Five teams named finalists in Chicago Innovation Exchange’s funding competition

University Communications

The Chicago Innovation Exchange has announced the five finalists in its Innovation Fund’s spring cycle. Twice per year, the fund takes applications, hears pitches and decides to invest in emerging technologies and startups out of the University of Chicago and its affiliates—Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. The fund so far has invested $3.9 million in 54 startups.

This cycle includes a diverse set of technologies, including companies focused on DNA replication, voting, cancer treatment, obesity and language. These companies, chosen partially for their potential for societal impact, are in the running for an investment from the $20 million fund to continue developing their technologies and strengthen their place in the market. The teams will start preparing for their final pitch, on June 1, in front of a panel of judges, including distinguished angel and venture capital investors, scientists, and entrepreneurs.

A look at the finalists:

BallotReady is an online voter guide to local, state and national elections, aimed at making it easier to make an informed vote. BallotReady is developing new ways to source content, using automated content collection that will allow rapid expansion to elections nationwide. More than 64,000 voters researched their ballots last month leading up to the Illinois primary election. Alex Niemczewski, AB’09, and graduate student Aviva Rosman, AB’10, lead the team.

Beige Therapeutics’ technology for treating obesity alters cellular function by increasing energy expenditure and enhancing metabolic activity, leading to decreased weight gain, even in the presence of a high-fat diet. Ronald Cohen, associate professor of medicine; Eric Brey, professor of biomedical engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology; and project manager Marcella Vaicik lead the team.

Minimally Invasive Electron Radiation Therapy is accomplished by inserting a rigid catheter through a small incision, aligning the catheter at the tumor, and transmitting a highly focused, high-energy electron beam into the tumor. MIERT can irradiate cancers that are difficult to treat with X-rays, such as bone metastasis, tumors near the spine and inoperable tumors. John Noonan, Terry Smith and Dean Walters, all of Argonne National Laboratory, lead the team.

Rzhetsky Language Science, LLC, is bringing to market the “Text Filter” technology created by Andrey Rzhetsky, professor of medicine and human genetics. Text filters are a mathematical representation of a significant body of text that the captures the native relationships between words. The first product to use this technology is Articulate, a service that advises users on how to tune their writing to more accurately reflect their intentions and help them communicate more clearly. Rzhetsky, project lead Schoeller Porter and Nancy Harvey, executive-in-residence of UChicagoTech, lead the project.

Nucleic Acid Detection represents important tools for chemists, biologists and medical scientists. Nucleic Acid Detection is developing mobile and low-energy methods for precise detection and rapid diagnosis of new contagions, aiming to change how crises, such as the recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks, would be contained. Yossi Weizmann, assistant professor in the Physical Sciences Division, and postdoctoral student Zoya Cheglakov lead the team.

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