865 Impact Award presented by Verizon is meant to highlight.

The Innov865 Impact Award recognizes an inventor who has made a positive impact in the fight against COVID-19. Tsai, a research faculty member at the University of Tennessee Department of Material Science and Engineering, used a method called electrostatic charging to develop the N95 mask material, which filters out 95 percent of particles from air that wearers breathe through the mask. Front-line healthcare workers and others use the N95 mask as part of the essential personal protective equipment they need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tsai then participated in a fireside chat with Lonnie Love of ORNL, moderated by Jon Sheiber with TechCrunch, in which he explained his work.

“I did not expect this. It’s just happened by chance,” Tsai said. “My invention is an ordinary invention.” However, Tsai’s invention has had an extraordinary impact. Dr. Tsai retired two years ago, but the global pandemic caused a shortage of N95 masks. Earlier this year, he worked with labs and manufacturers to teach others how to make the materials and safely reuse N95 masks.

About the Startup Day winners

Innov865 Judges Choice: 490 BioTech – The Knoxville-based 490 BioTech makes bioluminescent human cells capable of continuously producing a visual light signal that adjusts in real-time to represent changes in cellular health. The company’s glowing cells can be used by pharmaceutical companies in their efforts to develop safer, more effective, and less expensive medicines. 490 BioTech serves the academic, commercial, industrial, and government research community by providing high quality bioluminescent cell lines that don’t require external luciferin treatments to function.

Their patented genetic architecture allows their cell lines to produce their own luciferin internally, allowing for continuous light production throughout the life of a culture.

Cofounder and CSO: Dan Close

Innov865 Crowd Favorite prize, presented by BB&T and SunTrust Bank, now Truist: Quantum Lock Quantum Lock is developing a smart lock system that is more secure than many current smartphone-based key systems. Quantum Lock’s technology uses quantum physics to generate keys that are random and untraceable. Quantum Lock’s premier product, Gamma Lock, is a smart phone or key fob based smart lock which is built to secure guests at Bed and Breakfasts and hotels.

Cofounder: Erica Grant

About the Innov865 Alliance and Innov865 Week’s Startup Day

Innov865 Week is a weeklong series of events that celebrates Knoxville’s entrepreneurial spirit by bringing together startups, entrepreneurs, makers, investors, business leaders, students, and community leaders from across East Tennessee for a week of educational panels, pitch competitions, investor roundtables, and social events. It is presented by the Innov865 Alliance, a coalition that develops, supports, and promotes the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Founding members of the Innov865 Alliance include the University of Tennessee Research Foundation, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, PYA, UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Three Roots Capital, Tennessee Valley Authority, Launch Tennessee, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, the University of Tennessee Research Park at Cherokee Farm, and Bunker Labs Knoxville. To learn more, visit https://innov865.com/.

Part 2: Q&A with Lia Winters of Winter Innovation

Startup Day 2019 winner reflects on the pitch competition experience, offers advice to 2020 competitors

Lia Winter has come a long way since she first developed the idea for a novel surgical stitching solution during her undergraduate days. Her East Tennessee-based startup is making waves at pitch competitions across the country, including right here in her backyard. Last year, Winter Innovations took home the Judge’s Choice and Crowd Favorite awards at the 2019 Startup Day pitch competition.

In this last-part of a two-part Q&A series with the Startup Day 2019 winner, Lia revisits last year’s win and offers some advice to the entrepreneurs vying for this year’s awards.

It’s been one year since you won the Judge’s Choice and Crowd Favorite awards at Startup Day 2019. What was the pitch competition experience like?

Lia: I attended Startup Day for the first time in 2018 and remember being impressed with the pitch competition finalists. It was a pleasant surprise when, just a year later, I received notification that Winter Innovations had been selected as a finalist for the 2019 Startup Day pitch competition. I started preparing my pitch deck immediately. WATE-TV news hosted the finalists for Elevator Pitch sessions, where the crew filmed us getting on an elevator with the news anchor and answering rapid fire questions about our companies. These segments were fun to shoot and they aired on the evening news a few weeks before Startup Day. 

