Biotechnology startups demo at VeloCity Lab

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Over 120 people attended Velocity Science Open Lab May 27 to meet the seven inaugural teams accepted into the Velocity Science program.


The program provides wet lab space, consumable materials, and high-tech equipment to UW students who are interested in launching a startup company in the sciences discipline. Representatives from each of the teams informally pitched their companies to curious attendees, which included UW students and faculty.


In conjunction with the Faculty of Science and an offshoot of Velocity, Velocity Science aims to support startup companies working in biomedical applications. The startups in attendance were Veriderm, Suncayr, Vitameter, Medella Health, Small Ideas, Nicoya Lifesciences, and Nerv. Most companies are fourth-year engineering capstone projects.


Peter Heuss, the in-house manager at Velocity, calls Rachel Pautler, a fourth-year Nanotechnology Engineering student, the poster girl for Velocity Science.


Enthusiastic and earnest, she is one of the five founders of Suncayr and a co-op student at Nicoya, a nanotechnology company developing a biomolecular analysis system also participating in the Velocity Science program.


Suncayr is developing a marker with UV-sensitive ink that changes colour when it is exposed to UV rays. A small amount is drawn onto skin before applying sunscreen. Sunscreen normally scatters and absorbs UV rays. When the sunscreen wears off, the colour-changing properties of the ink is used as an indicator for wearers to reapply.


“Professor Nasser Abukhdeir, our fourth year design project advisor, told us that [we] should make [our idea] into a startup company. We started going to Velocity Alpha and Velocity Science events starting in January, and from there it just took off,” said Pautler. The company hopes to have a prototype by the end of summer.


Another company was Veriderm, a team developing a stick-on skin patch to diagnose allergies. It aims to replace current, invasive methods by testing allergic reactions through a skin patch instead of directly on skin. The team won $2,000 in seed funding from the Velocity Fund Finals back in March.


The well-attended event also attracted the Liberal candidate for the Kitchener-Waterloo area, Jamie Burton, who graduated from UW with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1990. 


“I thought I’d come and see what our students [are up to]  having the opportunity to develop within the course of their education,” Burton said.


According to Heuss, Velocity Foundry, another extension of Velocity for alumni companies, is opening its doors in August.


For a full list of descriptions of companies in Velocity Science, visit velocity.uwaterloo.ca/science. The Velocity Science lab is located in Earth Sciences and Chemistry 316A.
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