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Innovation & Job News

Long-horizon tech startups get a much-needed boost

The University City Science Center

Entrepreneurs interested in "long -horizon" technologies -- those that require significant development and/or regulatory approvals in sectors such as healthcare, materials or energy -- have a new option for obtaining funding, expertise and other resources.
The University City Science Center's Phase 1 Ventures Program (P1V)  has emerged from stealth mode to widen its net and offer support to startups so new they might not even yet have names.
"Phase 1 Ventures serves the space in between our QED program (which provides resources to promising projects that are being developed within the academic setting) and our Port Business Incubators (which provide resources to startup companies that have already raised financing)," explains Science Center spokesperson Kristen Fitch. "P1V helps to 'road test' commercially relevant technologies outside the academic setting and to give them a chance to build management and raise funding."
Since P1V was soft-launched as a pilot in mid-2015, the program has supported these ventures, with several more expected to begin this year.
  • BioSignal Analytics uses machine-learning techniques to interpret medical signals such as electrical brain signals. The technology is from Temple University
  • LytPhage is developing a biotechnology that it hopes will replace chemical antibiotics in the fight against resistant bacteria. The technology is also from Temple.
  • PolyCore Therapeutics is developing a new drug to manage the side effects of treating Parkinson's and other neurological diseases. The technology is from Drexel University and Rutgers University. 
  • SDMI Inc., a startup formed by Dr. Chao Zhou from Lehigh University and Robert Michel, is developing a technology that will improve the speed and quality of eye exams.
  • A team including Dr. Oscar Perez from Temple University and Science Center Entrepreneur-in-Residence Matt Handel is working on a treatment for psoriasis.
  • A team including Dr. Joseph Freeman from Rutgers University and Science Center Entrepreneur-in-Residence Russell Secter is working on a technology for improving bone healing. 
  • A team including Drs. Michael Zdilla and Stephanie Wunder from Temple University and Science Center Entrepreneur-in-Residence Grant Chapman is working on a technology to improve the performance of lithium ion batteries.
P1V initially provides up to $25,000 and a semi-customized package of resources including facilities, funding, management expertise, and professional services in areas such as intellectual property, regulations, reimbursement, market evaluation, grant preparation and financial management.
Once successful in securing non-dilutive financing (capital that does not affect its ownership), participants become eligible for Phase 1 financing from P1V -- typically $150,000. Phase 2, typically $300,000, will be available to teams that subsequently secure follow-on financing.
According to Fitch, PolyCore has become the first company to transition to Phase 1 and will receive up to $250,000 to further its development of pharmaceutical treatment for Parkinson’s symptoms. The company secured funding for its project -- through its collaboration with Drexel University -- from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation
"There are plenty of options for the growing software and digital sector, but not enough opportunities for long-horizon technologies," said Science Center President Steven Tang in a statement. "These are the technologies that have historically been the cornerstone of our region’s economy."

WRITER IN RESIDENCE is a partnership between the University City Science Center and Flying Kite Media that embeds a reporter on-site at 3711 Market Street. The resulting coverage will provide an inside look at the most intriguing companies, discoveries and technological innovations coming out of this essential Philadelphia institution.
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