After the Elevator Pitches, it was full speed ahead with pitch practice. I practiced a lot before my pitches and enlisted the help of my mentors at the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to get feedback on my pitch. On the big day, we arrived early and did a practice run before it was show time. I was the first presenter and I actually felt very comfortable on stage, partly because the charismatic Brandon Bruce was the host, and partly because when I looked out into the crowd, I saw many familiar faces.

After we delivered our pitches and the judges deliberated, the Crowd Favorite prize was announced. I was so happy when they revealed the giant check and announced that we had won! We had done a lot to promote the event within our network. When the judges announced that we had also won the Judge’s Choice prize, I felt a mixture of elation and surprise because the other companies had delivered impressive presentations. The award money was put toward our first manufactured production batch of EasyWhip™ needles.

What advice can you give to the entrepreneurs competing this year? 

Lia: Part of the reason we were successful was because we told a story with our pitch. We shared our personal connection and passion for our company and the Knoxville area and its entrepreneurship support system. My advice to entrepreneurs competing this year would be to tell a story with your pitch and reflect on how the Knoxville ecosystem has helped your company grow.

Part 1: Q&A with Lia Winters of Winter Innovation

Winter Innovations continues to make strides one year after winning the Startup Day 2019 pitch competition

Lia Winter’s passion to revolutionize orthopedic surgery comes from firsthand experience. She suffered her own orthopedic injury in high school and witnessed her mother’s long road to recovery following complications from ACL surgery. Winter knew there had to be a way to improve the surgery process and she made it her goal to find it. The result? EasyWhipTM, a two-step surgical needle that improves the stability, speed, and efficiency of graft stitching. This device is the focus of Winter Innovations, founded in 2018.

Lia has successfully pitched her company in competitions around the country, including in East Tennessee. Winter Innovations took home the Judge’s Choice and Crowd Favorite awards at the 2019 Startup Day pitch competition

In this first-part of a two-part Q&A series with the Startup Day 2019 winner, Lia shares some exciting developments that have occurred over the last year.

A lot has happened for you and Winter Innovations this year. What are some notable highlights? 

Lia: The past year has been very exciting for Winter Innovations. Since competing in Startup Day, we’ve been featured in six other pitch competitions. In January, we closed our pre-seed funding round and are proud that our lead investor was an angel group from East Tennessee. We leveraged the capital to develop the EasyWhip™ packaging system and completed our first live production run of EasyWhip™ needles at our contract manufacturer last month. We also received a response from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office concerning our primary patent application. We have a set of allowed claims that will protect EasyWhip™ in the marketplace and expect our first patent to issue soon. 

The pandemic has impacted people and companies around the world. How is Winter Innovations pivoting and/or adapting to this new world we live in? 

Lia: We’ve stayed focused on launching EasyWhip™. Elective surgeries for ligament and tendon repair have slowed in many areas of the country, but a surge is expected after the virus is under control. We are working diligently to complete the necessary testing to submit our 510(k) to the FDA so EasyWhip™ is ready for launch and can be available to help surgeons and patients when we do see an uptick in elective surgeries again. 

Our way of doing business has definitely changed, too. Things slowed down when the pandemic first hit, as many of our suppliers and manufacturers were faced with implementing social distancing measures and transitioning to shift work schedules. As a startup, we are used to adapting. We are busier than ever preparing for our FDA submission and have leveraged remote team members to support us in these efforts.

Looking ahead to the next year or two, what do you and Winter Innovations have on the horizon?

Lia: Our next significant milestone is to submit our 510(k) to the FDA, which we are on track to complete by the end of this year. We expect to obtain clearance and launch EasyWhip™ by the end of 2021. We are currently raising our seed funding round.

Competitors for Innov865 Week’s 2020 Startup Day Pitch Competition Announced

Six local startups will vie for $10,000 in cash prizes

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Some of the pitches shooting for $10,000 at Innov865’s Startup Day this year include predictive software for heart attacks, an untraceable password generator and glowing human cells to deliver medicine, among other ideas.

