Three Teams Selected for Spring 2021 George Shultz Innovation Fund

The George Shultz Innovation Fund invests up to $250,000 in promising startups from an ecosystem that includes the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, Fermilab, and the Marine Biological Laboratory. (

The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago has announced the companies selected for the 2021 spring cohort of the George Shultz Innovation Fund.

The program invests in promising startups from an ecosystem that includes the University of ChicagoArgonne National LaboratoryFermilab, and the Marine Biological Laboratory. The mission is to help researchers turn their innovations into ventures that advance cutting-edge technologies, generate significant financial returns, and create lasting impact for humankind.

For the first time, the teams will be required to find accredited institutional investors to match the university’s investment.

“I want to bring more capability so our professors and others are better trained to get venture capital,” said Christine Karslake, PhD, MBA ’95, managing director of Polsky Science Ventures.

The three participating teams will receive guidance and dedicated support from the Polsky Center, business experts, an advisory committee, and student Innovation Fund Associates who are training in venture capitalism. On June 2,  each company will pitch for the opportunity to receive up to $250,000 from the fund to help reach their next startup milestone.

The 2021 spring cohort includes:

AddGraft Therapeutics // AddGraft has developed a revolutionary gene delivery platform that, through a one-time treatment, aims to cure addictions to cocaine, alcohol, and other substances. Its skin graft technology is long lasting, minimally invasive, has low toxicity, and is easy for patients to use. Team: Ming Xu, science lead (Professor in the Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care); Xiaoyang Wu, science lead (Associate Professor in the Ben May Department of Cancer Research); Ryan Meyers, business lead (student, Chicago Booth).

Esya // The company’s mission is the early, precise, and cost-effective detection of neurodegenerative diseases. Its first-in-class product for Alzheimer’s Disease will provide a 360-degree perspective enabling early diagnosis, a personalized treatment plan based on ranked drug effectiveness for any given patient, and monitoring disease progression. Team: Dhivya Venkat, CEO; Yamuna Krishnan, Chief Science Officer (Professor in the Department of Chemistry); Souvik Modi, Head of Product and R&D.

HeioThera // HeioThera has developed a therapeutic platform for treating autoimmune diseases. It uses a novel approach that specifically targets the lymph nodes and leverages the body’s natural mechanisms to calm the inflammatory chaos of various autoimmune disorders. The first-in-class treatment has significant laboratory evidence in multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Team: Jeff Hubbell, PI (Eugene Bell Professor in Tissue Engineering and Deputy Dean for Development, Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering); Jun Ishihara, PI (former postdoctoral fellow at UChicago, currently assistant professor at Imperial College London); Carlo Passeri, business lead (student, Chicago Booth).

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