Blog: yale


yale women of innovation

April 2, 2015: Seven Yale women were named as honorees at the recent Women of Innovation Awards presented by the Connecticut Technology Council, and two won prizes in their categories for their innovative research and entrepreneurship. Serap Aksoy, a professor at the Yale School of Public Health, won a Research Innovation and Leadership award for her discovery of innovative methods for using beneficial bacteria to render insects inhospitable for disease-causing pathogens, reducing their ability to transmit disease. Monika Weber, a PhD. student in Electrical Engineering won an award for Collegian Innovation and Leadership for her co-invention of Fluid-Screen, a small device that detects bacteria in 30 minutes.

Other Yale honorees included Wendy Davis, founder and CEO of GestVision, a startup developing a test for preeclampsia; Lynn Fiellin, an Associate Professor of Medicine at Yale School of Medicine who founded and directs Yale’s play2PREVENT lab and cofounded the startup KnackTime Interactive to develop behavior-impacting videogames; and Ellen Su, a recent Yale grad and the cofounder of Wellinks, which is developing a device and related app to track the wear-time and tightness of scoliosis braces. All three startups are being developed with support from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. Two additional Yale women—Jeannette Ickovics, Professor at the Yale School of Public Health  and Kyle Vanderlick, dean of the Yale School of Engineering and Applied Science at Yale—were also honored.

“This was really an incredible night for Yale women, showing the breadth of leadership and innovation from students to faculty,” says Erika Smith, Deputy Director of the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. “We’re thrilled to work with such inspiring women and to share in celebrating their accomplishments.”

In receiving her award, Dr. Aksoy encouraged young women to “share your passion for science, research and education.” This was the 11th annual Women of Innovation awards ceremony, and there is now a combined alumnae group of nearly 550 Women of Innovation.

CONTACT: Brita Belli, Communications Officer, Yale Entrepreneurial Institute,

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Launched from a Dorm Room yale sxsw

By Brita Belli

On Friday, March 13, the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute hosted two panels as part of SXSW Interactive, "Venture Investing in Universities" and "Launched from a Dorm Room." Below are 10 of our favorite insights from our panelists.

 1. “We look for deals that are exciting and riding big waves in healthcare and technology. Think about things that are changing the shape of society.” Greg Ho, President and COO of Spring Mountain Capital

2. “Any early stage startup needs to be humble, listen to customers and gather as many mentors as possible.” Sean Mackay, Cofounder and CEO of IsoPlexis

3. “Rather than have VCs pick through opportunities at a high-stakes event, we found it helpful to empower students to be able to direct where the investment happens…to help companies be born that otherwise wouldn’t be.”  Donald Fischer, Venture Partner, General Catalyst Partners which invests in student founders through Rough Draft Ventures

4. One idea for improving entrepreneurship growth at universities: “Create an endowment within the endowment that can support entrepreneurship.” Greg Ho, President and COO of Spring Mountain Capital

5. “My focus would be less on the product, and more on the customer. The hard part is really understanding the domain space and understanding the intersection of what someone needs and what you can deliver.” Donald Fischer, Venture Partner, General Catalyst Partners which invests in student founders through Rough Draft Ventures

6. “Start a company because you have a problem you want to solve, and a startup is the best way to approach it.” Jessica Cole, School District Coordinator, Panorama Education

7. “When you have a ‘.edu’ address, people will share things with you. You can approach it as an academic question or go to your alumni network. The day after you graduate, it’s harder to get that help.” Victor Wong, Cofounder and CEO of PaperG

8. “A business partner is not that important. Usually you don’t face those problems until there’s a product-market fit and at that point you can attract real talent.” David Luan, Cofounder of Dextro

9. “It’s important to maintain a healthy cross-section of people that you know.” Victor Wong, Cofounder and CEO of PaperG

10. “Find people you think are out of your league.” Jessica Cole, School District Coordinator, Panorama Education

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By Jesse Rich

 Jesse, John, Jen, Joe)

I came to Yale SOM because I believed that it gave me the best shot at working with a stellar multi-disciplinary team to solve unaddressed healthcare problems and make a difference in patients’ lives. This past fall, I was fortunate enough to join such a team through the Technology Commercialization Program at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI). The team includes myself and Jen Gaze (both first year MBA students), Dr. John Geibel (Yale School of Medicine), and Dr. Joseph Zinter (School of Engineering and Applied Sciences/CEID). 

