14 New Startups Emerge From UC Davis Innovations

By Lisa Howard

Technologies developed at the University of California, Davis, enabled the foundation of 14 startup companies during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019.

“Research universities like UC Davis are a key source of vital innovation for numerous industries,” said Prasant Mohapatra, vice chancellor for research at UC Davis. “These startups are undertaking the important first steps in developing and refining the commercial potential of their inventions. It’s exciting to see such a wide range of entrepreneurial undertakings based on our campus innovations.”

Several of the startups are focused on technology solutions addressing important societal needs, including data management for the agriculture industry, software for fraud prevention, and distributed and immutable ledger technology for vital records such as birth certificates.

Many are developing potential solutions to address serious health challenges.

Delix Therapeutics, founded by David Olson, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, is an example of such a company. It is investigating whether neural plasticity-promoting drugs could lead to new treatments for depression, anxiety and related disorders without the unwanted hallucinogenic effects of such molecules.

Video: Delix Therapeutics

Syncanica Bio, a startup founded by Mark Mascal, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Chemistry, is investigating a synthetic cannabidiol (CBD) analogue as a novel therapeutic compound for conditions including anxiety, glaucoma and epilepsy. The nonintoxicating compound is easier to purify than the plant extract, eliminates the need to use agricultural land and irrigation for hemp or cannabis cultivation, and could circumvent the legal complications of cannabis-related extracts.

“In our sixth year since the launch of Venture Catalyst, we’re seeing both commercial impact by startups supported by our Smart Toolkit for Accelerated Research Translation program and a sustained level of new venture formation activity,” said Dushyant Pathak, associate vice chancellor of innovation and technology commercialization and executive director of Venture Catalyst. “By focusing on supporting pre-commercialization proof-of-concept research and direct engagement with our founding technologists throughout the early stages of startup formation, we are enabling a fertile innovation environment for innovators and entrepreneurs to succeed.”

New UC Davis startup companies in fiscal year 2018-19

The following 13 companies acquired rights to foundational intellectual property from UC Davis during the 2018-19 fiscal year. One company has elected to remain in “stealth mode” for competitive reasons and is not listed.

  • Agrinerds — Data management and visualization tool built to address the needs of the agriculture industry
  • Bouncer Technologies — Software to help protect apps against fraud, account takeover, coupon abuse and other product safety features
  • Delix Therapeutics — Compounds for increasing neural plasticity
  • Digestiva — Engineering novel enzymes that enhance bioavailability of protein in food products
  • EffectorBio — Biomarker-based drug development, testing and implementation for cancer and lung disease
  • eVitals Technologies — Certified registry of birth certificates on distributed ledger technology private/public network
  • GalactMed — LLS30, a galectin-1 inhibitor, is a new potential drug against a number of different cancers
  • Keen Therapeutics — Fermented wheat germ extract and its purified low molecular weights proteins for treatment of lung cancer
  • NanoCue — Atomic force microscopy-based platform for investigating single cell mechanics
  • Seven Biosciences — Novel platforms for G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) drug discovery
  • Sierra Biopharma — Peptides and uses thereof for diagnosing and treating myasthenia gravis
  • Syncanica — Synthetic, inexpensive, nonscheduled cannabinoid for reducing the frequency and severity of seizures
  • Theranostec — Full/high active pharmaceutical ingredients loaded nanoplatform

Previous startups in the news

UC Davis startups from previous years are making the successful transition from product development to commercialization.

  • Sage Therapeutics received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of its product, Zulresso (brexanolone) injection, for the treatment of postpartum depression in women.
  • PvP Biologics has initiated two first-in-human clinical trials for Kuma062, a product candidate for the treatment of celiac disease. Currently, the only treatment available for celiac disease patients is a strict gluten-free diet.
  • Efficient Drivetrains, which designs and produces hybrid and fully-electric drivetrain systems for commercial markets, was acquired by Cummins Inc., a global leader in power solutions.
  • Novoheart, a stem cell biotechnology company, recently completed its acquisition of Xellera Therapeutics with the long-term goal of developing clinical grade cell and gene-based therapies for heart diseases.

About Venture Catalyst

Venture Catalyst, within the Innovation and Technology Commercialization division of the UC Davis Office of Research, provides a range of services and resources to help campus innovators and entrepreneurs turn their technologies into companies focused on developing products or services that benefit society. Venture Catalyst works closely with campus and local community resources including InnovationAccess, Foundation and Corporate Engagement, and the university’s Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to support the translation of university research into economic impact.

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About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Alan Miller

    I have an idea:  Let’s build an innovation park in Davis that these companies can locate in, say within 2000′ of UC Davis, and then collect the tax revenue to balance the City budget so that we can patch our potholes and provide expanded services to our residents.  Our City will be saved!

    What ch’all think, eh hey heh?

  2. Matt Williams

    As in the prior year, over 90% of the startups are in Healthcare disciplines.  That makes the location of Aggie Square adjacent to the UCD Healthcare campus in Sacramento all the more logical.

    One has to wonder why the non-Healthcare disciplines on the Davis campus are producing so few startups.

    The above question would appear to have implications for both ARC/MRIC and the Downtown Plan Update.

    1. David Greenwald

      You’re calling it health care rather than med-tech and bio-tech – that’s been some of the leading industries that have emerged out of Davis along with ag-tech.

      1. Matt Williams

        Okay David I’ll bite.  Of the 14 companies, which ones are med-tech and which ones are bio-tech … and which ones are ag-tech?

        If UCD chose to call its Sacramento campus, the Med-Tech Campus rather than the Healthcare Campus , then I would use that term.  I’m simply mirroring UCD’s own terminology.

        With that said, you have ignored the important question, “One has to wonder why the non-Med-Tech/Healthcare disciplines on the Davis campus are producing so few startups.”

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