This year's capstone event, in its second year and collocated with the Cell & Gene Meeting on the Mesa, included six finalists -- selected from over 160 applicants -- who competed for the grand prize and the title of 2022 BioTools Innovator. The six finalists delivered presentations on a diversity of tools designed to increase the speed, accuracy, and safety of both diagnostics and translational biology research.
The finalists were invited to present their pitch at the event, four judges asked them questions, and the audience ultimately voted for GenNext Technologies as the best presentation and grand prize winner. The five other finalists each received $10,000 to continue developing their products as part of the accelerator program focused exclusively on supporting, mentoring, and advancing life science tools startup companies at all stages of fundraising.
GenNext, based in Half Moon Bay, CA, won based on the pitch delivered by the company's CEO Scot Weinberger. The company provides instruments, software, and services to analyze the higher order structures of proteins using their novel Flash Oxidation (FoxTM) Protein Footprinting System. GenNext is already used by some top pharmaceutical companies, and the system provides an early indicator during drug development for the activity and safety of target compounds.
The other finalists included a diversity of innovative tool companies. RealSeq Biosciences developed a method to detect RNA markers in blood, "RiboMarkers," for identifying disease and its progression. Ananda created a plate with chambers that permits neuronal growth and activity monitoring to be used before R&D teams move into animal model systems. CellChorus also offers a screening technology but for live immune cell activity assays in multi-well plates and analyzes this data with their algorithm. Cellbox has a live cell transfer box as a solution to freezing samples. DropGenie enables micro genetic surgeries, or editing, using a magnetic field.
In addition to the grand prize, there was a competition for the best 60-second company video in which the audience voted among three videos selected by BioTools: CellChorus, Opera Biosciences, and Sequegenics. The winning video was from Opera Biosciences, led by the CEO and co-founder, Gerry Sapienza. Opera Biosciences utilizes bacteria to secrete proteins of interest in order to mitigate the typical tradeoffs encountered during protein production including scale, speed, purity, and yield.
While therapeutic biotech startups have many venture capital and private equity options when pursuing funding, there are far fewer options for startups focusing on life science and diagnostic tools. BioTools Innovator, led by managing partner Kathryn Zavala, PhD, is powered by MedTech Innovator. The grand prize is funded by the founding partners, Broad Oak Capital Partners and Research Corporation Technologies, and the acceleration partner this year, Nissan Chemical America Corporation.