From left, Kristina Hugar, Gabriel Rodríguez-Calero, Jason Salfi, Matthew Cheng and Hao Shi proudly show their company diplomas given to them by Lou Walcer, right, director of Cornell’s Center for Life Science Ventures business incubator.

Cornell life science incubator graduates three startups

It’s time for the real world: Three brand new robust companies – one turning carbon dioxide into jet fuel, another enabling a green hydrogen economy and a group creating next-generation microbial imaging technology – graduated Nov. 16 from Cornell’s Center for Life Science Ventures business incubator. 

After spending years acquiring sound business practices through trade mentors, attending professional symposia and obtaining enough capital to weather sometimes-blustery commercial climates, Dimensional Energy, Ecolectro and Kanvas Biosciences earned a diploma from the center.

Cornell impacting New York State

“We’ve been talking about ‘it takes a village,’ but it’s an ecosystem,” said Emmanuel P. Giannelis, vice president for research and innovation, speaking at the graduation event. “You really need to have several things that come together to give opportunity for companies to materialize out of these early-stage technologies – which [Cornell is] now pursuing a lot more aggressively – because we really believe in having an impact beyond the academy.”

Lou Walcer, the director of the center, served as the master of ceremonies. In addition to Giannelis, Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff; Tami Magnus, executive director of the Cornell Institute of Biotechnology; and Ying Yang, the center’s associate director, spoke at the event.

Since 2011, the Center for Life Science Ventures has helped create startups based upon Cornell research, and to create jobs and advance economic impact for New York state. Twelve companies have graduated so far and the center’s companies have received $73 million in raised equity investment during incubation. More than $400 million in equity has been raised by center clients during and after incubation. The center’s clients have received more than $30 million in product and services sales.

The graduation celebration focused on the companies:

Dimensional Energy turns carbon dioxide into sustainable hydrocarbon fuels with renewable energy. Last June, United Airlines agreed to purchase at least 300 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel from the startup.

“When a company like ours walks into the door of an incubator like this, you know, we have dreams and people need to believe in us,” said Jason Salfi, co-founder and CEO of Dimensional Energy. “I want to thank all of you for believing in us to realize our dreams.

“To riff a little bit on [the importance of] this ecosystem thing,” Salfi said, “What allows a tree to grow and make its way around to a broader space? In our case, the world – it is roots. It is roots and they are here in Ithaca.”

Gabriel Rodríguez-Calero, M.S. ’12, Ph.D. ’14, CEO of Ecolectro, and Kristina Hugar, M.S. ’12, Ph.D. ’16, chief science officer, accepted the diploma on behalf of their company.  

Ecolectro develops novel polymers designed for the energy industry and the startup’s alkaline exchange materials reduce the capital costs of hydrogen technologies, which enable businesses to have access to cost-competitive green hydrogen.

“What Cornell has done, what the center did,” Rodríguez-Calero said, “was provide all of the amazing mentors, advisors, investors and everybody who came around to the idea of making green hydrogen super cheap – so that we can move away from fossil fuels.”

Green hydrogen is the biggest market that nobody has heard about, he said. “If you eat, you use green hydrogen, because all the fertilizer in the world uses it. If you use steel … you use green hydrogen.

“When you think about disrupting industries like this, you need somebody to give you a shot,” Rodríguez-Calero said. “And I think about what the center did. This center was very important in getting this seed of an idea to start.”

Kanvas Biosciences is developing a next-generation imaging technology to revolutionize microbial research and infectious disease diagnostics. The company’s technology adds speed, breadth and flexibility by illuminating microbial life.

Matthew Cheng, the company’s chief operating officer, and Hao Shi, chief technical officer, accepted the diploma.

Cheng said that he was appreciative of the center’s mentorship. “It’s admittedly bittersweet to graduate today, because we wouldn’t have a successful company without the support of this incredible team.”

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Abigail Shroba