September 02, 2015

SUNY Research Foundation News: Grants, investments boost SUNY Poly CNSE start-up

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SUNY Research Foundation News

A concept that started with human eye cells on a scaffold fabricated at SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (SUNY Poly CNSE) is climbing steadily toward its commercial debut. Glauconix, Inc., a contract research services firm headquartered at SUNY Poly CNSE in Albany, has attracted $575,000 worth of grants and investments since its founding. Now, it’s negotiating its first contracts with customers.

“Glauconix is one of our major successes,” says Pradeep Haldar, interim dean of SUNY Poly CNSE, and vice president of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Clean Energy Programs.

Karen Torrejon, chief executive officer of Glauconix, was inspired to start the company while working as a doctoral candidate in the lab of Susan Sharfstein, associate professor of nanobiosciences at SUNY Poly CNSE. Sharfstein and two colleagues used a nanoscale scaffold to culture a duplicate of a filter-like tissue in the eye, called the trabecular meshwork, that has a role in the disease glaucoma. Researchers can use this tissue to test possible glaucoma drugs.

Sharfstein’s work was awarded a $50,000 investment from SUNY’s Technology Accelerator Fund to develop a commercial prototype of this model.

Inspired by the success of the prototype that TAF enabled, Torrejon decided to launch a start-up to commercialize the technology. She joined a class in entrepreneurship, run by Haldar’s organization. That class teaches researchers to transform their work into viable businesses, helping them to define their value proposition, write a business plan and learn to make presentations to potential collaborators and customers. “Finally, as a capstone experience, they participate in the New York Business Plan Competition, which we host here at SUNY Poly CNSE,” Haldar says.

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