Meet 30 Early-Stage Startups From Top Research Institutions in Southern California

Meet 30 Early-Stage Startups From Top Research Institutions in Southern California

The First Look SoCal Innovation, an annual event put on by The Alliance for Southern California Innovation, highlighted 30 early-stage startups. This event, held September 15, 2020, identified these companies as the best early-stage teams commercializing tech and life science breakthroughs from the top research institutions in Southern California.

We have unpacked all 30 early-stage startups who pitched at the event:

California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

Cellaccura Biosciences, Inc. develops gene therapies for neurological disorders through the precision engineering of neural circuits at the cell type level. Helen Poldsam, Co-Founder & CEO

Beamlet leverages advanced algorithms to unlock high performance with low-cost components, enabling the first affordable, reliable, and long-range coherent LiDAR for the auto and drone markets. We are building an automotive-grade metavision system for superhuman perception and interference-free object detection and tracking. The system relies on an event-based camera and a vector-scanning FMCW LiDAR to identify relevant objects with class, depth, and velocity in real-time even in the most adverse scenarios. Ivan S. Grudinin, CEO/CTO & Founder

University of California, Irvine (UCI)

Alyra Therapeutics is developing ALY101 for the treatment of melanoma and other cancers, representing a $3+ B TAM in oncology alone. Alyra is headquartered in San Diego and is raising a $0.25 M note prior to a $5 M equity round focused on the filing of the ALY101 IND in Q4 2021. Mark Benedyk, CEO

Amplifica’s approach to hair regrowth is based on the discovery of naturally occurring signaling molecules that prominently stimulate new hair growth. The scientific studies leading to the discovery of these molecules are based on the unique molecular biology found in the naturally occurring hairy nevi (aka hairy moles) which has been extensively studied and uniquely understood by the companies’ scientific founder. Maksim Plikus, CSO

AquaTeX Medical is a medical device company. Our work is focused on the development of materials for the use of catheter-based treatment for neuro-vascular diseases. Our goal is to improve the safety and efficacy of the treatment by utilizing advanced polymer science and technology. Ichiro Yuki, CEO

The Makani Science Respiratory Monitor is the world’s first wireless, wearable sensor capable of monitoring a patient’s breathing rate and depth. It is an accurate early indication of respiratory distress and can help prevent cardiorespiratory complications or death, protecting 27M Americans annually who undergo clinical procedures. Francis Duhay, CEO

Syntr Health Technologies, Inc is a start-up company that was founded by biomedical engineers and experienced surgeons. Together, they have developed and tested a microfluidic processing device, Syntrfuge™, for the micro fragmentation of adipose tissue and its structural and supportive nature in the treatment of difficult-to-treat wounds, i.e. diabetic foot ulcers (DFU). Ahmed Zobi, CEO

AquaTrax – Trackle is a next-generation Cloud-based Water Loss Tracking Platform that helps water agencies and its customers to track water use effectively by lowering the non-revenue water and be compliant with legislation. It utilizes Smart Water Networks to Manage Pressure and Flow for Reduction of Water Loss, Pipe Breaks, and electricity savings. Amit Sharma, Founder & CEO

Skysong Innovations (ASU)

Autism Diagnostics, LLC, is developing metabolomics-based tests for diagnosing autism, and for evaluating metabolic disorders that can be used to guide medical treatment. Our pilot studies have revealed high sensitivity and specificity, and larger studies are underway. James Adams, CEO

University of California San Diego (UCSD)

BioJam Technologies is a San Diego based startup company that has created a universal retractor for Minimally Invasive Surgery using soft robotics jamming technology. The core founding members are a group of four surgeons and engineers who developed the technology from the ground up based on a clinical need of modern surgery. Our products are projected to make an impact on bariatric surgery, robotics / laparoscopic surgery, and surgical oncology to improve patient outcomes. Shanglei Liu, Founder

Palm Therapeutics is developing novel depalmitoylating drugs (DPALMs) to access previously undruggable targets in the oncology and rare disease spaces. Our initial drug discovery program is focused on advancing our first-in-class small molecule inhibitors of oncogenic NRas in melanoma and other cancers. Andrew Rudd, Co-Founder

Visicell, “GPS for cell therapy”, provides non-invasive, imaging-based cell tracking solutions to the multi-billion-dollar cell therapy industry. Our technology delivers the users rapid clinical information for accelerated cell therapy development and improved patient care. Mya S Thu, Founder and CEO

Tyme is a web-based reporting platform that allows sexual assault and harassment survivors to store assault details until they are ready to file a Title IX report and a mobile advocate that connects survivors with their university officials.

Epinoma is an early-stage life sciences company focused on building better tools for oncologists in a post-therapeutic setting. We’re replacing traditional methods such as CT imaging and protein markers, with a CRISPR-based liquid blood test to inform clinical decision-making for late-stage colorectal cancer patients. Varun Govil, CEO

At FixingCO2 we are building a reactor that converts CO2 into fuels and chemicals. Our breakthrough patented electrocatalyst efficiently converts CO2 into carbon monoxide that is used as a feedstock for renewable fuels and chemicals. We help customers produce CO2 on-site while reducing their emissions and cutting transportation costs. Almagul Zhanaidarova, Founder

California State University, Los Angeles (CSLA)

CERN Corporation addresses a significant unmet need for an effective, science-based, non-drug therapy to mitigate fungal and bacterial vaginosis. Our technology leverages the microbicidal qualities of low-level germicidal light so as to help over 30M women in the US, who are either recurrent, immuno-compromised, or suffer adverse drug effects from conventional standards of care. Gregg Klang, CEO

