AZBio Members VisionGate and NextPotential in Innovation Challenge Top 25

The Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) has announced 25 semifinalists in its Spring 2015 Arizona Innovation Challenge (AIC), a bi-annual business plan competition awarding $3 million annually to talented entrepreneurs.

Arizona innovation challenge 2015

Each year, the ACA awards – $1.5 million in the spring and $1.5 million in the fall – to the most qualified, innovative startups and early-stage companies. Recipients receive up to $250,000 in capital to grow their businesses, advancing innovation and technology commercialization opportunities in Arizona.

Arizona’s engagement with early-stage companies through its suite of targeted programs continues to spur growth, technology commercialization and capital investment within the state’s innovation ecosystem. With more than 1,400 applications received for the AIC since 2011, the program continues to be among the many opportunities available to innovators which have made Arizona a top hub for entrepreneurial activity and startup success.

AZBio Members VisionGate and NextPotential in Innovation Challenge Top 25

Alan Nelson, PhD

Alan Nelson, PhD, President and Founder of VisionGate

VisionGate is dedicated to saving lives through early disease detection. Its Cell-CT® technology  is a revolutionary, automated, 3D cell imaging platform that generates high-resolution 3D biosignatures from intact cells.

Founded by Dr. Alan Nelson, whose company automated cervical cancer screening in the 1990s, VisionGate’s Cell-CT technology essentially takes a CT scan of individual cells in the human body, allowing for earlier disease detection. Although the CT scan has been around since 1970, this is the first time an individual cell has been able to be viewed in 3D – a technology VisionGate protects with more than 100 patents.

Although the Cell-CT could detect various diseases, VisionGate’s first commercial product focuses on the #1 cancer killer – lung cancer.


NextPotential is a waste-to-value company that recycles CO2 emissions directly into natural gas. Using our patented photocatalyst which is activated directly by light, with no additional thermal or photovoltaic energy input, NextPotential can produce natural gas for around 2.00/mmBTU. Our product is a modular, turnkey unit that can be added to existing infrastructure to generate a low-cost, zero-carbon fuel that can be used onsite.


NextPotential’s Jack Blanchette and Duncan Hoffman in the interview room at the First Look LA investor conference. Photo by: Charlie Lewis, AzTE

NextPotential  is an ASU spinout with a technology that converts carbon dioxide produced by power plants into clean-burning natural gas. The recapture process, developed by engineering professor Jean Andino, substantially decreases greenhouse gas emissions and provides a constantly replenished source of energy.

NextPotential is targeting larger coal-fired power plants that also have the capacity to burn natural gas on site. These sites collectively generate more than 400 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, representing about 9 percent of total U.S. emissions.

“Human-caused climate change is the defining public policy issue of our time,” said Jack Blanchette, NextPotential’s managing director and president. “Our revolutionary CO2-to-methane conversion process is exactly the kind of radical leap forward society needs to reverse the warming trend while preserving and improving global living standards.


The 25 Spring 2015 Arizona Innovation Challenge Semifinalists include:

Beacon Biomedical Bio & Life Sciences Scottsdale, AZ
CampusLogic IT – Software Gilbert, AZ
Crowd Mics IT – Software Mesa, AZ
eMoneyPool IT – Software Phoenix, AZ
Energy Conservation Management Cleantech/Renewable Energy Scottsdale, AZ
Eventinterface IT – Software Scottsdale, AZ
eVisit IT – Software Gilbert, AZ
EZ Dump Commercial Advanced Manufacturing Phoenix, AZ
Higgle IT – Software Scottsdale, AZ
Infra-Tect, Inc. Advanced Manufacturing Tempe, AZ
iTel IT – Software Scottsdale, AZ
Keasy Lock IT – Hardware Phoenix, AZ
Matrix Medical Tracking Systems IT – Hardware New Berlin, WI
NextPotential Cleantech/Renewable Energy Phoenix, AZ
Numa Tactical Eyewear Advanced Materials Phoenix, AZ
NVI Algae Bio & Life Sciences Phoenix, AZ
Outski IT – Software Tucson, AZ
RBar Energy Advanced Manufacturing Tucson, AZ
RevolutionParts, Inc. IT – Software Tempe, AZ
RightBio Metrics Bio & Life Sciences Scottsdale, AZ
Sentinel Internet Systems IT – Software Phoenix, AZ
Smart Armor IT – Software Tempe, AZ
Swimlane IT – Software Tempe, AZ
VisionGate Bio & Life Sciences Phoenix, AZ
WIQ Pinnacle IT – Software Scottsdale, AZ

A panel of expert judges evaluated 138 applications from the Spring 2015 AIC submitted by companies based in Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Texas and Wisconsin. The judges assessed each application on a set of criteria including technology potential, marketing strategy, quality of management team and economic impact. These companies represent high-value industry sectors that include IT software, IT hardware, bio and life sciences, cleantech/renewable energy, advanced materials, advanced manufacturing, and aerospace and defense.

Every applying company that meets the AIC’s eligibility requirements will receive constructive feedback generated from the rigorous online evaluation and scoring process. All semifinalists also will be considered for participation in Venture Ready, the ACA’s mentor program that connects early stage companies with high-level CEOs to further refine business plans and investor pitches.

The ACA will name its Spring 2015 Arizona Innovation Challenge finalists in June and the winners later that same month.


Media Contacts:

Susan Marie, Manager, Marketing and Communications

Arizona Commerce Authority

602.845.1231 or


Joseph Valdez, Director, Communications and Community Affairs

Arizona Commerce Authority

602.845.1234 or


About Arizona Innovation Challenge (AIC)

The AIC is a bi-annual business plan competition that awards qualified, innovative start-ups and early stage companies, up to $250,000 in grant funding capital to grow their businesses – ultimately advancing innovation and technology commercialization opportunities in Arizona. The ACA commits $3 million annually to the Arizona Innovation Challenge — $1.5 million awarded in both the spring and the fall. Companies receiving awards will be required to commercialize their technology in Arizona and generate revenue within the following 12 months. For more on the Arizona Innovation Challenge,


About the Arizona Commerce Authority

The Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) is the state’s leading economic development organization with a streamlined mission to grow and strengthen Arizona’s economy. The ACA uses a three-pronged approach to advance the overall economy: recruit, grow, create – recruit out-of-state companies to expand their operations in Arizona; work with existing companies to grow their business in Arizona and beyond; and partner with entrepreneurs and companies large and small to create new jobs and businesses in targeted industries. Visit for more information.


Posted in AZBio News.