Published: Nov. 8, 2021

Eleven university innovators pitched their innovations at Lab Venture Challenge (LVC), an annual funding competition hosted by Venture Partners at CU Boulder that accelerates commercially promising technologies accelerate into impactful business ventures.

Judges from CU Boulder’s entrepreneurial network awarded a record 15 grants totaling $1.475 million. Awardees were the top physical science and bioscience innovations demonstrating high commercial potential, a clear path to a compelling market and strong scientific support.

"We are thrilled to be partnering with the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade’s (OEDIT) in supporting these innovations to move one step closer to making a real-world impact," said Dipika Singh, assistant director of licensing at Venture Partners and director of LVC.

On Nov. 3–4, ventures competed in two different categories: Biosciences and Physical Sciences & Engineering. Finalists delivered short pitches and answered questions live for a panel of business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors.

One innovation in Biosciences was NatruGel, a 3D-printed biomaterial medical device from startup TissueForm designed to mimic and rebuild natural tissues for patients suffering from tissue loss due to disease, damage or aging. TissueForm was born of the New Soft Tissue Bioengineering Lab at CU Boulder, led by Jeanne Barthold, PhD and Professor Corey Neu.

Liang He, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Denver, and his team were one of the Physical Sciences finalists promoting their battery-enabled anti-theft vehicle immobilizer. Installed as an add-on between a vehicle and its battery, a driver will enter a personalized authentication option alongside the car key to start the car. If a person tries to start the car with just the key, the engine will not operate.

Audience members voted for their favorite pitch as well, awarding ventures with an additional $1,500. Camila Uzcategui (Vitro3D) and Kailey Shara (Chembotix) were awarded the Audience Choice Award for each category. 

"LVC was an amazing opportunity to see which labs at the university are taking technology from the bench to the market. The best part of the program is the preparation hosted by Venture Partners. We do a pitch academy and get to receive feedback from business and technology experts during the pitch practice. The judges bring amazing expertise to the event as they ask insightful questions that will help the venture in the long run. We're grateful for this event and know that this win will be an important stepping stone," said Uzcategui of Vitro3D, a company that developed a 3D printed platform for early cancer drug discovery.

To prepare for the showcase, finalists were encouraged to participate in Venture Partners’ iCorps programs, such as Starting Blocks and Research-to-Market. Many also attended Elements in Entrepreneurship workshops, a monthly series covering the basics of building a high-tech, university-based startup.

Throughout the program, commercialization mentors and the Venture Partners team provided feedback for finalists to refine their pitches and practice engaging different business audiences for funding. Awardees will continue to collaborate with Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIRs), mentors and Venture Partners on the path to commericialization.

Four proposals were also selected for funding up to $67,000 in LVC Phase II, a pilot program for past LVC winners who have demonstrated excellent progress since their initial award.

“The combination of gap funding, mentorship, and the training programs that accompany these awards is building a new level of value in CU Boulder’s startups,” said Brynmor Rees, assistant vice chancellor for Research & Innovation and managing director of Venture Partners.

LVC funding is provided by OEDIT AIA program, Venture Partners at CU Boulder and the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund. The LVC finals were sponsored by Berg Hill Greenleaf Ruscitti LLP, OEDIT and Lathrop GPM.

To learn more about Lab Venture Challenge and how to accelerate your campus-based venture, visit Venture Partners at CU Boulder