Two companies win University of Delaware FastPass Competition

2019 UD FastPass Award Ceremony Left to Right: Charlie Riordan, Matt Hudson, Elvis Ebikade, Eric Gottlieb, Dennis Assanis, Robert O’Dea, Thomas Epps, Bill Provine Photo courtesy of University of Delaware.

Extrave Bioscience and Lignolix have been named as winners of the 2019 University of Delaware FastPass competition. This program, run by the Delaware Innovation Space, will award both startups with an equity-free package providing operational, technical, business development and financial support valued at $50,000. 

“The breadth and depth of startup company applications for the FastPass competition continues to grow at an impressive rate” says Bill Provine, CEO for the Delaware Innovation Space.  “This year we are excited to award a FastPass to two promising early stage University of Delaware spin-outs—Extrave Bioscience and Lignolix.”

Both companies grew out of University of Delaware research and are licensing UD-developed technology.

“It’s always exciting to see new ideas get their start at UD and then blossom into innovative and marketable businesses,” says UD President Dennis Assanis. “Congratulations to Extrave Bioscience and Lignolix, which represent how UD is combining our amazing intellectual capital with cutting-edge technologies and an entrepreneurial spirit. This is another example of why UD is becoming known as a leader in entrepreneurship.”

Princeton Review and Entrepreneurship magazine recently ranked UD as 38th in a listing of the best universities in the nation for entrepreneurial studies.

Founded by Matthew Hudson, an assistant professor in UD’s College of Health Sciences, Extrave BioScience has developed technology that has the potential to reverse the pathology in muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder marked by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness, by delivering and restoring full-size dystrophin throughout the body. 

“Coming from an academic environment I took for granted all of the support available at a university, including incredible facilities, resources and programs, many of which people probably do not think or know about,” says Hudson. “On the startup side, these resources are not available—it is like starting from scratch. The FastPass award provides not only facilities but also a variety of resources that help with many aspects of running a startup, such as infrastructure and equipment.” 

Lignolix, a start-up company founded by Thomas H. Epps, III, the Thomas and Kipp Gutshall Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UD, focuses on sustainably making materials from renewable biomass, such as lignin, a major component of trees and plants that paper manufacturers typically throw away.

According to Epps, the technology developed by the Lignolix team is uniquely scalable and unlocking the value of lignin will have a sizeable economic and environmental impact. “Our long-term vision is to enable the sustainable chemicals industry to reach its full potential,” says Epps.

Resources are critical to make this happen, adds Eric R. Gottlieb, CEO & co-founder of Lignolix and a post-doctoral research in UD’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

“When building a company with significant infrastructure requirements and complex, multi-sided business relationships, programs like the FastPass provide the resources for startups to effectively overcome those barriers and build momentum. We will now have the critical infrastructure we need to more effectively push our technologies to commercialization and drive our customer relationships forward,” says Gottlieb.

As part of the award, Extrave Bioscience and Lignolix will receive up to one-year free membership at Delaware Innovation Space, which includes: 

  • Turnkey wet laboratory & office spaces,
  • Access to a wide range of high-end chemistry and biotechnology scientific equipment,
  • $5,000 credit to be used in the on-site stockroom, and
  • Customized strategic business development, technical and fundraising programming based upon each startup’s needs.

“We are excited to see two more UD start-ups land at the Delaware Innovation Space at a critical time in their commercialization journey. Access to state-of-the-art laboratory space and experienced entrepreneurs will be invaluable as they seek to further develop and scale-up their promising technologies,” says Charlie Riordan, UD vice president of research, scholarship and innovation.

Since winning the inaugural UD FastPass competition in 2018, for example, W7energy has tripled in size and secured $4.5 million in funding to begin commercializing the company’s polymer-membrane technologies while residing at Delaware Innovation Space.

“The University’s continued support for programs like the FastPass allows the Delaware startup ecosystem to continue to thrive, positively impacting the local community and bolstering Delaware’s reputation as a hub for innovation,” says Robert O’Dea, Lignolix co-founder. “Bringing technologies out of the academic lab can be challenging, and we are excited to be surrounded by other startups with similar goals. We hope to learn from their experiences and to pay it forward by sharing our experiences with others.” 

About Delaware Innovation Space 

The Delaware Innovation Space is an innovation ecosystem helping science entrepreneurs go from start-up to scale-up by accelerating their business models while concurrently incubating their core technologies. The public-private partnership created and developed by the state of Delaware, DuPont and the University of Delaware focuses on addressing today’s societal challenges spanning advanced materials, chemical ingredients, renewable energy, nutrition and healthcare. 