Those are among six rising stars from Knoxville’s startup scene that the Innov865 Alliance chose for its 2020 Startup Day pitch competition. The annual “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition is the premier event of Innov865 Week, which will be held virtually Sept. 28 – Oct. 2. Startup Day is at 2 p.m. Sept. 29. The event is free and open to the public.

Other pitches judges will hear include converting food into renewable electricity, a way to improve workplace safety through song, and a community-based certification system to champion youth fitness and education.

“Now, more than ever, it’s important to celebrate Knoxville’s vibrant entrepreneurial community,” said Jim Biggs, founding member of the Innov865 Alliance and Executive Director at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. “Innov865 Week shines a light on some of the incredible innovations that are happening in our own backyard. Any of these technologies could have an important impact on how we live.”

Hosted by the Innov865 Alliance, Innov865 Week spotlights Knoxville as a great place to start and grow businesses and connects the entrepreneurs planting roots here with support systems to succeed. The week’s events bring together local leaders, investors, entrepreneurs, and the public to support local economic development and celebrate Knoxville’s entrepreneurial spirit. 

The event will be presented virtually using the Knoxville-based technology platform, Lunchpool. Startup Day’s pitch competition will feature six of Knoxville’s most investable startups pitching their businesses in front of a panel of expert judges for a chance to win up to $10,000 in cash prizes. Two prizes are up for grabs: the Innov865 Judges’ Choice prize and the Innov865 Crowd Favorite prize, presented by BB&T and SunTrust Bank, now Truist.

A new addition to the 2020 Startup Day program is the Innov865 Impact Award, presented by Verizon. The Innov865 Impact Award recognizes an inventor who has made a positive impact in the fight against COVID-19. The inaugural Innov865 Impact Award recipient, along with the winners of the Innov865 Judges’ Choice and Innov865 Crowd Favorite prizes, will be announced at an awards ceremony that will be held at 11 a.m. Oct. 2. The awards ceremony will also be presented virtually via Lunchpool.

The six startups that will compete in Startup Day’s pitch competition were selected by the Innov865 Alliance for their extraordinary potential and investability. They include:

Electro-Active Technologies Inc. – Electro-Active Technologies Inc. is developing a modular system to convert food waste and renewable electricity into low-cost hydrogen. Their system keeps food waste out of landfills and provides a zero-emission fuel to offset gasoline and diesel use.

Cofounder and CEO: Alex Lewis

490 BioTech – 490 BioTech makes bioluminescent human cells capable of continuously producing a visual light signal that adjusts in real-time to represent changes in cellular health. The company’s glowing cells can be used by pharmaceutical companies in their efforts to develop safer, more effective, and less expensive medicines.

Cofounder and CSO: Dan Close

Quantum Lock – Quantum Lock is developing a smart lock system that is more secure than many current smartphone-based key systems. Quantum Lock’s technology uses quantum physics to generate keys that are random and untraceable.

Cofounder: Erica Grant

Qardian Labs – Qardian Labs develops innovative artificial intelligence-based software solutions for evaluating heart disease risk. The company is dedicated to reducing the occurrence of Sudden Cardiac Arrest by improving screening for people in high stress environments.

Founder: Sofia Tomov

PowerUp Fitness – PowerUp Fitness certifies wellness champions as youth fitness instructors and provides them with the training and support needed to empower youth through fitness, education, and fun in their communities.

Founder and CEO: Stacy Baugues

Songboarding – Songboarding is a subscription-based platform that combines music with safety training, providing employers with a fun and memorable alternative to traditional training methods.

Cofounder: Mike Benn

Learn more about Innov865 Week by visiting https://innov865week.com/. The events calendar will be updated as events are added throughout the week.

