University of Louisville-backed startups scored a one-two finish in this year’s “Venture Sharks” business pitch competition held on May 2.
The companies, Innovative Therapeutix Inc. and DesiCorp, were favorites in audience voting, respectively placing first (34 percent) and second (32 percent). Innovative Therapeutix also won the shark-judged competition.
“This win is huge for us,” said Michael Detmer, Innovative Therapeutix co-founder and UofL adjunct professor of music therapy. “We are in a very exciting but daunting phase of our startup.”
Innovative Therapeutix produces LullaFeed, a musical baby bottle to help reinforce infant feeding. DesiCorp has a novel method of freeze-drying blood to extend its shelf-life, which could have many applications, including in the military or humanitarian aid.
Detmer’s partner, Rebekah Gossom, is a Norton Healthcare speech-language pathologist. Their backgrounds — music and medicine — were perfect for creating the product, but they had less experience in entrepreneurship and commercialization.
For that, both teams worked with the UofL Office of the Executive Vice President for Research and Innovation (EVPRI), which has offices to help researchers translate their ideas from lab to the marketplace.
The teams, for example, worked with the EVPRI’s Office of Technology Transfer for advice, help securing the intellectual property and connections to funding and training opportunities.
“Our goal is to help our inventors to turn their ideas into real products, and sometimes, turn them into real entrepreneurs,” said OTT director, Dr. Allen Morris. “It’s a proud moment when you see them fully come into that, as these teams have.”
The teams also participated in other programs, including the NSF Innovation Corps site program at UofL; XLerate Health, a local business accelerator and UofL partner; and with UofL’s ExCITE, an NIH-backed program that helps researchers commercialize healthcare-related technologies.
“Both of these teams are great illustrations of how the University of Louisville ecosystem nurtures budding entrepreneurs and helps them to develop products that will positively impact human health,” said ExCITE program director, Dr. Paula Bates.
She said ExCITE now works with 19 projects from diverse disciplines across campus. ExCITE projects are led by students, faculty and staff from a range of departments and backgrounds, including medicine and music.
“Seeing what was once our silly clipart drawing of the device go through multiple iterations in the lab and then end up in our hands was one of the most rewarding moments,” Detmer said.
Detmer said Innovative Therapeutix is planning to launch the product in early 2019. Right now, they’re beta testing the bottles with real parents, talking to manufacturers, and trying to raise additional funding.