New startups created by UC Davis Innovations are driving solutions in food, health and agriculture

In fiscal year 2021-22, 13 startups entered into agreements to access core intellectual property and commercialize new technologies developed at the University of California, Davis.

“The bold pursuit of new solutions through research at UC Davis often leads to new technologies and services aligned with a commercial path to impact,” said Prasanth Mohapatra, vice chancellor for research at UC Davis. “In most cases, these innovations are licensed to existing companies, but many also become the basis for emerging startups. We are excited to see the success of this path continue at UC Davis.”

The process for linking university innovation with commercial impact is managed by Commercialization of innovations and technologies a department that is part of the Office of Scientific Research. In fiscal year 2021-2022, the department processed 132 new invention records and executed 48 license agreements.

To the division Venture Catalyst the unit focuses on advancing potential technologies with proof-of-concept funding and facilitating the creation of start-ups.

The University of California campus system ranks first in the world for U.S. utility patents, according to a recent report from National Academy of Inventors and on Association of Intellectual Property Owners.

“Venture Catalyst, which launched in 2013, provides resources to help campus innovators advance technology and launch new companies,” said Janine Elliott, interim director of Venture Catalyst. “It’s exciting to see the results of these efforts and the wide range of solutions moving forward.”

Meeting the needs of food, health and ag

Over the past 10 years, Venture Catalyst has helped 130 startups with core intellectual property. The 13 emerging startups of the past year are focused on developing technologies to address needs in food, healthcare and agriculture.

One of the startups, Eunicera develops new therapeutics for the treatment and cure of advanced drug-resistant prostate cancer. Co-Founder of Alan Gaoprofessor in the Department of Urology, the company’s patented orally bioavailable small molecules targeting both AKR1C3 and androgen receptor variants work alone or in combination with current therapies to overcome and prevent treatment resistance.

Another company, Optimized foods is driven by innovation in the food technology and cultured meat sectors. Using a new approach in mycelium technology, the team creates nutritious, sustainable foods starting with cultured caviar. Minami Ogawa, a graduate student in the Department of Food Sciences, discovered how the innovation could be used as an ideal, patented scaffold for culturing cells. in parallel, Ruihong Zhang, professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, and her lab was developing core elements of the platform for food applications. The company’s platform is focused on making the dream of cultured meat a reality and improving the health of people, animals and the planet.

Peak B commercializes natural alternatives to synthetic food colors with superior color qualities, stability and strength. The startup, led by the University of California, Davis, has discovered a cyan-blue color, solving one of the biggest challenges in the food industry’s search for natural food coloring. The researchers studied anthocyanin, a water-soluble pigment found in many familiar fruits and vegetables, giving them their vibrant red, purple, pink, and blue hues. A specific anthocyanin has been found in red cabbage that exhibits the desired blue properties. Because the amount of anthocyanin in red cabbage is small, they used an enzymatic process to turn its other anthocyanins blue. Co-Founder of Justin Seale, associate professor of chemistry, biochemistry and molecular medicine, the company’s patented enzyme-based process now converts extracts from natural sources into blue and green dyes that can be used in a variety of food applications.

Additional companies that have entered into agreements to access core intellectual property from UC Davis in the 2021-22 fiscal year are highlighted below. Three companies have chosen to remain in “stealth mode” for competitive reasons and are not named.

AIVision aims to reducing the use of toxic chemicals and food loss through early detection of insects. The company is co-founder of Zhongli Panassociate professor in Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering.

Artisyn Laboratories develops sustainable wellness products for the commercial market. The company was co-founded by Mark Maskallprofessor in the chemistry department.

Medical Hope focuses on developing a medical device that helps patients with swallowing difficulties. The company was co-founded by Peter Belafskyprofessor in the Department of Otolaryngology.

Cobin develops precision agriculture using aerial data analysis. The company was co-founded by Alireza Pourreza, assistant professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering.

Mirnova Therapeutics develops small molecule and microRNA drugs to treat traumatic brain injury and other neurological disorders. The company is co-founded by Da Zhi Liu, assistant professor in the Department of Neurology.

Prisma Bio is a pioneer in the use of biotechnology to produce natural colors based on protein pigments based on natural light-sensitive pigment systems from plants and algae to deliver all colors in the visible spectrum. These sustainable natural colors can be used in food products, industrial products and personal care products, as well as in healthcare applications. Their technology will have a significant impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Co-founders include John Clark Sauce, distinguished professor emeritus in the College of Biological Sciences and Justin Seal, an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry.

VGN Bio Inc. develops unique cancer drug candidates from viral protein sequences that have evolved over millions of years of co-evolution. The company was co-founded by Yoshihiro Izumiya, assistant in the Department of Dermatology.

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