New startups created from UC Davis Innovations are driving solutions in food, health and agriculture


In fiscal year 2021-22, 13 startups entered into agreements to access foundational intellectual property and commercialize new technologies developed at the University of California, Davis.

“The bold pursuit of innovative solutions through research at UC Davis often results in new technologies and services aligned with a business pathway of impact,” said Prasant Mohapatra, vice chancellor for research at UC Davis. Davis. “In most cases, these innovations are licensed to existing companies, but many also become the basis for emerging startups. We are excited to see the success of this path continue at UC Davis.

The process of connecting university innovations to business impact is managed by the Innovation and technology commercialization division, which is part of the Office of Research. During the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the division processed 132 new invention files and signed 48 license agreements.

That of division business catalyst The unit focuses on advancing potential technologies with proof-of-concept funding and facilitating the formation of startups.

University of California campus system ranks first in the world for number of U.S. utility patents according to recent study report from National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association.

“Venture Catalyst, which launched in 2013, provides resources to help campus innovators advance technologies and launch new businesses,” said Janine Elliott, Acting Director of Venture Catalyst. “It’s exciting to see the results of these efforts and the wide range of solutions being advanced.”

Respond to food, health and ag needs

Over the past 10 years, Venture Catalyst has helped 130 startups with foundational intellectual property. The 13 startups emerging in the past year are focused on developing technologies to meet needs in food, health and agriculture.

One of the startups, Eunicera develops new therapies to treat and cure advanced drug-resistant prostate cancer. Co-founded by Allen GaoProfessor in the Department of Urology, the company’s proprietary orally bioavailable small molecules targeting both AKR1C3 and androgen receptor variants work alone or in combination with current therapies to overcome and prevent treatment resistance.

Another company, Optimized feeds is powered by innovations in the food technology and cultured meat industries. Using a new approach to mycelium technology, the team creates nutritious and sustainable foods, starting with cultured caviar. Minami Ogawa, a graduate student in the Department of Food Science, discovered how the innovation could be harnessed as an ideal proprietary scaffold for cell culture. In parallel, Ruihong Zhang, a professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, and his lab had developed fundamental elements of the platform for food applications. The company’s platform aims to make the dream of cultured meat a reality and improve human, animal and planetary health.

Peak B markets natural alternatives to synthetic food colors with superior color qualities, stability and potency. The UC Davis-led startup has discovered a cyan blue color, solving one of the biggest challenges in the food industry’s quest to source natural food colorings. The researchers examined anthocyanin, a water-soluble pigment found in many familiar fruits and vegetables, giving them their vibrant hues of red, purple, pink and blue. A specific anthocyanin was discovered in red cabbage that exhibited the desired blue properties. Since the amount of anthocyanins is low in red cabbage, they used an enzyme-based process to turn its other anthocyanins blue. Co-founded by Justin Siegel, an associate professor of chemistry, biochemistry and molecular medicine, the company’s patented enzyme-based process now transforms extracts from natural sources into blue and green dyes that can be used in a variety of food applications.

Other companies that have signed agreements to access UC Davis foundational intellectual property in fiscal year 2021-22 are highlighted below. Three companies have chosen to remain in “stealth mode” for competitive reasons and are not listed.

AI Vision intended to reduce the use of toxic chemicals and food loss through early detection of insects. The company is co-founded by Zhongli saucepanassociate professor at Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering.

Artisyn Laboratories develops sustainable wellness products for the commercial market. The company is co-founded by Marc Mascalprofessor in the Department of Chemistry.

medical hope focuses on the development of a medical device that helps patients with difficulty swallowing. The company is co-founded by Pierre Belafskyprofessor in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology.

Kobin is developing precision agriculture using aerial data analysis. The company is co-founded by Alireza Pourreza, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering.

Mirnova therapy develops small molecule and microRNA-based drugs for the treatment of traumatic brain injury and other neurological disorders. The company is co-founded by Da Zhi Liu, Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology.

Organic Prism is a pioneer in the use of biotechnology to produce natural protein pigment colors based on natural light-sensitive pigment systems from plants and algae to provide all colors in the visible spectrum. These long-lasting natural colorants can be used in food, industrial and personal care products, as well as healthcare applications. Their technology will have a significant impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Co-founders include John Clark Lagarias, Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the College of Biological Sciences, and Justin Siegel, an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry.

VGN Bio Inc. develops unique cancer drug candidates from viral protein sequences that have evolved over millions of years of co-evolution. The company is co-founded by Yoshihiro Izumiya, assistant professor in the Department of Dermatology.


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