AI, Life Sciences, Quantum Tech to Get Boost as Part of the Compass Accelerator’s Latest Cohort

Compass participants receive ecosystem introductions, mentorship, and educational training, and have the opportunity to access additional talent and funding for their ventures. (Image: Shatilova)

The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is pleased to announce that six teams have been selected for the latest cohort of Compass, a deep tech accelerator program for University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory researchers.

Designed for early-stage startups and technologies, Compass draws on expertise from across the University ecosystem, connecting teams with Business Development Fellows from the Chicago Booth School of Business.

Teams are led by business development fellows who collaborate closely with the founding scientific team who have created these innovative technologies and who have set forth a vision for the company.

Cohort 5 includes:

  • Gateway Biome // Gateway Biome’s prototype IBD management tool is based on functional biomarkers which have been selected by machine learning algorithms and further refined to represent specific microbiome functional subsystems where imbalances that are either indicative of impending changes in the patient condition and/or contributing to the development and chronicity of disease can be pinpointed. The underlying technology is based on selected microbiota-derived metabolites that directly reflect microbial community functions that can monitor and predict the clinical course of IBD. The approach has many advantages to 16S rRNA and metagenomic profiling which are at best surrogate markers of function, highly variable among individuals, or simply not useful as clinical tools.
    • Team members: Eugene Chang, PI, cofounder, University of Chicago; Joseph Pierre, cofounder, University of Wisconsin; Ryan Chang, business leadership, Industry; Brian Coe, business leadership, Chicago Booth
  • Innoface // Innoface’s newly patented technology allows a degree of control over face images that have never been seen before. They leverage critical insights from social and cognitive psychology, massive amounts of human judgment data, and bleeding-edge developments in AI to generate, manipulate, and even infer the impressions the general public will have of face images along 34 different attributes. A prototype of this system has been developed as a high-level API.
    • Team members: Alex Todorov, PI, cofounder, University of Chicago; Tom Griffiths, cofounder, Princeton University; Jordan Suchow, scientific advisor and cofounder, Stevens Institute of Technology; Joshua Peterson, postdoctoral fellow, Griffiths Lab, Princeton University; Stefan Uddenberg, postdoc, lead, University of Chicago; Laksh Kalra, business lead, Chicago Booth
  • Riptide Therapeutics // Riptide Therapeutics is developing a new, first-in-class, targeted covalent inhibitor (TCI) of telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT). The technology is differentiated from both prior telomerase inhibitor development as well as DNA damage repair inhibitors currently on the market and under development. The TERT inhibitor is focused on DNA damage repair activity in addition to canonical function and other pro-cancer noncanonical functions. TERT is not expressed appreciably in healthy somatic tissue and this should permit the team to develop a DNA damage repair TERT inhibitor as a therapy sensitizer with fewer potential toxicity issues.
    • Team members: Stephen Kron, PI, cofounder, University of Chicago; Karl Scheidt, cofounder, Northwestern University; Grant Frost, postdoc, Northwestern University; Yue Liu, postdoc, Kron Lab, University of Chicago; James Jung, business advisor, Chicago Booth
  • Sparsity // By combining next-generation sequencing, multiplexed culturomics, and statistical learning, Sparsity has developed a generalizable and protectable platform for ecosystem-scale synthetic biology with extensive applications to pharma, biotech, and environmental remediation. At its core, the platform rapidly combines individual bacterial strains from a proprietary strain bank of 1,600 human gut commensals and 500 soil microbes to create synthetic communities of varying but precisely defined diversity and complexity. While traditional compound screens rely on the random selection of component parts, Sparsity has developed a novel search strategy that leverages evolutionary design principles to dramatically enrich microbial communities that are functional.
    • Team members: Arjun Raman, PI, University of Chicago; Seppe Kuehn, cofounder, University of Chicago; Robert Chen, cofounder, University of Chicago
  • SynthBits // SynthBits’ technology is based on its patent-pending organometallic optically addressable spin quantum bits. In essence, the team engineers the electronic structure of a transition metal center (e.g. Chromium) using synthetic chemistry through ligand design to have a spin (magnetization) that is coupled to an optical signal. The designed molecules are approximately 1 nanometer in size and could be functionalized to attach to the aforementioned biomolecules. Slight chemical modification alters the optical and magnetic colors, enabling many distinct channels for detection.
    • Team members: David Awschalom, PI, founder, University of Chicago; Berk Kovos, postdoc, University of Chicago

Also joining the cohort from Fermilab as part of the Lab Innovation Fellowship program is sQope PI and Founder, Silvia Zorzetti, who is exploring methods to achieve high efficiency in microwave-optical quantum transduction and high fidelity in quantum states transfers. The technology is based on the coupling of superconducting radio-frequency (SRF) cavities with electro-optic crystals. These hybrid devices would serve as repeaters in a quantum internet, transferring states and entangling photons beyond a single cryostat. In quantum communication, this would enable securing communication channels, for instance, through key distribution cryptography protocols.

All of these teams will receive support sourcing business talent to help them launch out of the lab as well as guidance in pursuing early-stage sources of funding, such as grants and seed funding.

A participant in Cohort 4 – which is wrapping with a “demo day” this month – OrisDX recently took home first place and $655,000 in the 26th Annual Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge, the signature venture competition for MBA students at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. A startup developing saliva-based diagnostics to screen for oral cancers and pre-cancers, OrisDX also is a finalist in the George Shultz Innovation Fund and was a participant in the Polsky Center’s I-Corps program.

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