Two UChicago Startups Receive Investment from the George Shultz Innovation Fund

The finalists (including Nick Feamster, pictured here) pitched to the Innovation Fund Advisory Committee, which consists of advisors, entrepreneurs, and industry experts.

The George Shultz Innovation Fund (fall 2023 cycle) has awarded $200,000 to NetMicroscope and $150,000 to CellCipher to further develop their work.

Managed by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the George Shultz Innovation Fund provides up to $250,000 in co-investment funding for early-stage tech ventures coming out of the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, Fermilab, and the Marine Biological Laboratory.

Apply to the spring 2024 Innovation Fund cycle by February 12 >>

// NetMicroscope ($200,000) – cofounded by CEO Nick Feamster, Neubauer Professor of Computer Science at UChicago, and Francesco Bronzino, chief technology officer – the startup is disrupting network performance monitoring with state-of-the-art machine learning-driven approaches. The solution integrates network performance metrics from a variety of data sources and integrates these to provide intelligence to network operators concerning the performance of specific applications in the network.

“NetMicroscope is grateful for the support from the George Shultz Innovation Fund. The funds will enable us to build out our initial product offerings as we move towards developing a recurring revenue stream for our customer base,” said Feamster.

“We are in the process of developing our go-to-market product offerings with potential customers, and the funds will help us accelerate both our technical capabilities and our market channels, as we build out our technical and product teams. We are also in the process of filing invention disclosures, and the support from the Innovation Fund will allow us to deepen our intellectual property portfolio,” he added.

Katherine Rhodes presenting CellCipher at the Innovation Fund finals.

// CellCipher ($150,000) – cofounded by Yoav Gilad, dean, biomedical and health informatics, UChicago, and Katherine Rhodes, staff scientist in Gilad’s lab – the startup has developed a process to apply single-cell RNA sequencing to embryoid bodies to study environmental and chemical exposures on human cells, thus generating population-scale data to enable drug discovery and personalized medicine.

“CellCipher is honored to receive funding from George Shultz Innovation Fund. The investment will contribute to our next stage of growth wherein we will continue both commercial and scientific development,” said Rhodes.

“We’ll use this money, along with other investments, to move into commercial lab space and undertake our first customer contracts for toxicity testing,” she added. “We will also continue enhancing our toxicity prediction classifier with additional single-cell data and begin to gather a diverse and expansive cell biobank that will fuel future efforts in precision medicine.”

Both startups were also participants in the Polsky Center’s I-Crops program, which is currently taking applications for its spring 2024 cohort. (Apply by February 12 >>)

“The I-Corps program has helped us refine our own thinking about our technology and its potential impact, and in turn, has transformed the way we convey our value to others,” said Rhodes.

As a Booth student, CellCipher team member Jackson Finks said I-Corps was a really great opportunity to get involved with exciting, early-venture projects at the University to which he otherwise wouldn’t have had access. “I was able to listen to a number of pitches and then pitch myself to entrepreneurs who had a technology or business that I was interested in,” said Finks. “While the classes at Booth are exceptional, the chance to research and develop a business through I-Corps and beyond was where I saw the most value.”

Supported by funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Polsky I-Corps program – an affiliate of the Great Lakes Regional I-Corps Hub – is specifically designed for participants working on projects related to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.

// For more information, contact Ellen Zatkowski at

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