If You Ask Me, the ASME Conference was Incredible!

by Alan Rosenhoch, Business Development Manager

This summer, engineers from around the world convened in Buffalo at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ (ASME) annual conference on advanced manufacturing and design. As one of the world’s premier mechanical engineering conferences, a record-number (nearly 2,000 participants) was treated to four days of technical sessions and networking opportunities, while enjoying some of the nicest weather Buffalo summers have to offer.

The significance of our hosting this important conference cannot be overlooked. Usually reserved for larger American cities (like Portland, Chicago and Washington, DC), it was through the efforts of University at Buffalo’s Dr. Venkat Krovi and his team that ASME was convinced that Buffalo was the place to be in 2014. Dr. Krovi, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, served as the General Conference Chair, while UB provided funding as Host Sponsor.

To make it even more special, ASME incorporated its inaugural Advanced Design & Manufacturing Impact Forum, a four-day event highlighting the opportunities and potential of the latest advanced manufacturing solutions available.

While the conference and forum are geared towards those with engineering degrees (which doesn’t include me), I was thrilled to take in several sessions. In particular, I enjoyed those focused on how additive manufacturing is improving the manufacturing and design of biomedical devices, and another on the growing opportunities for academia/industry collaboration.

One thing is clear: the Buffalo Niagara region, once a mecca for advanced manufacturing, remains highly influential in this critical industry and key assets like UB are leading the way.

Kudos to ASME, Dr. Krovi and UB for executing an excellent conference; I hope you enjoyed Buffalo as much as I enjoyed my participation!

Buffalo Spin-off Seeks to Improve Drug Discovery

HarkerBIO photo - group (3)
HarkerBio Co-founders, Dr. Timothy Umland, Dr. Wayne Schultz, Joseph Luft,  photo courtesy of Gloria J. Del Bel, Hauptman-Woodward Institute

By Alan Rosenhoch, BNE Business Development Manager

Formed as a Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute (HWI) spin-off in 2014, HarkerBIO’s mission is to work with clients to improve and optimize the process of drug discovery through Structural Biology.

Dr. Timothy Umland is one of HarkerBIO’s cofounders and I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions:

Q. Tell us a little about your start-up story. What were the most significant challenges and how were they overcome?

A. HarkerBIO was the result of a fortuitous match of a group of HWI scientists, Joseph Luft, Wayne Schultz, and me, becoming interested in the commercial side of science and HWI as an organization wanting to develop a new source of revenue to complement traditional grant funding. We developed a unique model where HarkerBIO offers specialized drug development expertise to its customers, licenses research conducted at HWI to develop commercial products, and helps HWI reduce its dependency on grant funding of its non-profit basic research mission.

Our main challenge was to recognize that conducting academic research and commercial contract research are significantly different enterprises. In order to begin this transition, Wayne and I took the High-Tech CEL class to learn about many of the steps necessary to create and grow a successful business. The biotech and other tech-based startup community and ecosystem is still evolving in WNY, so there is high competition for talent among this growing pool of entrepreneurial companies, which presents another challenge.

Q. Describe your experience starting up a biotech company in the Buffalo Niagara region?

A: In a word, fantastic. I can’t say enough about the support from the HWI Board of Directors and staff, who have backed the development of HarkerBIO by lending their significant cumulative business knowledge, acumen and elbow grease. In addition, the small but very supportive technology-based entrepreneurial community in Buffalo has been very willing to provide advice, contacts, and encouragement. I see that a startup culture is on the rise in the region, which will help everyone. Plus, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) has a buzz about it that carries over to HarkerBIO and other companies on the Campus and ultimately the region.

HarkerBIO was recently named a semifinalist in the 43North Business Idea Competition, which we are very excited about. Not only is it a chance to obtain additional startup funds and other benefits, but it is also an opportunity to let people know about HarkerBIO. We also have an application in for the Startup NY program, with UB as our sponsor campus.


start up ny

Q. You have participated in UB’s High-Tech Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) Program as both an attendee and a presenter. First, how did the program benefit you and HarkerBIO? Second, what do you find to be the most beneficial lessons and advice you can now share with others?