SPG Therapeutics develops drugs that target the androgen receptor to address unmet needs in dermatology. The androgen receptor is the driver of acne, alopecia, hirsutism, and the orphan inflammatory disease hidradenitis suppurativa. We are in the process of executing a development plan consistent with filing an IND within 18 months. Zory Shaposhnik, CEO & CSO

California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly)

De Oro Device focuses on developing medical devices that improve lives and increase mobility. Our first device, NexStride, combines research-backed visual and auditory cues into a small, portable accessory that can be attached to any cane, walker, or walking pole to increase mobility and help people with Parkinson’s overcome freezing of gait, one of the most debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Sidney Collin, Founder

memwris is developing the first meaningful interface overhaul since the 80s. Their patent-pending UI uses a unique algorithm to unlock complex workflows on small touchscreens. To unequivocally prove the innovation, memwris is targeting a task that’s currently completely impractical on a mobile device: computer programming. Charlotte Maumus, Co-founder & CEO

Shamrock is revolutionizing the economics of indoor vertical farming in a hot new category. Our automated farming system brings the garden to the grocer with higher yields and at a significantly lower capital investment. Shamrock’s leafy greens and herbs are sold alive, providing the ultimate in freshness, flavor, and nutrition. Stan Kaplita, CEO & Co-Founder

University of California, Riverside (UCR)

SimplSeq is dedicated to transforming the genomic sequencing industry by providing simplified SimplSeq has created an entirely new approach to extracting, purifying, replicating, and preparing samples for genomic sequencing. This patent-pending process will greatly reduce the times and cost of sample preparation and for the first time labs will be able to preserve the original DNA material for future testing. John Powers, CEO

FarmSense has developed an insect monitoring platform to detect and classify insects. This information can be used to optimize interventions, reducing the enormous costs (tens of billions plus per annum) associated with crop lost and the overuse of pesticides. Eamonn Keogh, CTO

The SiLi-ion team has created an easy to manufacture, nanoscale silicon additive with a carbon shell enabling immediate improvement in lithium-ion battery performance. Further, the material can be used in existing battery manufacturing lines with no need for retooling or expensive modifications to the established battery production processes, leveraging the existing industry infrastructure, operations, and channels into which to sell the SiLi-ion powder. A mere 10% replacement of graphite with the SiLi-ion nanoparticles in the anode increases the energy density of the anode by 6X and the total battery energy density by a full 10%. Mark Hatch, CEO

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)

Professor Bazan’s group, in collaboration with the Army Research Lab, spent years developing a class of compounds called Conjugated Oligoelectrolytes (COEs) which have the ability to harness electricity from living bacteria. Optimized derivatives, known as Antiinfective Conjugated Electrolytes (ACEs), are effective against all drug-resistant bacteria tested thus far and have been shown to cure lethal infections in mice. Xiretsa was formed in 2019 to license the resulting IP from UCSB and develop ACEs into life-saving antibiotics. Robert Postrozny, Founder

BioZen develops organic electrolytes (OEs), the active materials in redox flow batteries. Our OEs are safe and truly sustainable—critical features of energy storage tech that genuinely aims to harness, deploy, and grow exponentially alongside renewable energy far into the future. Nate Kirchhofer, CEO

Buoy Buddy is dedicated to encouraging marine research while protecting the world’s oceans. Typically, at the end of an ocean floor research project, an anchor is abandoned on the seabed. No longer – our team is developing an affordable, integrated mooring retrieval system that leaves no trace, preventing ecosystem disruption. William Drummy, Co-Founder

Spero Renewables is a cleantech company that develops technologies for plant-based alternatives to products manufactured with petrochemicals. Spero utilizes its proprietary technology to unlock the resources of readily available biomass. Our initial applications are plant-based natural vanilla and recyclable plastics. Mahdi Abu-Omar, Founder

Allthenticate provides users with more security and less burden. Our product, Single Device Authentication (SDA), is designed to enable seamless authentication in both the physical and digital worlds by using our smartphone app to replace keys and passwords while unifying the management of these credentials into one easy-to-use interface. Chad Spensky, CEO

California State University, Northridge (CSUN)

Delphire is dedicated to fighting wildfires by leveraging AI-based sensor fusion and large scale data to protect people, property, and the environment. Our system remotely detects, reports, and tracks fires in real-time, enabling safe and decisive action. Matthew Smalley, Co-Founder

University of Southern California (USC)

Microscape is a solution for 3D data collaboration. Using Microscape, users can upload 3D data to the cloud and simultaneously view and access the data remotely with researchers around the world. Collaboration and access are key to emerging applications in data processing, healthcare, and scanning, and Microscape is the platform to enable it. John Francis, CTO

Optimal IC Technologies helps semiconductor manufacturers optimize integrated circuit power, performance, utilization and yield across the full spectrum of chips designed and manufactured by companies in the global semiconductor industry. We solve the billion-dollar yield problem. We eliminate security concerns. We help realize the full potential of semiconductor designs. Lewis Hartle, CEO


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Founder, Editor-In-Chief // A native Angeleno. John studied engineering at UCLA; founded Schmoozd, an offline social tech networking event in LA with 30,000 subs; ran a startup accelerator (StartEngine). Worked for several major brands like Toyota, DIRECTV, Hitachi, ICANN, and Raytheon. A mentor at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) Entrepreneur School, Dr. David Choi. And advises a dozen local LA startups building amazing tech in various industries; and invested in some. // Let's Connect:

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