Prince William County Department of Economic Development (PWCDED) developed the IGNITE program to support high growth entrepreneurs with funding during the COVID-19 pandemic. After opening applications last year, the program has been a success with 13 companies receiving awards.
“We want entrepreneurs to make Prince William their home—and continue to stay here while they build their businesses,” said Christina Winn, executive director of PWCDED. “It is during times of greatest disruption when innovation shines brightest. This program has also benefited our strong existing business ecosystem as they reclaim and recover revenue lost in the pandemic.”
Earlier this month, the IGNITE grant winners gathered for a virtual celebration and practiced their investor pitches for feedback from industry experts.
Watch: IGNITE Grant Winners Practice Practice Investor Pitches
Here's a roundup of the first eight success stories from the program and stay tuned for more stories in the coming months:
Advancing Public Health Care
By reducing or eliminating manual, repetitive, and time-intensive functions in all stages of their clients’ business, Cyret Technologies hope to show their value proposition: Improved profitability for clients and better health outcomes for patients.
“If this industry learned one thing during this pandemic, it is that illnesses like COVID-19 need and demand immediate information without the high stakes of human error,” says Rahul Chitko, CEO of Cyret Technologies. “Right now, data is sedentary in healthcare. Patients and practitioners do a lot of waiting. We have RPA products that can move data faster for better processing, appointments, and improving the overall cycle of healthcare.”
As an early-stage medical technology start-up, the founders of Impruvon Health hope their company will revolutionize the way medications are managed in enterprise care settings. These include supported living, addiction and recovery, and long-term care agencies. Impruvon Health turns high-risk manual medication management processes into one-step buttons guided by interactive gamified instructions and training in apps.
“We’ve developed a medication management platform tailored to underserved populations, such as neurodiverse individuals and recovering addicts,” explained co-founder Justin Amoyal. “We want to improve the entire care experience from the perspective of the provider, the caregiver, and the individual, so we needed our platform to support them all.”
The idea for Jeeva Informatics grew from a desire to find new ways for patients with rare diseases or patients in distance areas to have access to clinical trials.
“We wanted to eliminate bottlenecks in the clinical trials process,” explained founder Dr. Harsha Rajasimha. “Initially, we had a tough time selling remote or virtual access to the biopharmaceutical community, but when the pandemic forced people and companies to do things differently, suddenly our idea gained real interest and support.”
Identifying travel requirements as a major impediment for recruiting and retaining patients in clinical trials, Harsha and his team developed the Jeeva eClinical platform to decentralize clinical trials operations at scale. They knew that if they could harness technology while meeting stakeholder needs and regulatory requirements, they could create a patient-centered design to guide their continuous learning digital platform.
Protecting You and Your Data
As government agencies, banks, and large corporations struggle with cyber-attacks daily, that threat will likely increase due to the increased capabilities of quantum computers, machines that use the properties of quantum physics to store data and perform computations.
SylLab Systems acknowledges that threat, but strives to “look post-quantum” to provide a service for companies with privacy and security embedded in their systems that consumers use every day. By changing the economics of a data breach, they want to make it unfeasible for attackers.
"Consumers and regulators are demanding greater protection and privacy of their data from security enterprises," said founder Bart Slowik. “Our concept with SylLabs is that consumers will gain control over their data, and the idea of a massive data breach will become outdated."
Improving Mental Health Through Virtual Reality
Viva Vita is headquartered in Woodbridge and is led by Founder and CEO Carleigh Berryman. The company is focused on giving all their customers healthier and happier lives through better mental wellness and quality virtual reality (VR) experiences. Seniors can harness VR technology to explore new environments at home while avoiding physical stress and strain.
“We realized that late-life depression and anxiety was something that we didn’t see others focusing on," said CEO Berryman. "It seemed to me that we don’t pay enough attention and respect to our seniors. Our seniors should be enjoying this stage of their lives, and we want to help them do that. Cognitive stimulation is crucial to keeping the mind, body and spirit healthy."
Developing Bioscience Breakthroughs
By effectively "functionalizing" the microporous mineral zeolite in the lab, the team at ZeoVation has developed a unique, patent-pending “smart” particle platform with many applications. ZeoVation has developed a highly efficient and easily formulated antimicrobial additive and a long-lasting and broad coverage sunscreen active ingredient.
“ZeoVation is a marriage of bioscience and manufacturing,” says co-founder Dr. Bo Wang. “We are manufacturing a product that may help combat the larger threats to public health and still make everyday life easier and safer.”
The four co-founders of ISOThrive—Jack Oswald, Dr. Peter Swann, Dr. Lee Madsen, and Dr. John Selling—created a supplement that feeds certain bacteria to get a specific outcome, but along the way they learned that the supplement was having a profound health impact on all of them. Not only did it the pre-biotic help improve people’s digestive troubles, but they started to notice that it was helping them with weight management too because it helped them better balance their food intake. The biggest surprise was the feedback that they started getting about people no longer having heartburn, to the extent that they no longer needed their medication for it, even if they had been on it for years.
As a result of everything they have learned about their product, they are in the process of getting their pre-biotic re-regulated by the Food and Drug Administration as a medication. “This is an intentional pivot on our part,” said Jack. “The medical community has been very welcoming—they recognize the need for this.”
Bacchus Therapeutics is a biotech company developing novel compounds that exploit cancer’s hypermetabolic state by targeting cancer-specific metabolic pathways. Its proprietary compounds cause regression of incurable MYC cancers and prolong survival in preclinical mouse models bearing human tumors. MYC cancers include breast cancer, liver tumors, colorectal carcinoma, and prostatic neoplasia. MYC cancers account for 70 percent of human cancers and are related to poor prognosis and aggressive conditions.
Bacchus Therapeutics grew out of the discoveries Dr. Arvin Gouw, Founding CEO, made at Stanford University in the field of cancer metabolism.
“By studying how cancer cells eat, meaning how they absorb nutrients, how they metabolize nutrients, at Bacchus, we’ve found ways to starve only cancer cells, but not normal cells. That’s why we named the company Bacchus, the god of food and wine.”
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