ABOUT INNOV865 WEEK AND THE INNOV865 ALLIANCE

Innov865 Week is a weeklong celebration of Knoxville’s entrepreneurial spirit that brings together startups, entrepreneurs, makers, investors, business leaders, students, and community leaders from across East Tennessee for a week of educational panels, pitch competitions, investor roundtables, and social events. It is presented by the Innov865 Alliance, a coalition that develops, supports, and promotes the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The Innov865 Alliance’s mission is to make Knoxville a “nationally recognized” hub of innovation and entrepreneurship by leveraging the region’s world-class research, creative, and technological capabilities to build the most connected and diverse startup community in Tennessee. Founding members of the Innov865 Alliance include the University of Tennessee Research Foundation, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, PYA, UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Three Roots Capital, Tennessee Valley Authority, Launch Tennessee, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm, and Bunker Labs Knoxville. To learn more, visit www.innov865.com/.

Guest Blog: Meet the Knoxville Technology Council, how they support entrepreneurship

Authored by: Brandon Bruce, Co-founder of the Knoxville Technology Council

The Knoxville Technology Council (KTech) connects, develops, promotes, and advocates for the technology industry in the Greater Knoxville region. We believe the technology industry is essential for our community to thrive. KTech unites the region’s technology leaders and empowers businesses and entrepreneurs through networks, events, and resources.

KTech is an industry-led and membership-driven organization. Our members are companies and organizations across all industry sectors that have technology professionals located in the Greater Knoxville region or that do business here.

John McNeely and myself co-founded KTech with the support of its founding board of directors and its founding members. We officially launched at Jewelry TV on August 15, 2019. The launch event featured presentations by a dozen technology companies, swag bags that included Discovery Shark Week sharks and cans of Bush Beans, and a rooftop happy hour for 300+ attendees.

What are KTech’s priorities right now as it relates to entrepreneurship, and how have those shifted in light of COVID-19?

Entrepreneurship is the driving force of our local, regional, and national economy. KTech is focused on supporting technology companies – including innovative startups – that make the Greater Knoxville region a great place to work and live.

We decided in March that we didn’t want to cancel any of our scheduled Lunch & Learn or Happy Hour events. KTech was an early adopter of the Lunchpool platform, a startup led by local entrepreneur Alex Abell that produces virtual events that feel like the real thing. We’ve had a series of successful virtual Lunch & Learn events on Lunchpool on topics including DevOps, Intellectual Property, Healthcare Technology during COVID-19, Tech for Good, and ManagedIT. All have been very well attended by our members and the community. 

We’ve also hosted a series of monthly Networking Happy Hours including an entrepreneurial presentation by Sugarlands Distillery about producing sanitizer for frontline workers. For that happy hour, we had a popular social media giveaway. Winners received a delivery of moonshine and sanitizer in time for the event.

What are KTech’s goals this year?

Events will continue to be key for connecting our members and the community. We have a great schedule of events through 2020, and we’re in the process of planning a big virtual event in the fall to celebrate KTech’s one-year anniversary. 

We will continue to build out our technology jobs board and our volunteer opportunities board in partnership with Volunteer East Tennessee. 

We’ve also published a list of business resources during COVID-19 and a list of online educational resources for students, parents, and teachers

What does KTech’s future look like?

We will stay focused on our four pillars:

  • Connect members and the community via live and virtual events.
  • Develop talent via education, training, and professional development.
  • Promote members and our technology industry.
  • Advocate for ideas and policies that advance technology in our region.

The vision of KTech is to build an influential community of technology leaders united and committed to helping the Greater Knoxville region grow and thrive. We are advancing Knoxville as a technology hub and center of innovation.

How can people get in touch with KTech?

For more information about membership, sponsorship, and partnership, please visit our website or email me at brandon@knoxtech.org

Mayor Kincannon shares priorities, goals supporting Knoxville’s entrepreneurial community

City of Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon participated in an Innov865 Webinar, where she presented her priorities and vision for supporting Knoxville’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Mayor Kincannon was out on a family vacation as she joined us remotely to share her goals under her administration. During the webinar, the mayor gave a shoutout to our entrepreneurs pivoting in these uncertain times to meet the needs of our community and beyond.

