Campus News

Biotech venture wins UB entrepreneurship competition

Winning company immunalon featured on a computer screen.

The Buffalo-based biotech venture Immunaeon was named the winner of the 2020 Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition (Panasci TEC).  


Published September 24, 2020


A company that provides immune cell isolation, analysis and storage, and offers basic cryopreservation services for healthy clients took first place on Sept. 18 in UB’s Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition (Panasci TEC).

James Cooper, UB MD/PhD student; Joe DiNardo; Daniel Fisher, PhD ’11; Dan Rera, MA ’07, MBA, ’11; Adam Utley, PhD ’19; and Tom White will receive $25,000 in startup capital and in-kind services valued at $27,000 for their company, Immunaeon.

The Buffalo-based biotech venture stores a person’s immune system for future use against potentially life-threatening illnesses. The process, which combines cryopreservation (preservation of cells by cooling) and immunotherapy (the reintroduction of those cells to the body), will help people treat diseases, infections and cancers in future cases.

“This win is going to take us far,” says Utley, the company’s founder and CEO. “Panasci unlocks so many doors — not only the prize itself, but also the resources throughout UB.”

In-kind awards for the winner include legal services from Colligan Law; accounting services from Lumsden & McCormick; human resource services from the People Plan from HR Foundations Inc.; business development services from the UB Office of Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships and Western New York Incubator Network; and office space from North Forest Office Space.

The second-place team will collect $10,000 for its company, Limitless Medical Technologies, which produces a leak-sensing film that works with an app to monitor patients who have had intestinal repairs. Team members are Andrea Kraft, an MPH/MBA student; Blake Kruger, medical student; Jacob Opalinski, bioengineering student; Arnav Matta, innovation management student; Prerna Pant, MS ’19, biomedical engineering; and Nicolette Winder, MD ’20.

For the first time this year, spectators voted on a People’s Choice award, which went to Limitless Medical Technologies, bringing the team an additional $1,000.

Panasci TEC provided coaching and mentoring to participants to prepare them for their pitches. Jack McGowan, project manager, Insyte Consulting, was a Panasci mentor to Immunaeon, and John Seman, CEO, REVITALE Pharma, mentored Limitless Medical Technologies.

Pared down from 32 first-round pitches, five teams of finalists delivered five-minute virtual presentations via Zoom to a panel of judges and other viewers, and were evaluated on how well they described the feasibility and marketability of their venture, proved the need for their product or service, and presented potential sources of capital.

Other new venture ideas included an interactive virtual reality software platform that simulates stressful environments to better prepare health care providers; an app that uses algorithms to recommend meal options based on health goals, taste preferences, budget and ingredient optimization; and a next-generation wind turbine designed to revolutionize the small wind industry.

Serving as judges for the final event were Jack Greco, founder and board chair, One Link Ventures; Rachel Jackson, CEO and founder, Rachel’s Remedies LLC; Irfan Khan, CEO, Circuit Clinical — TrialScout; Nicholas Querques, director of new ventures, SUNY Research Foundation; and Rupa Shanmugam, president and COO, SoPark Corp.

Now in its 20th year, Panasci TEC was created by the School of Management and the Office of Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships, and is funded with a $1 million endowment from the late Henry A. Panasci Jr. to facilitate and promote the commercialization of UB-generated technologies.

Hosted by the School of Management’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and UB’s Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars, the event brings together UB students from science, technology, business and other disciplines to maximize their potential and create viable businesses in Western New York.