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Teknovation News and Notes
May 08, 2023 | Tom Ballard

News & Notes | Many newsworthy items from Music City

The Tennessee General Assembly honored retired ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia with a joint resolution that was presented to him at last Friday's meeting of the East Tennessee Economic Council.

From Knoxville:

Orion Therapeutics, a start-up that has lab space at the University of Tennessee (UT) Research Park and is also part of the Spark Incubator Program, has added a Director of Business Development to its growing team. The individual is Jennifer Zachry, an award-winning neuroscientist who recently earned her doctoral degree in pharmacology from Vanderbilt University.

The newest addition to Orion’s team also has an interesting tie to the company. A little more than a year ago, Zachry and Cody Marshall, then graduate students at Vanderbilt, developed a business plan around the technology that is now the basis for Orion. They did so as part of the “Scipreneur Challenge”  hosted by the BioTN Foundation. The multi-week program provides hands-on experiences in the commercialization of research and entrepreneurship. Now, Zachary is able to bring her ideas to life as Director of Business Development.

Click here to read our article from April 2022.

From Oak Ridge:

A joint resolution from the Tennessee General Assembly that commemorated Thomas Zacharia’s contributions at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) was presented to the now-retired Director at last Friday’s meeting of the East Tennessee Economic Council. State Senator Ken Yager (third from left) is pictured here making the presentation. Others in the picture are (left to right) State Representative John Ragan, Zacharia, Yager, and Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally.

Zacharia retired at the end of 2022 after serving in various roles at ORNL for 35 years including his last five and one-half as Director.

From Johnson City:

From 5:30 to 8 p.m. on May 11, there’s a different sort of pitch competition scheduled for the area.

The United Way of East Tennessee Highlands will host the “2023 Problem Solving Pitches” event at East Tennessee State University’s (ETSU) Martin Center for the Arts, 1320 West State of Franklin Road. Local nonprofit organizations will compete by presenting live pitches aimed at addressing the most pressing needs in the community. Three of those organizations will be granted $10,000 each from the Social Innovation Fund, while the other three grants totaling $10,000 will be directed to supporting Tennessee Afterschool Network (TAN) organizations with a focus on education.

The Social Innovation Fund was established by the local United Way group in 2020 to support new programs that address social needs and fill gaps in the community related to health, education, or financial stability.

Finalists in the social innovation category are:

  • Appalachian Opportunity Fund;
  • Elizabethton Senior Center;
  • ETSU’s Language & Culture Resource Center;
  • The Salvation Army of Johnson City;
  • Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee; and
  • Unity Housing.

TAN finalists are:

  • Carter County Chamber of Commerce;
  • Loaves & Fishes Outreach Ministry; and
  • Unlimited Youth.

To register and possibly donate to the fund, click here.

From Ohio but with Ties to Chattanooga:

The Ohio Third Frontier Technology Validation and Start-up Fund has awarded $100,000 to S&J NanoChemicals Inc. to commercialize a new liquid fertilizer formulation designed to aid Ohio farmers by increasing the germination rate of crops, enhancing the growth of crops, and boosting the vitality of the plants. Co-founded by Soubantika (Sou) Palchoudhury, then an Assistant Professor of Civil and Chemical Engineering at the University of Tennessee (UT) at Chattanooga, the start-up was a participant in the 2020 edition of the “AgLaunch Bootcamp” hosted in Knoxville (see original article here). The company subsequently became a licensee of the UT Research Foundation (see early 2022 article here), and Palchoudhury is now on the faculty of the University of Dayton.

From Nashville:

  • OtherLeft Ventures, a healthcare-focused venture studio, came out of stealth mode last week. The firm describes itself as a co-founding platform that provides seed capital as well as product development expertise for Software-as-a-Service start-ups in the healthcare technology space. OtherLeft Ventures was founded by long-time entrepreneurs Rodney Hamilton, Blaine Anderson, and Peter Marcum who saw a need for a more hands-on approach to building start-ups. In addition to the founders, Blattner Technologies is a co-founding investor in the studio. Venture studios are unique in that they engage with concepts as early as the problem-identification stage, on through scaling, providing both seed capital as well as an initial team and process. Click here to read the news release.
  • Rootine, a Launch Tennessee portfolio company, received an honorable mention in the wellness category of Fast Company’s recent list of “world-changing” creative solutions to society’s most pressing issues. The recognition came for the start-up’s Precision Multivitamin which is created using individual DNA, blood, hormone, and lifestyle data to create an accurate nutrient formula and deliver it through a precise dosage. Rootine offers at-home lab tests and customized nutrient solutions that are tailored to each person’s unique needs.
  • GoodShip, a freight tech start-up, raised $5 million in seed funding in a round co-led by Ironspring Ventures and Chicago Ventures, with continued participation from Fuse VC and Cercano Management. The company intends to use the funds to accelerate the development of new bid management features, refine and expand its artificial intelligence-powered smart recommendation engine, and scale go-to-market efforts for mid-market and enterprise shippers. GoodShip provides a collaborative cloud-based analytics and transportation procurement platform that unifies and contextualizes shippers’ disparate data sources, streamlining business check-ins for shippers and carrier partners.
  • Tennessee ranks #3, right behind Florida (#1) and Texas (#2) in the 2023 listing of Chief Executive Magazine’s “Best and Worst States for Business.” Texas gained in the latest rankings while Tennessee retained its previous position. North Carolina moved up to #4, dropping Arizona to #5. Georgia was #7 and South Carolina was #8. Click here to learn more.

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