Biodesign Professor Dr. Alexandra Lucas Wins Third Annual ASU Faculty Startup Challenge

Serpass Biologics, Dr. Lucas’ startup, is developing a new class of immune-modulating biologics for autoimmune disorders. These can be used to treat and suppress excessive immune system responses in a wide range of diseases, including arthritic, cardiac, gastrointestinal, pulmonary and vascular disorders.

 The annual competition is run by Skysong Innovations, which works across the university to help researchers pursue commercial applications for their work.

As the winner, Serpass Biologics will receive a $50,000 seed investment. The other finalists, which each receive $25,000 investments, include:

Joseph Blattman – Unnamed Company
Professor, School of Life Sciences, Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology
Spinout company seeking to revolutionize immunome profiling through a single cell therapeutic diagnostic tool using a nanoprobe embedded inside DNA origami. The company is supported by more than $2 million in grants and other funding.

Daniel Bliss – Big Little Sensor
Professor, School of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering
A non-contact method for measuring human vital signs beyond respiration and heart rate, using low-power, small-scale remote sensors from a distance. Intellectual property includes 10 disclosed inventions and five patent applications.

Rolf Halden – AquaVitas
Professor, Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering
A wastewater-based epidemiology company that provides analytical services to protect human health by monitoring contaminants, narcotics, and contagious pathogens like SARS-CoV-2. Last year, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded AquaVitas a contract to conduct a national study to assess SARS-CoV-2 viral elements found in wastewater.

Robert Sampson – Sunesta Solar, Inc
Director, School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering
This company is based on research completed in Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST) lab, an NSF-DOE funded Engineering Research Center at ASU. The innovation is a novel solar module that allows dual use of land for generating electricity and growing crops at the same time. The module is designed to be wavelength selective, with the light that is most beneficial to plants allowed to pass through, while the rest is utilized to generate electricity.

SI launched the ASU Faculty Startup Challenge in 2018 to support the launch of new spinouts founded by ASU faculty researchers or postdoctoral students. Each year, up to six startups are selected for seed investments, with a judging panel of seasoned entrepreneurs selecting the winners.

All founders who apply are eligible to receive ongoing assistance through ASU Entrepreneurship and Innovation (E+I) and the ASU Startup Mill, a collection of experienced entrepreneurs and executives who provide mentoring and go-to-market executive-level leadership.

This year’s contest is launching now. For more information, contact Charlie Lewis, VP of Venture Development, at

About Skysong Innovations
Skysong Innovations works with ASU researchers to protect and commercialize the intellectual property they create. The organization’s mission is supporting ASU faculty, promoting the ASU Knowledge Enterprise, and enhancing the community ASU serves. Skysong Innovations has helped launch more than 140 new spinout companies from ASU, which together have attracted almost a billion dollars in outside investments. Learn more:

Posted in AZBio News.