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Cornell University


Thursday, March 31, 2016
Science benefits from early business input

Cornell BEST Trainees Sarah Adeyemo, Andrew Gipson, Colin Jermain, Jin Liang, Pamela Nasr, Lanre Omotayo, Mitch Pender, and Madhur Srivastava contributed to the 2016 Ithaca Pre-Seed Workshop teams. By helping consider the potential commercial applications of the research-based ideas, these graduate students and postdocs are getting a feel for whether they would want to be involved in entrepreneurial efforts in their future careers. In addition, they put into practice broad scientific communication skills across the varied disciplines, including business. Through the week-long interaction, two days of which are in person, trainees work on a real business proposition and are forced to think beyond their technical area of expertise.

Many alumni play a crucial role in helping these emerging technologies blossom, and participants routinely report that the networking is a valuable outcome of the workshops. Interdisciplinary teams are formed around an idea champion (typically a scientist or engineer) and include a business professional, a technology transfer expert, an intellectual property or startup attorney, and a seasoned entrepreneurial business coach, who work alongside BEST trainees. Together they determine whether the idea has merit as an investable business case, and where to go for additional resources. Meanwhile they also determine whether they themselves are entrepreneurs, and what the next steps for the technology roadmap could look like.

The teams were led by: (as posted in the Cornell Chronicle article)

  • Roy Cohen, research scientist at the Baker Institute for Animal Health, whose Tethered Enzyme Technology uses biomarker detection to screen and monitor for lung cancer and other pathologies;
  • Jonathan Butcher, associate professor in biomedical engineering, whose technology is capable of quantifying local mechanical and bioelectrical characteristics of soft tissue for early diagnosis of preterm birth;
  • Magnolia Ariza-Nieto, research associate at the Cornell Center on the Microenvironment and Metastasis, whose EpiWELL diagnostic kit is a precision medicine tool to monitor changes in the human epigenome in response to stressors;
  • Rana Zadeh, assistant professor in the College of Human Ecology, whose team is working on a sleep-monitoring system for bedbound hospital patients;
  • Mingchee Tan and Kirk Samaroo of bio-tech startup Dynamic Boundaries. Cornell graduate alumni Tan and Samaroo have developed a polymer solution aimed at easing symptoms of dry-eye syndrome, which affects approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population; [see previous news]


  • Jonathan Alden, a postdoctoral physics researcher and graduate student Alejandro Cortese, both in the McEuen lab, have high hopes that the biomolecule sensor they've worked on for the past three years will one day be an important tool in the diagnosis of human diseases.

More information about the Pre-Seed Workshop.

The BEST graduate students and postdocs participating in this round are in the fields (Colleges) of Physics, Chemistry & Chemical Biology (Arts & Sciences); Nutrition, Soil & Crop Sciences, Molecular Biology & Genetics, Biological Statistics & Computational Biology (CALS); and Biomedical Engineering (ENG).