A: It provided a great introduction to the local entrepreneurial and business development community. This network has been invaluable. It also provided a strong overview of the many different business parameters to consider when involved in a tech-based startup or business expansion through a series of guest speakers. My advice to future attendees is to be prepared to ask questions and engage in discussions with the course leaders, the guest speakers and the other attendees, and to avoid being a passive participant.

Q. Who do you feel would benefit from the High-Tech CEL program?

A. Anyone who is strongly considering founding their own tech-based startup, or who wants to take their existing tech-based business to the next level. In addition, graduate students involved in high tech areas may want to investigate taking their knowledge and ideas and turning them into businesses after graduation. The job market is tight now for many industries and there are few faculty positions available, so why not think about starting your own business?

Q. HarkerBIO participated with Buffalo Niagara BIO at the BIO International Conference in June. How has that conference benefitted HarkerBIO?

A: The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, UB Center for Bioinformatics and Life Sciences and Buffalo Niagara Enterprise teamed up to provide support to many local small companies to attend the BIO Conference through a grant from National Grid. Because of this, Buffalo companies had strong representation at the BIO meeting. This is the second year we have attended. Last year it was a great opportunity to talk to multiple potential customers and validate and, in some cases, revise HarkerBIO’s service offerings and marketing strategy. This past June, armed with a new approach, we engaged 22 potential customers and we are in the process of converting those contacts into business deals.

Q. How have you collaborated with the Buffalo Niagara region’s educational institutions?

A: HWI, who will be a continuing partner in the company, houses the UB Medical School’s Department of Structural Biology. HWI faculty members, including all of HarkerBIO’s founders, have faculty appointments in this department and are teaching and training UB graduate students. We are also active members of the BNMC community. Hopefully some of the region’s academic institutions, especially those emphasizing translational research, will want to make use of HarkerBIO’s services.

Q. What is your outlook for the growth of the life sciences industry, in Buffalo Niagara over the next 5-10 years?

A: It is highly promising. The growth of the BNMC, including UB’s greater presence, helps build momentum. As a critical mass of both academic and commercial activity build in the region, it will tend to lower the barrier to entry as well as attract more talent and investment to the area.

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Start-Up NY Attracts Life Science Companies to Buffalo

The UB Gateway Building will be home Aesku.NY, Inc.  Photography: Douglas Levere

The UB Gateway Building will be home Aesku.NY, Inc. Photography: Douglas Levere

by Alan Rosenhoch, Business Development Manager

Last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature economic development initiative START-UP NY bore fruit for the first time and the Buffalo Niagara region, and the life sciences industry in particular, was front and center. Of the 12 companies announced state-wide, eight are sponsored by the University at Buffalo (UB).

Of the eight companies affiliating with UB, four are in the life sciences industry:

-          Aesku.NY, Inc. is a spin-off of AESKU.DIAGNOSTICS, based in Wendelsheim, Germany, a research-focused supplier of innovative and efficient products and services for the early detection, diagnosis and prognosis of autoimmune diseases. The company will be new to New York State and locate at the University at Buffalo downtown campus (Gateway Building). The company is also part of NY Genomic Medicine Network, and will invest approximately $2.8 million and create 31 jobs over five years.

-          Sinapis Pharma, Inc. is an emerging pharmaceutical company that is developing a novel drug for the treatment of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and strokes. Sinapis is a new business that will be locating at the University at Buffalo’s Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics. The company will invest approximately $600,000 and projects seven jobs over five years.

-          Lineagen, Inc. is a biotechnology company that is focused on commercialization of diagnostic testing methods for identifying genetic variations known to be associated with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental delays. The company is a new business that is locating at the University at Buffalo’s downtown campus (Hauptman Woodward Institute). The company is also part of the NY Genomic Medicine Network and will invest approximately $55,000 and hire 10 employees over five years.

-          Nupur Technologies, LLC, is a research and development medical device company that is developing a device to clear blockages in the ear. The company is a new business that is locating at the University at Buffalo’s Baird Research Park. The company will invest more than $862,000 and hire 33 employees over five years.

