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2019 Invent Penn State Tech Tournament showcases disruptive technologies and early-stage companies
9 October 2019

As 12 early-stage startups and inventors took the stage for the 2019 Invent Penn State Venture & IP Conference Tech Tournament to make their pitch for up to $75,000 in cash to help their organizations take the next step to commercialization. Judges for the event were Linda Schaffer, Foresite Capital Management; Matt Rhodes, 1855 Capital; and Don Morrison, BlueTree Allied Angels, who challenged the entrepreneurs about their commercialization strategy, business models and plans for growth.

The winner of the $75,000 top prize, Nanoporous Antireflection Coatings, was led by Chris Giebink, associate professor of electrical engineering in the Penn State College of Engineering.

Weiss presents Giebink with big check

Lora G. Weiss, Senior Vice President for Research at Penn State University presents Nanoporous Antireflection Coatings with $75,000 for winning the 2019 Tech Tournament.

Giebink, alongside his colleague, J.P. Murphy, postdoctoral researcher, and others, developed an antireflection (AR) coating for transparent plastics, such as plexiglass, which are used in applications ranging from eyeglass lenses to cellphone cameras, and from solar panels to greenhouse glazings.

The company's AR coating technology is based on a new process for making nanoporous polymer-thin films. The technology can be utilized alongside existing material technology to augment high-end plastic optics, such as cellphone camera lenses, fiber optic components, and augmented/virtual reality systems. The process is protected by two pending patents used to make the coating.

Professor Giebink was joined by 11 other entrepreneurs whose ideas were borne out of Penn State research and who were staking their claim for part of the $160,000 in prize money awarded at the tech tournament – a dynamic, timed-pitch event featuring the best and brightest of Penn State's early-stage innovators seeking additional capital to help their startups take one step closer to commercialization.

In addition to the prize award for Nanoporous Antireflection Coatings, three additional companies were recognized with cash prizes for their disruptive technologies, all out of Penn State’s diverse research ecosystem:

  • Arbitrator Intelligence (AI) took second place and was awarded $50,000 for its work in developing an independent global information aggregation platform that produces data analytics on international arbitration. The technology was shared by founder and CEO Catherine A. Rogers, professor, Penn State Law. Under the leadership of Professor Rogers, AI provides a confidential online platform to collect anonymized but vital, nonpublic information about past international arbitration cases. The platform allows parties and lawyers to more accurately select arbitrators for international cases.
  • Safe-T Scope took third place and $25,000 for creating a solution to enhance access to quality sexual assault care in underserved communities. Sheridan Miyamoto, assistant professor, from the Penn State College of Nursing and founder of Safe-T Scope, presented the solution. Safe-T Scope addresses the problem of poor image capture, storage and lack of technical expertise in providing quality health care to sexual assault victims by replacing a traditional colposcope at half the cost via a telehealth-guided intervention for an improved exam and proper evidence collection.
  • ChromaTiR was the People’s Choice Award winner and received $10,000 for developing a technology to create color-shifting effects in a broad range of materials that is more cost-effective and safer. Lauren Zarzar, assistant professor of chemistry in the Eberly College of Science at Penn State, presented the technology. Zarzar and her team are working to advance their patent-pending technology, which allows the use of a low-cost, simplified and more customizable method to generate vibrant, iridescent coatings in which no nanoparticles and no metal films are used. ChromaTiR offers customizable color shifting special effect coatings and pigments with tunable color profiles and large angular separation between colors.

Additional participants in the tech tournament included:

  • ElkosRx, shared by Joseph Sassani, chief medical officer at Penn State Health, which features a treatment for diabetic foot ulcers targeting the underlying pathophysiology of diabetic wounds.
  • Qorius2D, presented by Natalie Briggs, graduate student in Materials Science and Engineering at Penn State, manufactures microscope slides coated with atomically thin metal layers that maximize molecule/light interactions, allowing unprecedented sensitivity, uniformity and reliability for spectroscopic identification of viruses and molecules.
  • Total Wrist Arthroplasty, presented by Shane Rothermel, clinical specialist, orthopaedics resident at Penn State Health, and Scott Tucker, engineering specialist, medical doctor/doctoral student in Engineering Science and Mechanics at Penn State, is advancing an anatomically inspired design for Total Wrist Arthroplasty, consisting of a three-component system that provides superior stability against dislocation to enable patients to maintain freedom of motion and have an alternative to total wrist fixation.
  • Oosyte Technologies, shared by Jason Rasgon, professor of entomology and disease epidemiology at Penn State, provides a method to introduce proteins into developing eggs directly through the female parent – enabling the opportunity to vaccinate multiple offspring through a single treatment.
  • HydroFix (73 Medical, LLC), was shared by Dr. Sragiue (Will) Hazard III, associate professor of anesthesia, critical care and neurosurgery at Penn State Health. HydroFix is a less invasive solution using biocompatible polymers to treat hydrocephalus and normal pressure hydrocephalus that does not cause brain trauma, decreases surgical time by up to 75 percent, and reduces long-term morbidity.
  • Rare Earth Protein Sensor, Joseph Cotruvo Jr., assistant professor of chemistry at Penn State, leads a team effort to develop a protein-based sensor for detecting technologically important rare earth elements that help prospectors with field-portable identification of promising RE mining site.
  • AgGlow, Charles Wolstenholme, graduate student in the chemistry department in the Eberly College of Science at Penn State, shared how AgGlow helps the detection of misfolded proteins in live cells to enable a wide range of biomedical advancement in Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • GradienT, Brad Rogers, doctoral candidate in the Eberly College of Science at Penn State, developed a unique temperature-gradient device that allows for faster and more accurate stability screening for formulation scientists to accelerate and improve predictions associated with biopharmaceutical shelf-life.
Zarzar receives check

ChromaTiR was the People’s Choice Award winner and received $10,000 at the 2019 Tech Tournament.

Companies participating in the tech tournament leveraged the collaborative relationships and support from other startup and incubator organizations across the Penn State innovation ecosystem, including the Ben Franklin TechCelerator, the Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank, the Penn State Small Business Development Center and Center for Medical Innovation.

The tech tournament is a visible example of how Penn State is equipping entrepreneurs with the tools to help them expand their research, drive innovation and turn discoveries into valuable products and services that enhance and improve humankind.

Visit invent.psu.edu for more information about Invent Penn State, its 21 innovation hubs across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the 2021 Invent Penn State Venture & IP Conference.