Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

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February 23, 2020 | Tom Ballard

UTRF announces first-ever “Alumni Startup Showcase” set for Aptil 8

The University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) has announced plans for its first-ever “Alumni Startup Showcase.” The event, set for late in the afternoon on April 8, will feature five local companies with an affiliation to UTRF and the university.

During the showcase – networking begins at 4:30 p.m. with the program starting around 5 p.m., UT Interim President Randy Boyd and UT Knoxville (UTK) Chancellor Done Plowman will moderate a discussion with the company Founders on topics such as the process leading to company formation, lessons learned, and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

The public is encouraged to attend to learn more about the impact UT inventions are having. To register for the Showcase which will be held in the Pilot Flying J Ballroom C in the new UTK Student Union, click here.

“Faculty, staff, and students at the University of Tennessee continuously develop innovations that shape the future, and corporate partners search for market-ready solutions to tackle some of today’s most challenging problems,” says Maha Krishnamurthy, UTRF Vice President who is leading planning for the event. “Sitting in the gap where discovery and opportunity connect, UTRF has the pleasure of assisting UT innovators in moving their technologies to the marketplace through licensing to a corporate partner or a startup company.”

She noted that a number of UT faculty, staff, and students have taken this approach and walked through the process of building a business from the ground up.

Many of the companies and/or their Founders have previously been spotlighted on They are:

  • Electro-Active Technologies Inc., co-founded by Alex Lewis, a graduate of UTK with a PhD in Energy Science and Engineering, and Abhijeet Borole, is developing a modular system to convert food waste and renewable electricity into affordable, renewable hydrogen. The system can be deployed onsite or in a decentralized fashion as a local, urban solution. This will enable companies and communities to reinvest their waste for added value and improved sustainability. The start-up is a participant in Cohort 3 of the “Innovation Crossroads” program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). (Click here to read our most recent post on the company.)
  • Endeavor Composites Inc. was founded by Hicham Ghossein who also serves as Chief Executive Officer (CEO). He earned his Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering from UTK in 2018 and is also a participant in Cohort 3 of the “Innovation Crossroads” program. Endeavor Composites, a UTRF licensee, isdeveloping a technology to produce nonwoven textile using long chopped carbon fiber. When completed, the company will have a machine that provides a consistent product that not only works with carbon fiber, but all known fibers and even allows a mixing of different fibers. (Click here to read our recent article about the company.)
  • 490 BioTech, a company founded in 2011 by several individuals associated with UT (Dan Close, Gary Sayler and Steven Ripp), develops patent-protected, light-emitting human cell lines genetically programmed to “report” on biological events or interactions that affect their metabolic status. The technology enables an accelerated pace for new drug discovery that moves drugs more rapidly and more effectively towards Phase I human testing with a reduced overall cost. (Our last post on 490 BioTech was this one.)
  • T & T Scientific Corporation was co-founded by CEO Nima Tamaddoni and Graham Taylor, President and Chief Technology Officer. Both earned doctorates from UTK – Tamaddoni in 2016 in Mechanical Engineering and Taylor, also in 2016 but in Biomedical Engineering. The company, which is a UTRF licensee, now provides pharmaceutical products and contract services including lipid-based pharmaceutical technologies, design and formulation, research and development, manufacturing, and analytics. T & T Scientific supports these services in both pre-clinical and commercial finished products. (Thursday’s feature article will be an update on the company, but you can read our last post from February 2019 here.)
  • Vortex is the latest start-up from Chad Seaver, another UTK PhD in Biomedical Engineering. It is built on technology licensed from UTRF. Readers should recall that Seaver was a Co-Founder and CEO of Arkis Biosciences that sold in mid-2019.