Together, we’ve formed Revai, a company built around technology developed in MENG 404, a course on medical device design and innovation that Dr. Zinter teaches at the Center for Engineering Innovation & Design. This technology allows us to help individuals with severe intestinal issues. 

About 20,000 people in the US suffer from short bowel syndrome. They’ve lost over half of their intestines, receive nutrition intravenously, and experience upwards of 40 bowel movements a day. Needless to say, quality of life can be extremely low. Also, treatment costs upwards of $200,000 a year and puts patients at risk of liver failure, blood clots, and serious infection.

The only solution to short bowel syndrome is to receive an intestinal transplant. And yet there are only 100 intestinal transplants performed each year, even though there are over 8,000 donor grafts available. The main reason that so few transplants are performed is that intestines are full of bacteria and degrade quickly, so you can’t transport them very far given that the current standard of care is a cooler with ice. This means that a lot of patients have no way to access healthy donor organs.

Porcine test results contrasting outcomes under the current standard of care (L) and using the Revai IPU (R).Porcine test results contrasting outcomes under the current standard
of care (L) and using the Revai IPU (R).

Our solution is the Revai Intestinal Preservation Unit (IPU). It’s a patent-protected system that pumps fluid through the intestine to keep it healthy during transportation. Both pig and human tests have shown that using the device can stop organ degradation for 8 hours. This will allow us to expand the donor network, provide better organs, increase transplant success rates, improve patient quality of life, and drastically reduce healthcare costs. 

With the Revai IPU, we can save patients and give them their lives back. 

This semester, Jen and I are taking MGT 646, Start-up Founder Practicum, where we can get credit for all the work we’re putting into our venture. In general, SOM has been incredibly supportive of our efforts and I would encourage any student interested in entrepreneurship to check out all of the resources available through the Program on Entrepreneurship.

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January 7, 2015: A team currently participating in YEI's Venture Creation Progam is competing in the NIH Neuro Startup Challenge in which teams develop business plans around NIH inventions available for licensing. The competition is supported by the Center for Advancing Innovation and the Heritage Provide Network in addition to the National Institutes of Health. The Yale team--Anthos Pharmaceuticals--is pursuing a novel therapeutic for Alzheimer's disease that would work by prventing the hyperphosphorylation of Tau, a protein in the brain with important links to the disease.

The Anthos Pharmaceuticals team includes co-leaders Levi M. Smith, PharmD, a second-year PhD student in Yale’s department of cell biology, and Santiago V. Salazar, a second-year PhD student in the department of genetics. Other team members are Meina Wang, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow in pathology; Jian Shao, a second-year MBA student; Nathan D. Williams, a second-year PhD student in the department of molecular, cellular and developmental biology; Robert Fernandez, a second-year PhD student in the department of molecular biophysics and biochemistry; and Brenden Barco, a second year PhD student in the department of molecular, cellular and developmental biology.

The team is being mentored by Susan Froshauer, PhD, president and CEO of Connecticut United for Research Excellence (CURE) and a member of YEI's Operating Board; Jim Heym, PhD, senior director of Life Sciences Venture Development at UCONN; and Gus Lawlor, managing director of HealthCare Ventures.