  • EDP Biotech, a Startup Day 2019 alum, was focusing its lab work on cancer screenings but has since become one of a few entities on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website now recognized as a commercial testing lab and manufacturer of COVID-19 serology (antibody) tests.
  • Integrity Labs gained a nod from the mayor as they are also assisting in COVID-19 testing, as well as the many distilleries that began producing hand sanitizer in light of the shortages and donated a lot of it to our public safety and first responders.
  • Songboarding, a recent winner of Innov865 Alliance member Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s What’s the Big Idea? competition was also mentioned by our mayor. The startup produces workplace safety training songs, and as public health is top of mind in light of COVID-19, co-founder Mike Benn created a song to encourage people to wash their hands and follow CDC guidelines.

Mayor Kincannon also stressed the importance of working with community partners and the Chamber of Commerce to make sure opportunities and resources are equitable to all.

“One of my goals as Mayor is to support the entrepreneurial community and make sure that those opportunities to invest and to grow your business and to plant your idea and turn your idea into a workable strategy is something that is available to everybody,” said Mayor Kincannon.

The mayor highlighted that in order to solidify Knoxville’s innovation ecosystem, there needs to be better connectivity. On top of having the infrastructure that supports collaboration, entrepreneurs need to be in close proximity with each other to catalyze more innovation. That’s certainly a challenge right now, in light of COVID-19, but the mayor said she wants the city and the mayor’s office to be a part of that strategic planning moving forward. The mayor reiterated one of her goals during her term is to launch and move forward on an innovation district or an opportunity district.

Mayor Kincannon shared how she’s had several conversations with Knoxville’s entrepreneurs to help understand what their needs are and how the City can help. Anna Douglas of SkyNano, a 2017 Startup Day winner, explained to the mayor the technology needs for wet labs and access to resources that new businesses need for facilitating and incubating.

Douglas is a familiar name in Knoxville as she’s a graduate of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Innovation Crossroads program, and just won two U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grants that total $2.7 million, including cost share for one, and has two other smaller projects lined-up for the start-up founded in January 2017 and focused on manufacturing of low-cost, high-value carbon materials from carbon dioxide.

Mayor Kincannon also expressed interest in Knoxville mimicking Memphis’ 800 Initiative, which is dedicated to helping grow minority business through the deliberate investment of assistance, capital, corporate engagement, and other resources.

“Memphis is a much bigger city but ours might be the Knoxville 100. The idea is to not reinvent the wheel but to give access to minority owned businesses to the resources that already exist to support small and growing businesses,” said Mayor Kincannon. “The goal is very attainable and measurable, and it’s to give people access to services, remove the barriers for mentoring, and access to capital.” 

Knoxville’s annual entrepreneurship festival goes virtual, honors startups and inventors fighting COVID-19

Innov865 Week brings together local leaders, investors, entrepreneurs, and the public to celebrate Knoxville’s startup community

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., June 24, 2020 –  The Innov865 Alliance announced today Innov865 Week 2020 will be virtual this year, and it will make a special effort to honor startups and inventors making an impact on the fight against COVID-19. Innov865 Week 2020 is Monday, September 28 – Friday, October 2.

During a webinar with Mayor Kincannon, Tom Rogers, president and CEO of the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm and founding member of the Innov865 Alliance shared why the Innov865 Alliance made the decision to continue Innov865 Week, virtually.

“Entrepreneurship is essential to the success of our community and now, more than ever is the time to rally around our entrepreneurs,” said Rogers. “Innov865 Week will continue to spotlight Knoxville as a great place to start and grow businesses and connect entrepreneurs planting roots here with support systems to succeed.”

Innov865 Week boasts a range of events for everyone in the community to support local economic development, from investors and regional entrepreneurs to community leaders and students.