START-UP NY is a new economic development program that allows companies to pay zero local or state taxes for a period of 10 years. This includes the personal income tax liability for the companies’ owners and employees. To qualify, a company does not need to technically be a ‘start-up’, but must create jobs in the State and must affiliate with a college or university. The academic requirement is a key element, because it leverages the vast asset base housed within the state’s public and private academic institutions.

For example, Aesku.NY and Lineagen were attracted to Buffalo primarily by the opportunity to take part in the recently created New York Genomic Medicine Network, a collaboration between UB and the New York Genome Center in Manhattan. The Network and its members will use supercomputing power from UB’s Center for Computational Research to analyze patient genomes and develop personalized medicine treatments.

The program is still in its early stages (having become law on January 1 of this year), as additional colleges and universities across the Buffalo Niagara region are formalizing their campus plans, the key step necessary to participate in the program.


Stephen Panaro, Ph.D. Talks About Starting QuaDPharma, Inc.



by Alan Rosenhoch, Business Development Manager

Founded in 2010, QuaDPharma, Inc. was designed to serve the needs of the pharmaceutical industry that relates to small-scale pre-commercial and commercial manufacturing. The company offers a range of services including small to mid-scale biologics and pharmaceutical manufacturing, microbiological and analytical testing for raw materials and formulated product, as well as product and process development support services. Additionally, QuaDPharma has been successful in delivering value for medical device development efforts ranging from manufacturing of Diagnostic Kits, formulation of device reagents and management of device stability programs for shelf-life determination.

Stephen A. Panaro, Ph.D. has over 12 years of experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry. His experience spans from drug discovery and API synthesis, to large-scale commercial production of finished products across many different dosage forms and packaging configurations. Throughout his carrier, Steve has overseen personnel in Nanotechnology, Quality Control (QC) Chemistry, QC Microbiology, Customer Service, Project Management, and Production, to name a few.

Most recently, Steve founded QuaDPharma based on his experience with Clinical and Commercial Manufacturing. He wanted to create a company unlike the large scale contract manufacturing organizations of today and focus on projects, and products, that require small to mid-scale manufacturing. The clients that sponsor these products require a unique blend of customer service and technical expertise. QuaDPharma provides just the right environment for development and commercialization of these innovative pharmaceutical products.

Q: How did QuaDPharma get started in Buffalo?

A: I started QuaDPharma when my current employer at the time, Contract Pharmaceuticals Limited, (CPL) announced the closing of their Buffalo facility.  My experience at CPL provided me with the skill set to run a contract manufacturing organization.  The hardest challenge was getting through the six month to two year sales cycle, this obviously delayed revenue for the first few years, and created cash flow challenges.  We over came this by working through the long sales cycle and filling the pipeline.  Utilizing various local sales and marketing collaborations with E3 Communications, Athena, SWC, Vic Nole, and Pascal Soares to name few, we overcame these challenges.  QuaDPharma also solidified an investment round and relationship with Rand Capital for cash flow.

Q: Discuss your experience starting Biotech Company in the Buffalo Niagara region.

A: Three key advantages come to mind when I think about starting up in the region:

  • a strong referral network exists locally, Quad Pharm has developed relationships with 16 Buffalo companies;
  • the inexpensive cost of living in this area keeps overhead costs down;
  • the employee work ethic is excellent.

Q: You have participated with Buffalo Niagara BIO at the BIO International Conference for several years. What has been the impact on QuaDPharma? 

A: The Buffalo Niagara region is a small community which has provided support and goodwill that embraced QuaDPharma from the beginning. During our first year at Bio the majority of our opportunities came from developing relationships with local companies that needed our services.  Each year this conference provides new relationships and opportunities for us, which has helped us to continue to grow.

Q: Who do you collaborate with in the Buffalo Niagara region?

A: We have collaborated with many of the educational institutions, such as HWI and UB, by providing support for our customers so that they can get funding, by utilizing educational staff and facilities to develop our customer’s products cost effectively, and by brainstorming ideas to optimize the potential to bring future products to market.

Q: What is your outlook for the growth of the life sciences industry in Buffalo Niagara?   