Carney, Carper, Coons, Blunt Rochester Announce $1.5 Million EDA Grant to Innovation Space to Launch Hard Science Startup Accelerator

Delaware Governor John Carney, U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (all D-Del.) announced a $1.5 million grant award from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to Delaware Innovation Space to create a Hard Science Startup Accelerator. The grant was awarded through the national Build to Scale (B2S) competition run by the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE) at EDA.

Delaware Innovation Space is a nonprofit incubator and accelerator at the Experimental Station where scientists, business leaders, community members, investors, and service providers in the industrial biotech, advanced materials, chemical ingredients, renewable energy, nutrition and healthcare fields can build business concepts together and accelerate the path to commercialization. It is the result of a public-private partnership between the State of Delaware, DuPont and the University of Delaware. This grant award will provide mentorship and training to entrepreneurs to help them develop and grow their business.

Delaware Innovation Space was awarded the top amount of $1.5 million in the competition placing it in the top 10 percent of more than 600 applications that were submitted from across the United States.

“The lack of physical lab space with expert business mentorship and training is a road block to the ultimate success of emerging entrepreneurs in the hard sciences,” said Bill Provine, Delaware Innovation Space President & CEO. “The Hard Science Startup Accelerator will provide science entrepreneurs with access to structured programs and a customized learning experience that will improve their business concepts and plans, making them more attractive to investors. This combined with the physical assets of the Delaware Innovation Space which includes a more than 130,000-square-foot physical and virtual collaboration ecosystem will assist and equip scalable startups with the tools and expert insights that they need to transform the markets in which they operate.”

“We want innovators and entrepreneurs to start in Delaware, stay in Delaware, and grow in Delaware,” said Governor John Carney. “The accelerator program funded by this grant will assist emerging science-based startups to grow and thrive right here in Delaware. The world has changed. We have to continue being nimble and supporting our entrepreneurial ecosystem. We’ve already seen success out of the Delaware Innovation Space from companies like Prelude Therapeutics, and I look forward to seeing the Delaware companies that this program will launch and grow.”

“The Delaware Innovation Space was born out of Delaware’s long history of scientific innovation. As we push through this pandemic, the Innovation Space will continue to be an important part of research and discovery – and economy recovery,” said Senator Carper, ranking member on the Environment and Public Works committee in the U.S. Senate, which has jurisdiction over EDA. “The Delaware Innovation Space will leverage this federal investment and use the resources of the University of Delaware and DuPont to mentor entrepreneurs through its Hard Science Startup Accelerator. We must continue to find ways to grow our economy for the long-term, and this grant will help foster that innovation.”

“The Hard Science Startup Accelerator program aims to help startup companies and science entrepreneurs be competitive in today’s global economy,” said Senator Coons. “The Delaware Innovation Space has helped companies like Yushan Yan’s W7 Energy to spin out of the University of Delaware their fuel cell technology, and this $1.5-million grant will continue advancing innovation and economic development with other startups in the First State. This federal funding, combined with investments from other partners, helps make sure that Delaware – the birthplace of Nylon, Kevlar, Teflon, and Oliver Evans’ Automated Flour Mill – can provide capital-intensive wet lab space and world-class mentorship well into the future to many more promising technologies.”

“In the midst of our national period of economic hardship, we must continue to help our emerging entrepreneurs innovate and succeed,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester. “The Delaware Innovation Space represents the best kind of partnership that we must continue to utilize and leverage. I’m excited to see how this federal investment will help catalyze some truly exciting results.” 

The Hard Science Startup Accelerator will be offered at no-charge to startup companies and the application window for the first cohort class along with other supporting programs will open in late 2020; with the first cohort class beginning work in 2021.  

Innovation Space Expands the First Fund™ Investment Program

The First Fund provides early stage science startups with critical seed and pre-seed funding and access to Delaware Innovation Space’s business building expertise, community of experts, core programs, scientific equipment, and extensive multi-use laboratories. Successful applicants can now each secure an investment of up to $150,000 from the First Fund Program to fund their startups, via a convertible note, in a 1:1 mix of services to cash.

“Our goal with the First Fund is to accelerate formation and growth of high potential early stage science startups, turning them from concepts into realities,” said William D. Provine, Delaware Innovation Space President and CEO. “We are excited to bring forward a larger investment program now including a cash component to give entrepreneurs added flexibility in securing what they need when they need it to rapidly propel their startups forward.”