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startup showcase

Jim Boyle, managing director of the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI) introduced the Startup Showcase at the AYA Assembly by noting that YEI is no longer the sole entrepreneurship hub on campus. “We’re one of several hubs,” he told the assembled delegates, “and that’s a good thing.” Among those other hubs represented at the event were InnovateHealth Yale, which is dedicated to solving global health problems through entrepreneurship; Yale School of Management, which launched a new Program on Entrepreneurship this year; and the Center for Business and the Environment at Yale (CBEY) which is dedicated to solving global environmental challenges.

These groups and others on campus are working in close coordination to expand entrepreneurship opportunities for both students and faculty and to create a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem at Yale. Martin Klein, Director of InnovateHealth Yale, mentioned that they would offer a course next year in conjunction with SOM on health and innovation. “Entrepreneurship is important not just for solving business problems, but for solving social problems,” Klein said.  

SOM and CBEY are also working with YEI and other partners on campus to provide students with opportunities for making connections and advancing their ideas both inside and outside Yale. Kyle Jensen, the Shanna and Eric Bass ’05 Director of Entrepreneurial Programs at SOM, called entrepreneurship “a team sport.” He talked about the increased number of course offerings related to entrepreneurship at SOM (now up to 12) and the fact that SOM hosted Startup Weekend New Haven, connecting Yale students with developers and founders in the community. “We’d like to play a role in expanding economic opportunity in New Haven,” Jensen said.

The speakers mentioned the importance of alumni as engaged participants, particularly in the role of mentors.  Stuart DeCew, Program Director of CBEY, talked about that organization’s efforts to build their mentor network. “I want to compete with MIT and other institutions to solve global challenges,” DeCew said.

Former and current Yale students took to the podium to share their startup stories, including Olivia Pavco-Giaccia (YC ’16) founder of LabCandy, which is dedicated to getting young girls excited about science through storybooks with relatable female characters and fun, stylish lab goggle and lab coats. LabCandy launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter in October and surpassed their fundraising goal of $20,000, raising $31,035. Andy Lebwohl (SOM ’12), founder of New Haven bar Karaoke Heroes, talked about his vision to create a space where people could feel empowered and have fun on a night out. His is one of the few dedicated karaoke bars (and only superhero-themed karaoke bar) in the region. Chris Fleming (SOM ’15), is determined to disrupt the boring hotel gym with his startup wrkIN, which provides an easy way for travelers to pay for quick access to local gyms, yoga studios and the like without memberships.

On the social side of entrepreneurship, Ruchi Nagar (MCDB '15) spoke about his startup Kushi Baby, which is making it easier for healthcare workers to track child immunizations in remote parts of the world thanks to a necklace that contains a chip that can be easily scanned by a smart phone. Kushi Baby won the $25,000 Thorne Prize for Social Innovation in Health, run by IHY, last year. The startup StoryTime also has a bigger mission: to provide stories and related activities to underprivileged kids via smartphones. Founder Phil Esterman (YC ’17) told the audience, “We are not the next Facebook or SnapChat. At StoryTime, we want to make it easier for parents to raise readers.” He painted a compelling picture of how his app could turn smartphones into a tool to bring families together, even for parents struggling to read themselves.

Two undergrads—Patrick Casey (YC ’15) and Benjamin Burke (YC ’15) have been working on solving a very different sort of problem—how to make it easy for Yalies to share taxis back to campus from Bradley Airport. They designed and launched the website and app Bulldog Taxi to solve the problem with the skills they learned from the YEI Tech Bootcamp, a 10-week intensive coding program run by YEI and the Student Tech Collaborative, last summer.

Numaan Akram—cofounder of Rally Bus with Siheun Song (’15)—closed out the event. The startup provides easy-to-access bus travel to and from sporting events, concerts and rallies and has been growing in success since it launched in 2010. Akram says they are approaching their 60,000th reservation and that the business has always been profitable—even without outside investment.

It was just a sampling of the entrepreneurial activity underway at Yale—but a strong showing of both Yale ideas that have come to fruition and those that are just beginning to take root.

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