A: Buffalo is beginning a growth cycle so opportunity will only increase in the future. I think growth of the life sciences industry in general, in Buffalo Niagara over the next 5-10 years looks great. Recently, Pete Grum, Rand Capital Corporation president & CEO said to me, “people want to do business with people they like.”  This region has a lot of likable people. These people are continuing to drive to create opportunities to continue to grow this industry.

Buffalo Niagara at Bio International 2014

by Alan Rosenhoch, Business Development Manager

The annual BIO International Conference is around the corner and once again, the Buffalo Niagara region will be prominently featured on the exhibition floor at the New York Pavilion – Booth #1559, joined by state partners including Empire State Development, the State University of New York, and New York Bio. Building on the success of past years and, in particular, last year’s launch of the Buffalo Niagara BIO brand, this year’s conference is expected to continue the establishment of the Buffalo Niagara region as a world class destination for life sciences and biotech companies.

The event is June 23-26 and will be held at the San Diego Convention Center in southern California. The Buffalo Niagara BIO contingent includes Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the University at Buffalo’s NYS Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences. Additionally, nine regional companies will be attending the show under the Buffalo Niagara BIO umbrella, opening up innumerable opportunities for collaboration and networking.  Our participation at Bio International is made possible through the support of National Grid.

Exhibiting at BIO provides us the opportunity to reach high-level executives and influential decision makers who come to BIO to discover new players in the industry, form partnerships and evaluate emerging technologies.

This year, the region will be represented by eight private companies, including:

  • Buffalo Biolabs
  • CENO Technologies
  • Global H, LLC
  • For-Robin
  • HarkerBIO
  • IMMCO Diagnostics
  • QuaDPharma, LLC
  • TheraSyn Pharmaceuticals Inc

Download the Buffalo Niagara Life Sciences Guide to learn more about the thriving life science sector in our region.

Buffalo Niagara Life Science Guide

Buffalo Niagara Life Science Guide


Resources for Life Science Entrepreneurs

by Alan Rosenhoch, Business Development Manager

Entrepreneurs interested in starting a life sciences company in Buffalo Niagara have many resources available to them. A significant draw for companies to the Buffalo Niagara region is the long list of available resources that can assist with new product development and commercialization. Many of the region’s life sciences companies have spun out of one of the myriad institutions, schools and research centers in the region, including the NYS Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences. These maturing companies received support, guidance, and often funding, from a network of business resources and specialized facilities.

In addition, there are numberous programs and resources in the region that can help support life sciences businesses. Contact me or view our life sciences minisite to learn more.


Buffalo’s Global Business Plan Competition

43North-Logo-CMYK-WM43North, which began on Feb. 1, is the latest in a series of economic development initiatives aimed at encouraging private sector investments in the immediate Buffalo Niagara region. While $1 million is the top cash prize, the competition is also offering six additional awards of $500,000 and four $250,000 awards. Winners also get free incubator space in downtown Buffalo, guidance from area mentors and access to other public-sector incentives like Start-Up NY.

The competition will be broken down into three rounds, with each round being judged independently.

  • Round 1 (February 5 – May 31): applications from prospective businesses will be accepted via the competition’s website, 43North.org. The purpose of Round 1 is for applicants to provide a vision for their venture, including their business concept, target customers, industry overview, competitive landscape and revenue potential. This submission is not intended to be as comprehensive as a detailed business plan, but should provide the judges with a summary of the major elements of the venture. Applications will be vetted over the summer months.
  • Round 2 (September 15 – September 20): the semifinalists will present further detail on their plan, along with a 10-minute online presentation to 43North’s judging panel, followed by 10 minutes of questions. The plans put forward in Round 2 will include the venture’s business concept, value proposition, competitive analysis, communication and distribution channels, client relationships, key stakeholders, resources and activities, cost structure, revenue streams and financial considerations.
  • Round 3 (October 27 – October 31): the final stage of the competition is for finalist teams to pitch their business in person to a panel of judges in Buffalo. Each team will have 10 minutes to sell their business idea, followed by 10 minutes of questions. Teams will be assessed on overall organization of the presentation; the team’s ability to ‘sell’ the idea and need for the company; the team’s ability to defend the plan and be responsive to questions; and the quality of the overall plan. The competition concludes with the selection of winners and celebrations.