The week’s premier event is Startup Day, Tuesday, September 29. Startup Day will be presented virtually using Knoxville based technology platform, Lunchpool. Startup Day is an annual “Shark-Tank”-style pitch competition for a chance to win up to $10,000 in cash prizes. Six of Knoxville’s most investable startups will pitch their businesses in front of a panel of expert judges. In addition to the opportunity to spotlight their startup for investors, entrepreneurs will compete for a “crowd favorite” cash prize presented by BB&T and SunTrust Bank, now Truist.

Added to the Startup Day program this year is a special award and recognition of startups and inventors that have made a positive impact on the fight against COVID-19, presented by Verizon.

To learn more about Innov865 Week visit https://innov865week.com/. The event calendar will be updated as events are added.

ABOUT INNOV865 WEEK AND THE INNOV865 ALLIANCE

Innov865 Week is a weeklong celebration of Knoxville’s entrepreneurial spirit that brings together startups, entrepreneurs, makers, investors, business leaders, students, and community leaders from across East Tennessee for a week of educational panels, pitch competitions, investor roundtables, and social events. It is presented by the Innov865 Alliance, a coalition that develops, supports, and promotes the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Founding members of the Innov865 Alliance include the University of Tennessee Research Foundation, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, PYA, UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Three Roots Capital, Tennessee Valley Authority, Launch Tennessee, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm, and Bunker Labs Knoxville. To learn more, visit www.innov865.com/.

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EDP Biotech taking reservations for COVID-19 antibody testing

EDP Biotech has been busy since the company took the stage at Startup Day 2019, by now offering COVID-19 antibody testing.

You likely remember Eric Mayer, as he is the CEO of EDP Biotech, a medical device company whose mission is the development and commercialization of in-vitro diagnostic tests that detect disease early. EDP’s platform technology utilizes machine learning and multiplexing to simultaneously measure numerous proteins from a single blood draw.

EDP was planning on launching its first multi-marker blood test from the platform, ColoPlex™, used in the early detection of colorectal cancer and presenting some new data at upcoming conferences when the coronavirus hit.

Facing uncertainty and the added stress of finding out some of his own family members were diagnosed with the coronavirus, Mayer dedicated himself to learning as much as possible. In conversations with doctors across the state, he recognized the need for widespread antibody testing.

EDP’s facility and lab was recently added as one of a few entities on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website as a commercial testing lab and manufacturer of COVID-19 serology (antibody) tests.

With this announcement, EDP has started developing the tools needed to build, scale and validate tests here in Tennessee. The company is also hiring medical technicians to be able to deliver testing services to Tennessee as the economy reopens.

EDP has begun performing a modest 100 antibody tests a day for researchers, with the hopes of potentially performing three to four thousand tests a day for patients across Tennessee pending further regulatory approvals.

The company has since opened its CLIA laboratory, and they can now begin taking reservations for COVID-19 antibody testing. You can browse through their website for antibody test facts and other important details.

Once the test has received its final FDA authorization, EDP will contact you directly with next steps to finish your test order and receive your at-home finger stick blood collection kit in the mail.

Teknovation.biz’s “Investor Outlook” series interviews local investors, highlights value of Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem

A recent multi-part “Investor Outlook” series from Teknovation.biz featured panel interviews with local investors, where they assess the “then” and “now” of a variety of topics, including the overall quality of startups and the availability of early stage capital.

According to Tom Ballard, PYA’s Chief Alliance Officer and Editor of Teknovation.biz, “We’ve just entered a new decade with arguably some of the most sustained economic growth and lowest unemployment rates in our nation’s history. An important part of that growth has come from new startups, and the state of Tennessee has clearly been part of that entrepreneurial wave over the last 10 years.”

Panelists include: Eric Dobson, Chief Executive Officer of Angel Capital Group; Tony Lettich, Managing Director of The Angel Roundtable; Charlie Brock, Partner of Chattanooga Renaissance Fund; Brandon Bruce, Entrepreneur-in-Residence with Greater Sum Ventures; Ken Woody, President and Partner of Innova Memphis; Kristina Montague, Managing Partner of The JumpFund; John Morris and Geoff Robson, Fund Managers at The Lighthouse Fund; John Bruck, Knoxville-based Member, and Scott Jacobs, Executive Director, of Queen City Angels (QCA); and Grady Vanderhoofven, Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Three Roots Capital. 

