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Teknovation News and Notes
April 02, 2023 | Tom Ballard

News & Notes | Events, inventions, progressions, and appointments

Topics this week range from an discovery that could lead to new treatments for COVID-19 and other viral diseases to events in Oak Ridge, Knoxville, Nashville and Washington, DC.

From Oak Ridge:

  • A team of scientists led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has designed a molecule that disrupts the infection mechanism of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and could be used to develop new treatments for COVID-19 and other viral diseases. The molecule targets a lesser-studied enzyme in COVID-19 research, PLpro, that helps the coronavirus multiply and hampers the host body’s immune response. The molecule, called a covalent inhibitor, is effective as an antiviral treatment because it forms a strong chemical bond with its intended protein target. Click here to learn more.
  • The East Tennessee Economic Council postponed and rescheduled its “After Work with ETEC” and will now host the event from 5 to 6:30 p.m. April 11 at Y-12 National Security Complex’s Oak Ridge Enhanced Technology & Training Center (ORETTC). Center Director Ashley Stowe will give an update on the current projects and future plans, and attendees will be able to take a tour and see how ORETTC uses augmented and virtual reality in their training. There will also be food, drinks, and networking. “After Work with ETEC” was created to connect established and early career professionals. Since the meetings are intended to facilitate relationship building, all ETEC members and guests are invited.  To register, click here.
  • Mickey Wade has been named ORNL’s Associate Laboratory Director for the Fusion and Fission Energy and Science Directorate. His appointment was effective April 1. Wade was also a Senior Scientist at ORNL from 1994 to 2005 and rejoined the lab in April 2020 as Director of ORNL’s Fusion Energy Division.

From Knoxville:

  • The Spark Cleantech Accelerator at the University of Tennessee (UT) Research Park is holding a webinar at 2 p.m. EDT on April 12 for those interested in learning more about the that will kick-off on August 21. The 12-week program provides mentorship, connections, a $15,000 stipend, access to prototyping services, and business acceleration services to early-stage cleantech entrepreneurs to help commercialize new innovations. To register for the webinar, click here. To apply for the Spark Cleantech Accelerator, click here.
  • Orion Therapeutics, a start-up that is a member of the Spark Innovation Center at the UT Research Park, has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer grant for a “Multifunctional Lipid Nanoparticle Delivery System for Targeted Delivery of Vascular RNA Therapeutics.” We first spotlighted the company, founded by Richard (Trey) Fisher, last September when Orion Therapeutics was selected to join the prestigious MassBioDrive accelerator program as a member of the 2022 cohort.
  • The Spark family of initiatives and several of its alumni were also spotlighted in this recent news release issued by UT, Knoxville.

From Chattanooga:

The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will host its “Fly? Mocs Pitch Competition” for students on Wednesday.

“Please come see the teams compete for over $5,000 in total prize money,” Mike Bradshaw wrote in a LinkedIn post. He’s CIE’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence. “This year’s contestants are strong. It amazes me that the contestants are undergraduates. Serious, feasible businesses started highly capable students from across the campus. Engineers, singers, managers, all entrepreneurs need your support.”

The event runs from 3 to 5 p.m. EDT in Room 213 of the James R. Mapp Building on campus. To register, click here.

From Nashville:

  • The Greater Nashville Technology Council is accepting applications from individuals interested in presenting during its “2023 Analytics Summit.” The event, launched in 2013, is scheduled for October 2 and 3 at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel. The focus is on a key fundamental issue that organizations face today: how to effectively leverage big data and analytics. Applications to present can be submitted through April 18 at this link.
  • Hirebotics, an automation company that has created a collaborative robot solution designed specifically for welding applications, received an undisclosed investment from Sverica Capital Management. With the new funding, Hirebotics intends to realize its full potential within the welding automation market and expansion into new markets. Founded in 2015 by Rob Goldiez and Matt Bush, then later joined by Zach Boyd, Hirebotics has developed the Cobot Welder, a product that combines premium welding equipment and a robotic arm with proprietary software to help address an acute shortage of skilled welding technicians.
  • Wellvana Health, a company helping doctors deliver health care across independent primary care physicians, specialists, and health systems, raised $84 million in funding. The round, which brought total funding since November 2020 to approximately $140 million, was led by Heritage Group and Valtruis, a Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe (WCAS) company, and joined by Memorial Hermann Health System. Nashville-based Martin Ventures led former funding rounds with partnership from First Trust Capital Partners and Adam Boehler. Wellvana Health intends to use the funds for continued growth in existing markets and new U.S. geographies.

From Washington, DC but with Tennessee Implications:

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and SCORE, mentors to America’s small businesses and a resource partner of the SBA, have announced that registration for the 2023 “National Small Business Week Virtual Summit” is now open. The two-day online event will take place from May 2-3, and attendance is free of charge, but registration is required. To register, visit the National Small Business Week Virtual Summit registration. This year’s summit will feature educational workshops presented by event co-sponsors, access to federal resources, and networking. A detailed agenda and list of cosponsor speakers will be published at a later date.

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