The four members of the budding business venture CH3 BioSystems want to give scientists tools to understand and treat certain cancers, HIV, heart disease and neurological diseases.
Their goals are ambitious. But a panel of judges in an entrepreneurial competition agreed that the team members have a sound business plan to go with their vision.
The quartet came away with the first-place prize package of $30,000 in the University at Buffalo's Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition. The team was awarded $25,000 in seed funding, plus one year of legal services from Jaeckle Fleischmann & Mugel.
The second-place team, Deliverex, which also wants to focus on biotechnology, won $10,000 in start-up funding.
A total of 15 teams, which matched up students from science and technology disciplines with students or recent graduates from the UB School of Management, participated in the competition. Five finalists made presentations to the judges.
The four members of the CH3 team are John M. Aletta, Elvira Gomez Aletta, Timothy J. Lukasiewicz and John C. Hu. They have set up an office and a lab to pursue their work.
Lukasiewicz said the team entered the final round feeling confident about its presentation. "The only thing is, we knew we had four really good, tough competitors."
Lukasiewicz said the team has received valuable support and advice from people at UB and in the business community, including their mentor, Paul Buckley, president of Applied Sciences Group.
"We feel we have a great concept, a great model," he said.
That concept might be a little difficult for someone outside the scientific world to grasp, but CH3 BioSystems says it will provide high-performance ingredients for the discovery of protein methylation pathways in cells and tissues.
Lukasiewicz offers an analogy to explain. Imagine a dark corridor with many doors. In the past, scientists would find some of those doors on occasion or by accident, and knew there were others. CH3 BioSystems' work is designed to illuminate those doors and give scientists the tools to unlock them, to help diagnose and discover answers about different diseases.
"There's a pretty powerful mission behind the company," he said.
The CH3 BioSystems team is hoping to repeat its success next month at the Golden Horseshoe Business Challenge in Fairport, where it could win an additional $100,000 in start-up capital. Their competition will come from winners of entrepreneur competitions in Rochester, Ithaca and Waterloo, Ont.