Read each part in the series here:

As the Innov865 Alliance develops, supports, and promotes the Knoxville region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, we champion Knoxville as a great place for entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses and increase access to capital. The work of investors featured in this series reaffirms this mission.

TennesSeed Fund, a new evergreen, seed-stage venture capital fund, seeks to invest in Tennessee startups

The TennesSeed Fund, an evergreen, seed-stage, proof of concept venture capital fund has launched to invest in companies throughout Tennessee. The Fund is managed by TennesSeed Partners, which is a collaboration of Three Roots Capital, Meritus Capital, and Innova Memphis, Inc. To date, the Fund has made three investments in Active Energy Systems (Oak Ridge), Entac Medical (Memphis) and SmartRIA (Knoxville).

The Fund’s unique model — consisting of for-profit (“TennesSeed Partners, LLC”) and nonprofit (“TennesSeed Funders 501(c)3”) entities — allows it to operate as an evergreen investor to sustain ongoing investment activity and lasting economic impact within the state. Grady Vanderhoofven, the founder, president and chief executive officer of Three Roots Capital, and Ken Woody, the president, partner and founder of Innova Memphis, serve as the Fund’s co-managers, directors and investment team members.

With more than 18 years of investment experience in the state and region, Vanderhoofven and Woody formed the TennesSeed Fund to address a growing need for seed-stage capital in the region. In addition to forming and partially capitalizing the Fund, the duo have engaged several noteworthy and successful Tennessee entrepreneurs to serve as mentors for TennesSeed portfoliocompanies; Bill Malkes, co-founder and former CEO of GRIDSMART Technologies, Chad Seaver, founder and CEO of Arkis Biosciences, and Brandon Bruce, co-founder and former COO of Cirrus Insight. Each of the executives recently led his respective company through a successful acquisition by a larger company.

“Tennessee is home to world-renowned technology resources and research institutions, as well as numerous entrepreneurs who have created businesses in their basements and garages,” said Vanderhoofven. “In our early research and planning to launch the TennesSeed Fund, we surveyed stakeholders statewide and confirmed a dire and chronic need for more capital to support young, small, and start-up companies. TennesSeed Fund is an answer to the question of how do we increase entrepreneurial activity and capital attraction in the state.” 

“Our evergreen structure allows for the permanent, ongoing cycle of fundraising, investments, and successful investment outcomes, which hopefully will have direct and lasting economic benefits throughout the state,” said Woody. He added, “Anyone who wants to support entrepreneurship, technology commercialization, and access to capital for young companies in Tennessee should find the TennesSeed model innovative and compelling.”

The Fund does not have a specific industry or technology focus, allowing it to invest in a variety of Tennessee-based companies and help them achieve specific, well-defined milestones to substantially de-risk future investment and increase the value of the company.

“Our relationship with the TennesSeed Fund has been great timing for us. They provided the right advice at the right time and funds just when we needed them to secure our intellectual property claims,” said Active Energy Systems Co-Founder Mitchell Ishmael. “This investment and relationship has been immensely valuable for us.”

“As a startup in Tennessee, we’re delighted that they put the TennesSeed Fund together for Tennessee startups because access to capital is our primary issue in the region,” said Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Entac Medical Buddy Lyons. “There are great ideas and technology here, but it’s all about finding access to the right capital to move companies forward. The TennesSeed Fund is going to be part of the solution.”

“There has been a lack of capital in the Knoxville region for software companies like ours, which is why the TennesSeed Fund coming in and being willing to provide capital is a pretty big deal,”said SmartRIA CEO Mac Bartine. “The entire team at the TennesSeed Fund was excellent and easy to work with. The capital they provided was a large part of the growth capital that we have used this year, and we’ve used it to grow almost 10 percent month over month so far.”