Innovative Startups Commercializing UC Davis Technologies

Christian Nansen
Christian Nansen

During the past fiscal year, 15 emerging startups executed agreements to access patented technology developed at the University of California, Davis.

“Startups play an essential role in advancing and commercializing new technologies that are developed by researchers and innovators at UC Davis,” said Prasant Mohapatra, vice chancellor of research at UC Davis. “These partnerships lead to substantial contributions to society in the form of new products, services and economic growth.”

Storx Technologies is commercializing a noninvasive fetal pulse oximeter for use during deliveries. Founded by the inventors — Soheil Ghiasi, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Daniel Fong, who recently received his Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from UC Davis — the company’s innovation may lead to safer births and fewer cesarian sections.

Two of the medical technology companies that licensed technology this past year are developing vaccine innovations.

Tendel Therapies has licensed foundational technologies developed in the laboratories of Dennis Hartigan-O’Connor, associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, and Peter Barry, professor emeritus with the Center for Immunology and Infectious Diseases. The company is commercializing first-in-class, genetically adjuvanted vaccines engineered for durable B- and T-cell immune memory. Tendel has adapted their technology to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and is preparing for a Phase I safety trial of their vaccine candidate.

The Vaccine Group, a biotechnology firm in the United Kingdom, licensed foundational UC Davis intellectual property that provides a non-PCR (polymerase chain reaction) method to create a recombinant DNA fragment for insertion into a target sequence. The company is developing herpesvirus-based vaccine platforms to protect animals against infectious diseases, including zoonotic diseases that are transferred from animals to humans.

“The majority of startups accessing intellectual property from UC Davis this past year are focused on medical technologies and solutions, including several that are developing therapeutics and improved diagnostics for specific cancers,” said Bill Tucker, interim associate vice chancellor for Innovation and Technology Commercialization. “We also have startups advancing solutions related to novel food technology platforms and nutrition.” 

Food-tech company BCD Bioscience is developing proprietary techniques around natural carbohydrate structures to create and commercialize novel prebiotics, synbiotics and immuno-modulatory therapies for human and animal health. UC Davis professors Carlito LebrillaDavid Mills and Bruce German are the founding scientists for the company.

In agricultural innovations, Spectral Analytix, launched by Christian Nansen, an associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, applies machine vision and machine learning to the classification and sorting of insects and also seeds, creating fast and nondestructive methods to eliminate nonviable seeds.

Additional companies that acquired rights to foundational intellectual property from UC Davis during the 2019-20 fiscal year include:

  • Alphacait — Novel leukemia stem cell-targeted ligand and nanotherapeutics for human leukemia treatment.
  • AmCyt — Automated rapid onsite evaluation device that mitigates the 20 percent sampling error in fine needle aspiration biopsies.
  • Breeze Biosciences — New method for targeting nuclear receptor ROR-gamma in tumor cells for prostate cancer treatment.
  • Carrisan Technologies — Novel antimicrobial solutions to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses and minimize food losses due to pathogens.
  • HistoliX— Rapid slide-free tissue imaging and decision-support tools that provide real-time results to address critical needs in cancer care and medical diagnostics.
  • InStatin — Lung-targeted inhaled therapies to treat chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.
  • Matrubials — Novel and selective antimicrobial therapies to treat bacterial infections based on antimicrobial peptides found in milk.
  • NanoElements Technologies — Revolutionary nanotechnology-based intellectual property to remove lung-penetrating sub-0.3 micron air pollution particles and viruses.
  • Orox BioSciences — Dual inhibitors of soluble epoxide hydrolase and cyclooxygenase-2 for the treatment of inflammation, pain and cancers.
  • Sarya — Alpha-4 Beta-1integrin ligands for imaging and treatments of cancer, autoimmune diseases and inflammatory diseases.

Milestones for previous startups

During the past 10 years, a total of 115 startups have been formed with an emphasis on commercializing UC Davis technologies. Approximately 75 percent are still active.  

Several of these UC Davis-associated startups experienced important milestones this past year as they transitioned from product development to commercialization. 

  • PvP Biologics, a spinout from UC Davis and the University of Washington, was purchased by Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited following a Phase 1 proof-of-mechanism study of investigational medicine TAK-062 for the treatment of celiac disease.
  • Bouncer, which was incorporated in May 2019, was accepted into the Y Combinator accelerator, which will invest $125,000 in the company. Bouncer provides powerful verification with a simple scan for any card or identification, while cleanly flagging stolen cards and high-risk transactions

Building a culture of entrepreneurship

Enabling startups through the licensing of intellectual property from UC Davis is just one of the ways that the university is building a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, with the goal of translating research into societal and economic impact.

Venture Catalyst, within the Innovation and Technology Commercialization division, also offers grants to campus innovators to facilitate commercial proof-of-concept studies; support services; and connections to a network of resources to help them succeed. Over the past fiscal year, Venture Catalyst supported 33 new startups with direct ties to the university through foundational technology and/or faculty, students, staff and alumni. During the 2019-20 fiscal year alone, startups that Venture Catalyst has assisted through its programs raised approximately $60 million in funding.

Fueled by innovation 

InnovationAccess received 141 invention disclosures from campus innovators over the prior fiscal year. The majority of these relate to biomedical and human health, followed by inventions in engineering and physical sciences, agricultural and animal health applications. Over the same year, InnovationAccess filed 182 patent applications and received 89 domestic and foreign patents with UC Davis researchers named as inventors. InnovationAccess also executed 40 plant and utility licenses, 72 copyright licenses, 152 data transfer agreements and 937 material transfer agreements. Almost half of the MTAs executed were in support of medical research.

Media contact(s)

AJ Cheline, Office of Research, 530-752-1101, acheline@ucdavis.edu 

Andy Fell, News and Media Relations, 530-752-4533, ahfell@ucdavis.edu 

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