Research News

Biotech venture takes first in entrepreneurship competition

Panasci winners Michael Bisogno, Kevin Carter and Jonathan Smyth.

From left: Graduate students Kevin Carter, Jonathan Smyth and Michael Bisogno took first place in the Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi


Published April 16, 2015

“The startup community in Buffalo is really supportive of innovative developments, and the input we have received through the Panasci competition has really helped us focus and hone our venture.”
Jonathan Smyth, co-winner
Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition

Three graduate students took first place in UB’s Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition (Panasci TEC) for a biotechnology venture that offers a revolutionary new way to deliver cancer drugs.

Michael Bisogno, MD/MBA student, of Smithtown; Kevin Carter, a master’s student in biomedical engineering, of Georgetown, Guyana; and Jonathan Smyth, third-year law student, of Syracuse, will receive $25,000 in startup capital, as well as in-kind services valued at more than $27,000 for their company, PhotoZyne.

The dosage and effectiveness of typical cancer drug treatments are limited because of their severe toxicity. Enter PhotoZyne, which offers an effective and minimally invasive solution. A “smart” nanoballoon safely delivers cancer treatments directly to solid tumors. Administered intravenously, the drug then is activated by exposure to a special laser light probe.

The creators say the focused delivery helps to decrease recurrence, resistance and side effects. And survival rates are higher because the cancer can be treated effectively in one concentrated dose.

Carter co-invented the technology with Jonathan Lovell, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, and brought in Smyth and Bisogno to help bring it to market.

“Developing this business is tremendously hard work, but we all are dedicated to its future and life-saving potential,” says Smyth, who serves as team leader. “The startup community in Buffalo is really supportive of innovative developments, and the input we have received through the Panasci competition has really helped us focus and hone our venture.”

In addition to the startup funding, the winning team will receive in-kind awards for legal services from Jaeckle Fleischmann & Mugel LLP; accounting services from Kopin & Co. P.C.; human resource startup services from the People Plan by HR Foundations Inc.; business development services from the UB Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR); and office space from North Forest Office Space.

The second-place award of $10,000 went to Mark Branden, EMBA ’15, of Depew; Joel Colombo, CEL ’10, of Sanborn; Nicholas Barone of Buffalo; and Jonathan Gorczyca of Hamburg for their business, Pawraiser, an animal welfare fundraising platform.

After watching a record 33 first-round pitches, preliminary judges pared down the number of teams to 11, representing a wide range of business plans. That group submitted business plans and a video pitch, and five teams were selected to present at the finals at the Center for the Arts Screening Room.

The five final teams delivered a 10-minute presentation and were evaluated on how well they described the feasibility and marketability of their venture, proved the need for their product or service, and presented potential sources of capital.

Other new venture ideas included a robotics startup that develops self-navigating technology for boats and ships; deployable, precast concrete walls used to protect buildings or entire neighborhoods against water-related hazards; and an app that connects college students with a wide variety of social information.

Serving as judges for the final event were John Gavigan, executive director of 43North; Anthony Johnson, president and CEO of Empire Genomics; Marnie LaVigne, president and CEO of Launch NY; Michael Ulbrich, president of Buffalo Manufacturing Works; and Alan Zdon, president of and 2005 Panasic TEC winner.

Now in its 15th year, Panasci TEC was created by the School of Management and STOR, and is funded with a $1 million endowment from the late Henry A. Panasci Jr. to facilitate and promote the commercialization of UB-generated technologies.

Hosted by the School of Management’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, the event brings together UB students from science, technology, business and other disciplines to maximize their potential and create viable businesses in Western New York.

Fourteen local ventures have been launched with first-place prize money since the UB competition began; most are still in business.

All the finalists were encouraged to enter the 43North competition.