BY LEEANN SHELTON
At the same time Bryan Johnson, ’07 (XP-76), was launching OS Fund, the Polsky Center was exploring how to help UChicago researchers take their discoveries from the lab to the real world: the center reorganized in 2016 in order to serve the entire university startup ecosystem.
Since then, said executive director Starr Marcello, AM ’04, MBA’17, adjunct assistant professor of entrepreneurship, “we have formed more startup ventures based on intellectual property developed at the university that are very early-stage, but have this high-potential impact.”
One such venture, biopharmaceutical startup ClostraBio, has made leaps forward because of the Polsky Center, said Cathryn Nagler, the company’s cofounder and the Bunning Food Allergy Professor at UChicago.
ClostraBio draws on Nagler’s scientific research and aims to create microbiome-based treatments for people with life-threatening food allergies—an increasingly important public health concern as the number of children with food allergies continues to grow. When it came to starting ClostraBio, “the Polsky Center made it possible,” Nagler said.
The company has gone through the Polsky Center’s I-Corps, a seven-week program that lets UChicago researchers test the commercial potential of their ideas. The ClostraBio team also participated in the New Venture Challenge and received an investment from the center’s George Shultz Innovation Fund, a “venture philanthropy” fund whose core mission is to help researchers commercialize their innovations.
Today, the two-and-a-half-year-old startup has raised $4.5 million, with the goal of raising a Series A round of funding in 2020. “The support has been so phenomenal,” Nagler said. “The Polsky Center is my happy place.”