Three New I-Corps Teams from CFAES

Three of the teams selected for I-Corps@Ohio funding hail from CFAES.

I-Corps@Ohio is a program for faculty and graduate students from Ohio universities and colleges. It provides funding and training to help move fundamental research into innovative products and services, using scalable business models that serve as the basis for startup companies.

The CFAES teams, which will receive $15,000 in funding, include:

Nanicula—Nanovaccine against Salmonella in poultry via drinking water delivery. The principle investigator is Aradhya Gourapura, DVM, professor in the Food Animal Health Research Program; the entrepreneurial lead is Sankar Renu, post-doctoral research scientist in Gourapura’s lab; and the mentor is Shauna R. Brummet, president and CEO, BioHio Research Park.
Pseudo-NIM—Biological Control of Hydroponic Plant-root Bacterial Disease. The principle investigator is Chris Taylor, associate professor, Department of Plant Pathology; The entrepreneurial leads are Cecilia Freitas, PhD candidate; Emily Horst, undergraduate student; and Madeline Horvat, research associate in Taylor’s lab. The mentors are Brummet, Mike Bledsoe, vice president Food Safety & Regulatory Affairs; Bruce Caldwell, CEO 3-Bar Biologics, Inc.; Sally Miller, professor, Department of Plant Pathology; and Subbu Kumarappan, assistant professor, Ohio State ATI.
Frost Shield—Natural Products for Prevention of Frost Damage in Vineyards. The principle investigator is Imed Dami, Department of Horticulture and Crop Science; The entrepreneurial lead is Hongrui Wang, MS candidate in Dami’s lab. The mentor is Brummet.

Teams that receive I-Corps@Ohio funding are required to complete an intensive seven-week, hands-on training program. The curriculum is designed to help aspiring entrepreneurial teams understand the market for their technology, develop a compelling commercialization strategy, and attain new skills that will be useful to a long-term career in research and development.
According to the I-Corps@Ohio website, program teams will:

  • learn key business modeling concepts and how they are relevant to start-up efforts, including problem-solution fit, customer/market segments, value propositions, channels, and revenue streams,
  • assess their core assumptions by developing and testing hypotheses about each critical aspect of the total commercial opportunity,
  • conduct numerous interviews (up to 100) with customers, end-users, purchasers and channel partners to develop a rich understanding about the customer market and the needs for the proposed products and services,
  • learn from executive mentors and program instructors with relevant industry, scientific, and startup expertise.

Team outcomes will include a clear go/no go decision regarding market viability, a development and transition plan should the decision be to move the effort forward, and a technology demonstration for potential investors, collaborators, and industry partners.

I-Corps@Ohio is a life-changing opportunity. Participating in an I-Corps team can open your eyes to a different way of looking at the world, and the role and importance of your work in the world," Brummet said.

"It helps research scientists decide if they have an entrepreneurial interest that can be incorporated to a greater or lesser extent into their work. Scientists and students can see the value of the translational aspect of their work and incorporate translational activities early in their research efforts. Considering the end-user—the customer—will become a well-used tool in the toolbox of the top-performing research scientist,” she said.

I-Corps@Ohio is modeled after the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) successful I-Corps program, which has proven to increase innovation, entrepreneurship, and industry collaboration. I-Corps@Ohio is an initiative of the Ohio Department of Higher Education. Founding institutions include University of Akron, University of Cincinnati, Lorain County Community College, Ohio University, The Ohio State University, and University of Toledo.