Dave Burbank
Dave Burbank

Cornell Business Incubators—Class of 2021

by Blaine Friedlander, Cornell Chronicle

As the pandemic pomp and COVID circumstances dissipate, Cornell’s business incubators officially graduated five startup companies—formally known as the Class of 2021—on June 7, 2022 and helped to put them on the fleet highway to success.

Louis Walcer ’74, director of the Kevin M. McGovern Family Center for Venture Development in the Life Sciences, and Robert M. Scharf ’77, director of the Praxis Center for Venture Development, conferred certificates to the leadership of the freshly minted graduating groups: Ava Labs, Exotanium, Halomine, Sonder Research X, and Zymtronix.

“Having incubators on campus is an important element of our innovation ecosystem,” said Emmanuel P. Giannelis, vice president for research and innovation, in his keynote at the graduation ceremony. “They take university discoveries and get them to have impact by turning them into products and by turning them into services from which society can benefit.”

Founded in 2008, the McGovern Center incubates Cornell life science startups. The Praxis Center, which began in 2019, focuses on developing and strengthening business plans for young engineering companies.

“Our incubators find ways to take these nascent technologies and early discoveries and nurture them through that very difficult path—which requires also the determination of entrepreneurs,” Giannelis said. “I’m a passionate believer about the importance of Cornell not only being a top research university, but also to be a top innovation university, since innovation is basically the other side of the same coin.”

The McGovern Center and the Praxis Center will graduate their Class of 2022 later this fall.

2021 Graduating Companies

Ava Labs Inc. joined the Praxis Center in November 2019. Ava Labs is a blockchain platform developer that reduces the financial expenses related to deploying capital. Its blockchain provides higher transaction speed and simplifies trading of assets compared to older blockchain technology.

The company was cofounded by Emin Gün Sirer, CEO, a former Cornell associate professor of computer science. Cofounder Maofan “Ted” Yin, MS ’19, PhD ’21, is chief protocol architect; cofounder Kevin Sekniqi, MS ’18, is chief operating officer; and John Wu ’92 is the company president. Ava Labs products are based on research coauthored with Robbert van Renesse, Computer Science.

Carrianne Fairbairn, executive assistant, accepted the certificate.

Exotanium, graduating from the Praxis Center, develops cloud-resource optimization that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to help other companies reduce spending—by as much as 90 percent—in the cloud.

Hakim Weatherspoon, Computer Science, is the company CEO. He cofounded the company in 2018 with fellow Cornell researchers Zhiming Shen, PhD ’17, the chief technology officer, and van Renesse, chief scientist.

Halomine develops novel disinfectant products that increase the longevity of chlorine-based disinfectants. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the company received Cornell’s permission to conduct research in the McGovern Center labs in Weill Hall to find ways to help alleviate pandemic-related problems.

The technology grew from collaboration between Minglin Ma, Biological and Environmental Engineering, and former postdoctoral researcher Mingyu Qiao.

In 2019, the researchers partnered with Ted Eveleth, MBA ’90, to launch Halomine. The company is graduating from the Praxis Center. Qiao now serves as the company’s chief science officer.

Sonder Research X, a biotechnology company in the McGovern Center, develops therapeutics for the detection, monitoring, and treatment of eye disease and cancer. The company is now held by Aufbau Medical Innovations.

Sonder uses biological ways to efficiently deliver recombinant proteins into the sensory tissue of the eye and the retina.

The technology was developed by John T.G. Pena, MD ’11, former assistant professor of ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medicine and principal investigator at Dyson Vision Research Institute.

Zymtronix is a company that stabilizes proteins for a variety of industries. When the company joined the McGovern Center in 2014, it stabilized enzymes and aimed to clean up toxic water leftover from fracking. Today the company, led by Stéphane Corgié, CEO and chief technical officer, develops proteins for the food, flavor, and fragrance industries—where precision enzymes are needed.

Originally published on the Cornell Chronicle website as “Five companies ‘graduate’ from Cornell incubators.”

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