Ben Savage waits back stage before giving a his pitch for CZ Nutrition

Ben Savage waits back stage before giving a his pitch for CZ Nutrition, a start up that has invented a technology to produce clear protein drinks, during the final round of the Tennessee Venture Challenge at The Foundry on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. (SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL)

Startup Peroxygen Systems Claims $20K Venture Challenge Prize

Knoxville News Sentinel article by Ali James

Knoxville startup company Peroxygen Systems, Inc., took the top prize of $20,000 Wednesday afternoon in the 2016 Tennessee Venture Challenge competition for budding entrepreneurs.

During the event, held at The Foundry in World’s Fair Park, Ming Qi of Peroxygen Systems accepted the prize money from the University of Tennessee Research Foundation, winning the competition over five other startups whose principals pitched their business ideas to a panel of investors.

A separate $5,000 “Crowd Favorite” prize went to Shawn Butler, Austin Scott and Daniel Wiggins of Farm Specific Technology LLC. They were voted the top startup by the audience during the presentations, through a text-in voting system. That prize was sponsored by Launch Tennessee.

Second-and third-place winners overall, respectively, were Farm Specific Technology, with a $3,000 prize, and CZ Nutrition, which won $2,000 respectively.

“We’re pleased to present Peroxygen Systems with this honor and look forward to seeing how Peroxygen Systems grows in the future,” said Stacey S. Patterson, the research foundation’s vice president. “The 2016 Tennessee Venture Challenge saw technologies that represented the broad spectrum of research occurring at the University of Tennessee that have the potential to solve problems and bring tremendous innovations to the global marketplace.”

Ming Qi, a former postdoctoral researcher at UT, started Peroxygen Systems to change the hydrogen peroxide production and delivery process to make it more efficient and cost effective. Hydrogen peroxide is used for its oxidizing properties, working as a bleaching agent and disinfectant against bacteria, viruses, spores and yeasts.

Qi said that the onsite production of hydrogen peroxide reduces costs for manufacturers by more than 50 percent, and more importantly it is environmentally friendly and prevents the dangerous transportation of the chemical.

“We are pretty happy,” said Qi of the prize. “We will really make use of the money to build our first prototype.”

Farm Specific Technology is working to patent the Flex Roller Crimper, a flexible twist on a piece of farm equipment used to manage cover crops and get rid of pesky weeds. Butler, a graduate research assistant at UT’s West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center, is working with Scott and Wiggins on the project.

Dr. Qixin Zhong, a professor with the UT Department of Food and Science Technology, started CZ Nutrition. He has invented a technology to produce clear protein drinks that are easy on the palate, rich in nutrients and sugar free.

Each group’s eight-minute presentation was heard by at a panel of four investor judges: Ken Woody of Innova Memphis; Grady Vanderhoofven of Meritus Ventures; Brian Laden of TriStar Technology Ventures; and Tim Wilson of Artiman Ventures.

This is the second year that the University of Tennessee Research Foundation has hosted the challenge, a months-long process during which startups tweak and pitch their products, commercializing intellectual property created at a UT campus or institute.

The final teams were selected from 18 university-affiliated startup companies who beginning in February went through a seven-week “entrepreneurial boot camp” that helped inventors define their markets and tweak their pitches. Eight teams went on to compete in the semifinals.

“It showcases broad-based technologies throughout the area,” said Stacey Patterson, vice president of the research foundation. “Hopefully it will lead to significant economic growth in the region.”

The prize money comes from royalty revenues gained through other UT-owned intellectual properties.

The other teams that competed in the event were:

T&T Scientific Corp. — UT students Graham Taylor, a Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering, and Nima Tamadonni, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering, are leveraging their experience in the laboratory setting to help researchers increase efficiency in bioengineering, electrophysiology, biophysics and molecular pathology.

TechSmarrt — Made up of doctoral candidates at the UT Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, TechSmarrt has cracked the code that cuts research time for scientists analyzing materials. Led by Akinola Oyedele, TechSmarrt software provides a way for researchers to identify and understand the properties of new and existing materials.

Iono Pharma — Dr. Hassan Almoazen, director of the Ph.D. program in Pharmaceutical Sciences and the dual degree Pharm.D./Ph.D. program at the UT College of Pharmacy in Memphis, has developed a new, patent-pending approach to deliver over-the-counter iodide to millions of children worldwide, designed to help prevent mental retardation and developmental growth delay.