Release Date: May 5, 2016
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Buffalo’s reputation as a breeding ground for innovation and entrepreneurship just took a big step forward.
Student-led teams from the University at Buffalo claimed three first place prizes – more than any other school in the state – at the seventh annual New York Business Plan Competition.
They competed against more than 500 student-led teams from 64 colleges and universities from across the state at the contest, which was held April 29 at SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s Albany NanoTech Complex.
A panel of venture capitalists, angel investors and investment bankers selected UB teams for top honors in the health care, information technology and energy categories. Each winning team will receive $10,000 plus in-kind services.
“This remarkable accomplishment is a testament to the ingenuity and tenacity of some very good UB students and the support they have received,” said Martin Casstevens, business formation and commercialization manager at UB’s Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR). “It also speaks volumes about the entrepreneurial ecosystem, created by UB and community leaders, which is seeding Buffalo’s transformation into a knowledge-based economy.”
Each UB team is connected to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. They are also clients of Directed Energy, a virtual incubator funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and managed by STOR.
Here are descriptions of the student-led teams and their companies:
Abcombi Biosciences (Biotechnology/Healthcare award)
Abcombi is licensing UB-created biotechnology to develop products that improve vaccines by making them more potent and accessible. The company’s CEO is Charles Jones, who recently received a PhD in chemical and biological engineering at UB. Co-founders include Jonathan Lovell, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at UB; and Blaine Pfeifer, PhD, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering at UB. Abcombi is also working with UB via START-UP NY, a tax incentive program that pairs promising new startups with colleges and universities.
Buffalo Automation Group (Information Technology/Software award)
A graduate of UB’s Technology Incubator, Buffalo Automation Group won the 2015 Buffalo Student Sandbox contest and the UB’s 2016 Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition (Panasci TEC). The company is developing cutting-edge self-navigation technology for ships. Unlike traditional autopilot systems which follow coordinate information and compass readings, the company’s technology is predictive, sensing environmental threats before they arise. Buffalo Automation Group is led by Thiru Vikram, Emilie Reynolds and Alex Zhitelzeyf, all former or current students in UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Buffalo Automation Group is also working with UB via START-UP NY.
Nano Hydro – (NYSERDA Energy/Sustainability award)
The company is led by Parham Rohani, a PhD candidate in the lab of Mark Swihart, UB Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. Rohani is developing technology that induces a chemical reaction between inorganic nanomaterials and water to liberate hydrogen as a fuel source to be used in unmanned vehicles and other products that typically run on batteries. Rohani participated in UB’s Entrepreneurship Lab, which is run by STOR and UB’s School of Management.
Nano Hydro was previously selected to participate in NEXUS-NY, a program that moves promising energy technologies out of universities into commercial firms. NEXUS-NY is run by High Tech Rochester (a nonprofit that spurs innovation and entrepreneurship) and funded by the NYSERDA.