Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

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February 28, 2024 | Tom Ballard

“Innovation Week” continues with Wednesday event at Tennessee State University

"Innovation Week" wraps up on Thursday with free co-working at the entrepreneur centers across the state.

Launch Tennessee’s celebration of “Innovation Week” continued on Wednesday with a day where the spotlight was cast on Tennessee State University (TSU), one of three participants in the organization’s pilot Tennessee Technology Advancement Consortium.

The federally funded program, for which Launch Tennessee hopes to secure ongoing state funding, is focused on helping universities like TSU, which does not have all of the resources needed to commercialize its inventions, accelerate the transfer of those technologies to the market.

Lindsey Cox

It is one of several initiatives that Launch Tennessee is trying to help bolster the state’s ranking among its neighboring states for technology-based economic development (TBED). As Lindsey Cox, Chief Executive Officer at the public-private partnership, noted in her comments to a roomful of attendees, the State of Tennessee has an annual gap in funding for TBED programs that exceeds $50 million dollars, a figure that was validated in a recent report completed by RTI International (see previous reporting here.)

Chuck Layne, Launch Tennessee’s Innovation Manager, said the three universities that are part of the pilot commercialization initiative have seen a total of 19 disclosures in less than six months, five times the previous numbers disclosed on a year-over-basis. Six of those disclosed technologies have already been assessed for commercial readiness.

TSU has already sent 10 teams through the Mid-South Innovation Hub operated by The Wond’ry at Vanderbilt University and will be sending three inventors to the annual South By Southwest (SXSW) conference that begins later next week in Austin.

Attendees also heard from two TSU researchers about their start-ups.

Ankit Patras

Ankit Patras, an Associate Professor of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, has secured more than $1.65 million in funding for his work using ultraviolet technologies for food safety. As he began his presentation, Patras asked the attendees a simple question: “How many of you drank juice from a (plastic) bottle?” His longtime interest in not using heat or preservatives, but rather ultraviolet technology has led to the launch of FLOUV Technologies where he is Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer. Patras said that the work and its potential has generated significant interest from food companies and those who make medicinal products. “We have had very fruitful discussions in the last 12 months,” he said.

Sarika Saraswati, an Assistant Professor of Biology, joined TSU from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2020, and is involved on the technical portion of two start-ups. One is Eluciderm, where she serves as Chief Scientific Officer, and the other is STEMilk LLC where her role is as Chief Scientific Advisor. Eluciderm is focused on regenerative medicine based on a small molecule named ELU42. She said the company has raised $5.7 million thus far from mostly angels.

In the afternoon, attendees had the opportunity to tour one of two lab facilities at TSU.

“Innovation Week” continues today with free co-working at the entrepreneur centers that Launch Tennessee supports.

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