Avery Therapeutics wins Get Started Tucson pitch competition

Avery Therapeutics, a company working toward commercializing a beating heart graft technology, won $60,000 in cash and services.


(Photo: Paul Tumarkin/Tech Launch Arizona)

Avery Therapeutics Inc., a company working toward commercializing a beating heart graft technology based on the research of Dr. Steve Goldman, professor of medicine at the UA Sarver Heart Center, and Jordan Lancaster, who earned his doctorate in physiology from the UA College of Medicine – Tucson. The company’s chief operating officer, Jen Watson Koevary, who earned her doctorate in biomedical engineering at the UA and works at the University as a research assistant professor, delivered the winning pitch.

Jen Watson of Avery Therapeutics accepts the $25,000 award from Ken Craft, vice president of marketing for Cox Business. (Photo: Paul Tumarkin/Tech Launch Arizona)

Jen Watson of Avery Therapeutics accepts the $25,000 award from Ken Craft, vice president of marketing for Cox Business. (Photo: Paul Tumarkin/Tech Launch Arizona)

Two companies working to commercialize technologies invented at the University of Arizona were among eight selected from a pool of 69 applicant companies to pitch to the Tucson version of ABC’s “Shark Tank,” the Get Started Tucson business competition hosted by Cox Business.

Both UA-affiliated teams are working closely with the business development team at Tech Launch Arizona, the office of the UA that commercializes inventions stemming from University research, to bring their technologies from the lab to the market.

In the end, the judges’ nod went to the Avery Therapeutics team members, who came away with the $60,000 first prize. The prize includes $25,000 cash donated by Cox Business, plus a Cox Business internet and phone technology package, a profile in Inc. magazine, an opportunity to pitch to the Desert Angels local investor group, admission to Startup Tucson’s Thryve Scale Up Program and one year of office space at the CoLab co-working space in downtown Tucson.

Assisting Avery’s Acceleration

Goldman and Lancaster originally developed the beating heart graft technology — called MyCardia — through their research at the Sarver Heart Center and the UA College of Medicine – Tucson. Today, they serve as Avery’s chief medical and science officers, respectively.

TLA facilitated the process of defining the heart graft technology and provided asset development funding to develop it toward market readiness. The office is currently collaborating with Avery and providing guidance as it moves toward completing a license for the intellectual property for the technology — owned by the UA — and officially becoming a University startup.

This past August, Avery Therapeutics received a Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, grant of almost $500,000 from the National Institutes of Health, which it is using to begin manufacture of the beating heart graft technology.

Pre-clinical studies already have shown that MyCardia improves heart function. With this this new funding, Avery will develop manufacturing, cryopreservation, storage and reconstitution methods that will allow the company to develop its current technology into a viable off-the-shelf graft. 

“MyCardia has the potential to be the first ‘off-the-shelf’ tissue engineered stem cell product to treat heart failure,” Goldman said.

A key TLA team member, mentor-in-residence Bruce Burgess, said that “the magnitude of this Phase 1 SBIR award underscores the significance and potential of Avery’s novel approach for chronic heart failure treatment.”

Most recently, the Avery team went through the three-week NSF I-Corps program at TLA, which provided the team with coaching to develop its strategy and a financial grant for customer discovery.

This week, Avery Therapeutics will be traveling to Berlin, Germany, to make their pitch at Falling Walls, an international conference on “breakthroughs in science and society.”

Supporting Stellar Startups

The TLA Business Development program is deigned to help stellar startups translate scientific expertise into business and the business world.  TLA Business Development brings:

  •  funding to develop their technologies
  • mentoring to help them form leadership teams
  • connections to industry
  • support for funding opportunities
  • learning opportunities such as the NSF I-Corps program, which helps teams better understand their target customers and polish their pitches.

“Our goal is to provide the comprehensive set of tools and services to help these companies get the best start they can out of the gate,” said Joann MacMaster, TLA’s director of business development. “They need expert help with that transition from the University to the commercial world. That’s what we provide.”


Source release:  https://uanews.arizona.edu/story/tech-launch-arizona-coaches-pair-business-teams-success

by Paul Tumarkin of Tech Launch Arizona

Posted in AZBio News.