Four startups were picked to deliver 10-minute business pitches. Here, UA associate pharmacology professor Rajesh Khanna talks about Regulonix’s development of biotech inhibitor drugs for chronic pain.

Paul Tumarkin / Tech Launch Arizona

Tech Launch Arizona honored three people, a startup company and a key campus partner this week for helping further the agency’s mission of bringing University of Arizona inventions to market.

TLA’s fourth annual I-Squared Expo & Awards, held Tuesday at the Jim Click Hall of Champions at McKale Center, also featured a “pitch session,” allowing faculty startups to practice their business pitches in front of a TLA panel ahead of an upcoming event in Silicon Valley.

The expo featured exhibits of a number of UA technologies in development, including a living heart patch invented at the College of Medicine, a high-altitude inflatable antenna and a new tunable laser.

Honors awarded by TLA were:

  • Inventor of the Year, Physical Sciences: Douglas Loy, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the College of Science and professor of materials science and engineering in the College of Engineering. A prolific inventor, Loy has 15 inventions to his name, ranging from fluorescent epoxies to sunscreens to antioxidants. He has participated in the TLA’s National Science Foundation I-Corps program, which aims to increase the impact of university research by helping to move promising inventions toward commercialization.
  • Inventor of the Year, Life Sciences: Vijay Gokhale, director of computational chemistry at the UA Bio5 Institute’s drug discovery and development initiative. Gokhale has worked with TLA and a number of scientists as a co-inventor on multiple projects related to drug discovery.
  • Startup of the Year: MetOxs Electrochemical (faculty members Jinhong Zhang, Dominic Gervasio, Moe Momayez; co-inventor and partner Abraham Jalbout). MetOxs has licensed several UA technologies to address environmental and energy issues in mining, including molten-salt metal extraction methods, heat recovery systems and corrosion sensors, as well as a spinoff developing a fly ash-based substitute for concrete.
  • Campus Collaborator of the Year: McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship TLA said the top-rated McGuire Center has been “an indispensable partner” in the agency’s NSF I-Corps program.
  • Ecosystem Impact of the Year: Katina Koller, CEO of Northwire Inc.
  • As a volunteer TLA “commercialization partner,” Koller is an active participant in TLA’s weekly round-table discussions and has served as a mentor for NSF I-Corps teams, a proactive supporter of TLA projects and “an overall enthusiastic contributor to the TLA mission,” the agency said.

Four of the startup companies on the expo were picked by TLA to deliver 10-minute business pitches to a panel and answer rapid-fire questions.

One representative from each of the companies will have expenses paid to travel with TLA to Silicon Valley in early May to make a pitch at TechCode, a global startup incubator TLA has partnered with to increase the reach and effectiveness of UA inventions and startups.

The pitching companies are: Avery Therapeutics, recently formed to commercialize a graft for a beating heart invented at the College of Medicine; Regulonix, which is developing biotech inhibitor drugs for chronic pain; BDIAB, advancing a platform for the analysis of big healthcare data; and Reglagene, which has developed technology to “turn off” cancer genes.