The objective of this competition is to position Upstate New York and the Buffalo Niagara region squarely on the map of America’s newest innovation and entrepreneurship hotbed. 43North is open to applicants ages 18 and over from anywhere in the world in any industry, with the exception of retail and hospitality. Winners agree to operate their business in Buffalo, New York for a minimum of one year.

43North is hitting the road to spread the word about this ambitious competition.  National and international stops include 12 U.S. cities, Southern Ontario, India, China and Israel. Find out when 43North will be in a city near you!



START-UP NY Tax Free Zones Program Launches (Blog II)

With the New Year upon us, New York State’s most exciting tax incentive program in recent memory has officially begun. On January 1, 2014, START-UP NY went into effect, allowing companies to partner with colleges and universities to create partnerships that allow these businesses, and their owners and employees, to operate completely tax free for a ten-year period.

Many have heard something about the program, but may have many questions about which businesses are eligible, what an affiliation with a college or university must look like, how to apply, and more. I wrote an earlier blog outlining the basics of the program. Now, I’ll do my best to offer some clarity to the process a company can anticipate should it seek to take advantage of this exciting new program.

An eligible company should start by thinking about which college or university with which it would like to affiliate. For some companies, this might be a simple process, but for many others, they may have never considered partnering with an academic institution. Well, in order to participate in the program, each school must submit and publish a plan that outlines the specific industries it is targeting for this program. Here in Buffalo Niagara, I am working with each participating institution and am familiar with their respective plans, so I can be a resource during this process.  Empire State Development (ESD) is also here to help.

Once a company and an academic institution are matched up, the two will enter into negotiations on four key points:

  1. Space and lease rates – each institution will designate specific buildings and/or land on its campus(es) that are available for lease. Additionally, each institution may designate up to 200,000 square feet of space off campus, based on the company’s needs.
  2. Affiliation – the two parties will determine exactly how they will interact, or affiliate, a key to eligibility for the program. In this point, both parties will seek a mutually beneficial arrangement.
  3. Job creation commitment – the company must commit to creating net new jobs (to New York State) in order to participate in the program, and will negotiate this number with the institution.
  4. Intellectual property (IP) – the two parties must agree upon who will own IP should any patentable discoveries take place during the course of the affiliation.

Once the two parties have agreed on the above four items, this will represent a completed application. The application will then go to Empire State Development for final review. This review period is set to last 60 days, at which point if an application has not been rejected, it is formally approved. Once approved, the application becomes a legally binding contract between the company and the academic institution and the company and its employees can start reaping the benefits of operating free of New York State taxes for the following ten years!

Still have questions? That’s not surprising. It’s impossible to sum all this up in one short blog. But please feel free to email me at any time for more information, especially if you’re a company considering taking advantage of this exciting new opportunity! arosenhoch@buffaloniagara.org.

Q&A with For-Robin on cancer therapeutic development

Dr. Kate Rittenhouse-Olson is Director of University at Buffalo’s (UB) Biotechnology Undergraduate Program and Founding President of For-Robin Inc.

Kate Rittenhouse-Olson, Professor of Biochemistry Photographer: Douglas Levere

Kate Rittenhouse-Olson, Professor of Biochemistry Photographer: Douglas Levere

For-Robin is a company developing a promising drug: an antibody that stops breast cancer tumors from metastasizing to other parts of the body. The product, called JAA-F11, binds to the Thomsen-Friedenreich glycoantigen (TF-Ag), which is a unique target expressed on the surface of about 80% of breast, colon, bladder, prostate and other carcinomas. The key is that JAA-F11 is highly selective and is not expected to bind on normal tissues. JAA-F11 was discovered in Dr. Rittenhouse-Olson’s UB laboratory and she then spun off the company with the mission of translating the product from the laboratory to commercial/clinical use.

Dr. Rittenhouse-Olson was a post-doctoral fellow at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) wherein she gained clinical tumor immunology experience with Dr. T. Ming Chu, (the discoverer of Prostate Specific Antigen for diagnosis) and then carbohydrate experience with Dr. Khushi Matta. For over 25 years, her UB laboratory has been involved in studying carbohydrate tumor associated antigens, and primarily TF-Ag. Last year, she and her colleague Ernesto De Nardin published a textbook, “Contemporary Clinical Immunology and Serology,” for which she drew the original diagrams for many of its illustrations of molecules.

