By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Yesterday’s official opening of Arkis BioSciences’ new offices on the University of Tennessee’s (UT) Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus had the feel of a graduation ceremony minus the academic regalia. In many respects, that’s exactly what it was.
Four years after taking space in UT’s Business Incubator diagonally across Alcoa Highway, the medical device start-up showcased its greatly expanded space in the first privately-developed building on UT’s former dairy farm.
For entrepreneurs, investors and business incubator operators, there is always reason to celebrate the successful move of a start-up into more space. This event also helped UT celebrate the success of a company that is a key symbol of the vision that the institution has for Cherokee Farm.
“Arkis BioSciences is a perfect fit for our campus,” Cliff Hawks, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Cherokee Farm Development Corporation, said in his opening comments. That point was underscored by the participation of three senior UT executives on the program – President Joe DiPietro, Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport, and Vice President Stacey Patterson.
Several local elected officials and representatives from two key Arkis BioSciences investors – Ken Woody of Innova Memphis and Scott Ewing of Angel Capital Group – also attended the short celebration.
“This Arkis phenomena is exactly what should transpire at Cherokee Farm,” DiPietro said. Noting that the innovation campus was first visualized a decade ago, he emphasized the importance of its role in helping turn scientific innovations into marketable products.
DiPietro’s point was clearly underscored in later comments made by Chad Seaver, Co-Founder and CEO of Arkis BioSciences. His company is a provider of minimally invasive surgical instrumentation and advanced catheter technology.
“The resources offered here by UT have been instrumental in our success,” Seaver said, citing the business facility where the company incubated as well as work with UT’s Joint Institute for Advanced Materials and support from the UT Medical Center.
The fairly rapid success of his start-up has driven Seaver to champion at least one other cause – making the greater Knoxville region an epicenter for medical devices and biotechnology. It’s a concept that complements Davenport’s vision for the area.
“We have this entrepreneurial ecosystem and innovation hub,” she said, reiterating points she emphasized in her recent investiture speech. In that presentation and again yesterday, Davenport talked about a recent Washington Post article that described East Tennessee as “the future of American product development.”
“We have this entrepreneurial ecosystem and innovation hub . . . the Maker Belt,” she said, noting that Arkis BioSciences is a great example of what can happen.
Patterson, who recently assumed the role of interim UT Vice President for Research, Outreach and Economic Development, underscored the importance of start-ups and initiatives that support them.
“Entrepreneurship is a key ingredient of any discovery enterprise,” she said. “We are here to celebrate entrepreneurship.”
Click here to read the Cherokee Farm news release.
(LEFT: Chad Seaver speaks at yesterday’s event.)