Chicago Innovation Exchange (CIE) announced the six finalists now in the running to receive backing from the Innovation Fund in a statement released last week, including proposals for a new drug to test for multiple sclerosis and a series of data collection tools able to transmit data without Internet, among others. The Innovation Fund, run through the CIE, grants funding to startups created by University of Chicago students, faculty, and researchers, to move their projects forward.
The University created the Fund to inspire technological development and innovation within the UChicago community, supported by a commitment from the University to raise $20 million to fund these projects. Each fall and spring, the Fund distributes approximately $250,000–$600,000 between two to four winning teams. Depending on the number of teams selected and the financial demands of each project, the funding allocated to each team will vary, said Innovation Fund Associate Director of Marketing Nikki Kidd in a phone call.
The Innovation Fund’s Spring 2015 finalists are Dharma Humanitarian Solutions, Inscites, Litmus Health, Therapeutic Human Exosomes, Urban Center for Computation and Data, and 3F4AP (Multiple Sclerosis Diagnostic Tracer).
The finalists will give final presentations in June, after which the Fund’s Advisory Committee will select the winning teams based on their potential to succeed, according to Kidd. “Basically it’s about the potential: Will they be able to reach the milestone they’re talking about if we give them this money, to further secure more funding, get FDA approval, or whatever it is they’re moving towards?” Kidd said.
The finalists are mainly focused on technological developments, many of them focusing on developments in health technologies. Array of Things, Dharma Humanitarian Solutions, and Inscites are developing different data collection, analysis, and sharing systems for medical and policy research. The teams of Therapeutic Human Exosomes and 3F4AP are developing solutions to more accurately detect and treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis, using exosomes or lipid-based storage units, and diagnostic tracers that track patients’ symptoms.
Kidd acknowledged that this funding is not a guarantee of success, but cited recent $1 million MacArthur Foundation Grant awarded to Game Changer Chicago Design Lab, one of last year’s Innovation Fund winners, as evidence of the doors the Innovation Fund can open for startups. “We’re hoping to bridge that gap to get these researchers the boost they need to get where they’re hoping to go,” Kidd said.