Dr. Rittenhouse-Olson is also interested in exploring JAA-F11’s utility as a cancer imaging agent and tumor killer. The antibody is only expected to bind with cancer cells, which means doctors could use it to locate tumors, or to deliver cancer-fighting compounds straight to cancer cells. In addition, the alterations that researchers are making to the antibody may make it possible for the antibody to directly kill tumor cells.

Q. What is the significance of the name of your company, For-Robin?



A. For-Robin is named in memory of my sister, Robin, who died in 1986 due to breast cancer at the age of 31. My sister Robin was a special person, a mix of many things funny and serious. She was a hard worker and also an entrepreneur. She was a leader and was in charge of a group of counselors in Fairport, NY. She told the teenagers she counseled that there would be people in their lives that would say mean or hurtful things to them, sometimes even under the guise of a normal conversation. She taught them to answer not with their fists or with mean words, but with the simple and controlled sentence “How do you expect me to feel now that you have said that?”. This was a great way to turn around a situation without escalating it. She had teenage foster children, children that had drug or criminal records and would have been difficult to place anywhere else. She loved them and they loved her.

Q. What assistance has For Robin received in its early stages, both monetary and otherwise?

A. For-Robin, established in 2012 and renting laboratory space at University at Buffalo, has received the following assistance:

  • A Phase I STTR grant from the National Cancer Institute Grant #: 1R41CA176951, in the amount of $282K for the project period 5/1/2013 to 4/30/2014. The Grant was awarded based on a peer review of the science and its promise as a future therapeutic for the treatment of breast cancer.
  • A matching University at Buffalo Bruce Holm Catalyst grant in the amount of $50K.
  • A matching University at Buffalo Center for Advanced Biomedical and Bioengineering Technology (UB CAT) grant in the amount of $30K.
  • Business development help from UB-STOR in the form of an entrepreneur-in-residence, Robert Redd, and innovation interns Connor Flynn, John D. Fraczek and David Huoh.
  • Development guidance from the pre-seed workshop sponsored by the Center of Excellence (COE), prior to business formation and set-up

Q. Did you consider other areas for start-up beside Buffalo Niagara, if so why did you choose Western NY?

A. I choose Buffalo, and will choose to remain in Buffalo because of the

Lab of Kate Rittenhouse-Olson, Professor of Biochemistry Photographer: Douglas Levere

Lab of Kate Rittenhouse-Olson, Professor of Biochemistry Photographer: Douglas Levere

support network here, including UB STOR, the COE, and the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences faculty and students.

Q. What were the first steps you took in your process of starting up?

A. I began by talking to area biotech entrepreneurs who were very generous with their time and advice. Buffalo’s greatest asset is the collegiality of the members of the biotech sector. Even a year later, attracting talent from this area and specifically from UB is easy. I recently recruited an excellent post-doctoral fellow, Loukia Karacosta.

Q. At what stage of development is JAA-F11? What are the next steps?JAAF11diagram

A. We are in our first year of funded support from the NCI STTR. Our most recent data is moving us rapidly forward and the next step is to ready the antibody for human clinical trials by replacing some mouse parts with human parts. The alterations, which are underway, will decrease the chance of patients’ immune systems rejecting the antibody. My husband, James Olson a toxicologist who is also at UB is deeply involved in supporting this venture, and my good friend Sally Quataert, Director of the Human Immunology Center (HIC) Core Laboratory, at the University of Rochester, is facilitating our business efforts as well. Through a subcontract to my lab at UB, Susan Morey at lab manager at UB, Julia Abdullah, a Ph.D. student in the Microbiology Department at UB, Jing Ying Eng a master’s student in Biotechnical and Clinical Laboratory Science at UB, Bethany Cross and Ashley Rohl, undergraduates at UB are involved in the development of the JAA-F11 antibody.

My life works in Buffalo Niagara because of the support of the scientific, business and academic communities in the Buffalo Niagara region.

Read interviews with other Life Sciences professionals in Buffalo Niagara

by Alan Rosenhoch, Business Development Manager