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Knox startups competing for $20K prize in Tenn. Venture Challenge

Knoxville News Sentinel article by Mamie Kuykendall

Six startup companies will compete to win a $20,000 grand prize Wednesday when they pitch their products to a group of seasoned investors at the Tennessee Venture Challenge’s final event.

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

The biyearly event culminates at The Foundry, 747 World’s Fair Park Drive, 3-5 p.m. It is open to the public.

“You won’t want to miss this year’s competition,” said Dr. David Millhorn, University of Tennessee executive vice president and president of the research foundation. “We are pleased to support this exciting group of entrepreneurs moving inventions from University of Tennessee classrooms and laboratories into the commercial marketplace.”

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.

Launch Tennessee will sponsor an additional $5,000 “crowd favorite” prize, to be awarded by audience members through a text-in vote.

The [Finalist] teams:

Farm Specific Technology: Team FarmSpec 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. Shawn Butler, a graduate research assistant at UT’s West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center, is working with Austin Scott and Daniel Wiggins on the project.

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.

Peroxygen Systems, Inc.: Ming Qi, a former postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tennessee, is changing the hydrogen peroxide production and delivery process to make it 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.

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.

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

The event is free but registration is required.

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