NanoLinea, a startup company spun out of the research lab of Rice Chemical Engineering and Chemistry Professor Matteo Pasquali, won the $50,000 grand prize Oct. 8 at HTC’s annual Innovation Conference and Showcase.
NanoLinea is creating a minimally invasive therapeutic implant treatment for cardiac ventricular arrhythmia based on carbon nanotube fibers invented in Pasquali’s lab. The implant treatment was invented in part by Rice postdoctoral researcher Flavia Vitale and graduate students Colin Young, Dmitri Tsentalovich and Francesca Mirri, who gained entrepreneurship skills through the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership.
“Carbon nanotube fibers have a lot of potential applications, and a lot of them are suitable for industrial processes,” said Young, the company’s chief executive officer. “This seemed like an interesting application and a good one for a startup, especially since there’s a long path to commercialization, which makes it a higher-risk venture.”
He was pleased with the Goradia win. “I think I was mildly surprised but not completely surprised,” Young said. “We’ve had a lot of good feedback from people in the community about our technology and the innovative qualities of our device.”
The Goradia prize rewards innovation by early stage Houston Gulf Coast companies based on the commercial potential of their products. Judges view the soundness of the companies’ business plans, the potential for job growth within the region and the likelihood of significant long-term success.
Big Delta Systems won first prize and $35,000. The company is pursuing technologies based on paintable batteries developed in the Rice lab of chemist Pulickel Ajayan, chairman of the university’s new Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering. Rice alumni Neelam Singh, Charudatta Galande and Adrian Yao co-founded the company.
Big Delta was among the second group of companies founded through OwlSpark, a startup accelerator founded by Rice students in 2013.
“I’m pleased to see the progress they continue to make,” said Kerri Smith, OwlSpark’s managing director. “They came in to our program in May not even a formed entity, and here they are in October presenting their value proposition to an audience of accredited investors and others who believe in what they’re doing.”
A third Rice startup, A-76 Technologies, received an honorable mention and $5,000 for the commercialization of a corrosion inhibitor and lubricant technology developed in the lab of chemist James Tour. The company’s primary product is designed to withstand the extreme temperatures – between minus 40 and 500 degrees Fahrenheit – found in oil drilling environments. Cameron Hatch, Eduardo Garza, Lauren Thompson, Tim Aramil and Brenden Phillips-Garrett, all alumni of the Jones Graduate School of Business, lead the company.
“The impact of these flourishing young companies’ innovations on our community and city will enhance Houston’s reputation as a global technology hub and effect significant economic growth for years to come,” said Walter Ulrich, HTC president and CEO.
About two dozen companies entered the competition, which is in its fifth year and sponsored by The Vijay and Marie Goradia Charitable Foundation and Opportunity Houston. Another Rice-born startup, Rebellion Photonics, won the inaugural grand prize in 2010.