Start me up: Moving science and research into the marketplace


From left: JJ Moritz, Leslie Stone-Roy, Lyndsey Linke, and Darcy Mora gave presentations during Denver Startup Week sessions at CSU’s downtown Denver offices. (CSU photo)

Denver Startup Week, the largest free entrepreneurial event in the country, drew 13,334 people, including scientific innovators with ties to Colorado State University and the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“Denver Startup Week continues to make a powerful statement that our entrepreneurial ecosystem is one of the best in the country,” Ben Deda, an event organizer and chief operating officer at Galvanize, said in the planning committee’s wrap-up report. “Growing by nearly 25 percent in our fifth year highlights the significant value our local community provides to those looking to start and grow their business.”

The seven CSU experts shared ideas and tactics during two informative sessions Sept. 13 and 14, “The exciting realm of pet-focused startups” and “Tackling the world’s problems and making a profit.” They are:

Steve Dow, Professor of Clinical Sciences, Colorado State University, July 6, 2012
Dr. Steve Dow, CSU professor of immunology and director of the Center for Immune and Regenerative Medicine. (CSU photo)

Dr. Steven Dow, a veterinarian and co-founder of Poudre Canyon Therapeutics, is developing technology that could treat kennel cough and respiratory infections in dogs, cats and horses. Dow is a CSU professor of immunology and director of the Center for Immune and Regenerative Medicine, which researches vaccines to treat a range of diseases in animals and humans, including tuberculosis, equine and feline viral infections.

“Immuno-oncology is revolutionizing cancer treatment, and the next big immunotherapy target will be viral, fungal and bacterial diseases,” predicted Dow.

Lyndsey Linke, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research scientist with the Animal Population Health Institute, founded SiVEC Biotechnologies, an award-winning startup that is developing a revolutionary antiviral product to prevent avian flu, which can be devastating for poultry growers. In addition to her doctorate in Infectious Disease Epidemiology, she earned a master’s degree in biomedical engineering from CSU.

Her advice to Startup Week hopefuls: “Don’t try to wear too many hats. Surround yourself with a great team. Be coachable.”

Darcy Mora, M.S., is director of operations and scientific development with SiVEC Biotechnologies. She received her master’s in veterinary epidemiology and her bachelor’s in biochemistry from CSU and has seven years’ experience with clinical vaccine research and development for the United States Department of Agriculture.

JJ Moritz, M.S., began researching how a mouthpiece could allow the hearing-impaired to perceive sound while he was an undergraduate in mechanical engineering at Colorado State. He and mechanical engineering professor John Williams, Ph.D., founded Sapien LLC while Moritz was in graduate school. Sapien develops mobile apps, websites, wearable electronics, and biometric devices.

“We had a far-fetched idea, but universities like that,” Moritz said, getting a laugh from the Startup Week audience.

Terry Opgenorth, Ph.D., founder and chief scientific officer of VetDC, and vice president at CSU Ventures, the university’s tech-transfer affiliate, works closely with Colorado State’s Flint Animal Cancer Center to identify, evaluate and advance cutting-edge cancer treatments that were initially designed for humans, but show promise for pets as well.

“Comparative oncology asks ‘How can dogs with cancer help study human cancer?’” Opgenorth said.

Dr. Stacee Santi earned her DVM from CSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in 1996. She is a veterinarian at Riverview Animal Hospital in Durango, and founder of Vet2Pet, a tech company that creates apps to connect veterinarians with their clients.

“Collaboration between veterinarians and medical doctors is pushing boundaries forward for animal and human health,” Santi told the Startup Week audience.

Leslie Stone-Roy, Ph.D. is an assistant professor and researcher in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, specializing in neuroscience. Her expertise in how the tongue communicates with the brain led to a partnership with CSU associate professor of mechanical engineering John Williams, and then-graduate student JJ Moritz, to develop a mouthpiece that will allow deaf people to “hear” with their tongues. They have formed Sapien LLC, to bring the technology to market.

“I wanted to be a veterinarian but became CSU’s tongue expert,” said Stone-Roy, who followed her curiosity into neuroscience research.