The original First Fund investment provided startups in the fields of advanced materials, therapeutics, diagnostics, healthcare, chemical ingredients, industrial biotechnology, nutrition, and renewables up to $75,000 in services alone and now the program has been enhanced and now offers up to an additional $75,000 of cash for residential companies at the Delaware Innovation Space, for a total investment of up to $150,000. The exact investment amount an individual startup is eligible for via the First Fund will be determined by a mix of parameters, the most important being the scalability and growth potential of the startup.

The first step for teams seeking funding for their startups from the First Fund program is to complete an on-line application. “We are looking to quickly evaluate and continuously award funding to the most compelling early stage science startups and partner with them as residents of the Delaware Innovation Space to advance and grow their startups,” says Provine.

“Science-based startup companies are critical components to the radical innovations which improve our daily lives,” says Provine. He continues, “It is our mission at the Delaware Innovation Space to help science entrepreneurs craft their business concepts, bring their startup companies to life, and provide them with the support and resources necessary to grow their businesses.”

To be considered for the First Fund Program, apply via:

MCET Technologies & Veramorph win a DuPont FastPass into the Innovation Space

Each company will receive business and technology mentorship from DuPont and 1 year of free access to laboratories and startup support services of the Delaware Innovation Space.

July 22, 2019 – Wilmington, Delaware

The DuPont FastPass competition is designed to accelerate and enhance the innovation and commercialization potential of early stage science startups by leveraging the innovation experiences and capabilities of DuPont combined with the infrastructure and business-building expertise of the Delaware Innovation Space.

“DuPont is fortunate to be able to partner with the scientific and business community through programs like FastPass,” said DuPont’s Chief Technology and Sustainability Officer Alexa Dembek.  “Our goal is to help accelerate the success of these talented entrepreneurs by lending our insights and capabilities in partnership with the Delaware Innovation Space.”

“The Delaware Innovation Space is excited to be combining our capabilities and expertise with DuPont, one of our foundational partners, to assist MCET and Veramorph in rapidly growing their startups,” said Bill Provine, CEO of the Delaware Innovation Space. He continues, “a FastPass competition is designed to lower the funding barrier and quickly establish deep connections with the Delaware Innovation Space and our partners, significantly reducing development cycle times and propelling science entrepreneurs forward.”   

MCET Technologies is a startup developing and integrating advanced sensors and electronics into conventional textiles without adding significant weight or changing the texture or feel of the fabric. MCET’s initial focus is on tracking physical rehabilitation as well as exploring new applications in sports science and training, automotive and aerospace industries, and biomedical devices.

Sagar Doshi, MCET CEO

When asked what attracted him to the FastPass competition, Sagar Doshi, MCET CEO answers, “The ability to leverage the resources in terms of materials characterization equipment and expertise of the personnel from the Delaware Innovation Space along with the chance to work closely with industry experts from DuPont will provide a platform for MCET Technologies to grow into a successful company.” As a spin out from the Center for Composite Materials at the University of Delaware, his team has deep fundamental research experience, so Sagar is excited to learn from people who are experts in commercializing fundamental materials research. “DuPont’s experience working with materials at industrial scales will help our startup develop an improved product, benefiting us immensely,” said Doshi.

According to David Rosenfeld, a DuPont Electronics & Imaging Technical Fellow, MCET has “developed a new material that will be interesting to explore how it fits into our current offerings and how it might allow us to extend into new application spaces.”

Veramorph is a startup that leverages an advanced proprietary hydrogel based oral drug delivery platform to help pharmaceutical companies improve the performance of their products and reduce the cost and time to bring them to market. This startup was spun out of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2017.

Doug Godfrin, Veramorph CEO

“Veramorph will gain valuable insight into regulatory requirements for excipient manufacturing from DuPont experts in the Nutrition & Biosciences business. Veramorph also will be able to develop a differentiated consumer product in collaboration with DuPont by using their market-leading nutritional ingredients,” said Paul (Doug) Godfrin, CEO of Veramorph.  He continues, “As a result, Veramorph can also perform critical de-risking activities that will allow us to rapidly break into the pharmaceutical industry.”

Robert Schmitt, Technical Fellow of DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences, is intrigued as “Veramorph has put together a strong team and aligned their technology to a key need within the Pharma market.” Schmitt continues, “DuPont has deep experience commercializing novel polymer solutions in this market and we can provide our historical perspective to accelerate Veramorph’s product development cycle.”

In addition to directly interacting with DuPont experts, both MCET and Veramorph are awarded as part of the FastPass up to 1 year of free access to the capabilities of the Delaware Innovation Space.  This includes turnkey wet laboratory and office spaces, access to a wide range of high-end chemistry and biotech scientific equipment, strategic business development, technical and fundraising programming tailored to the specific needs of each startup.

“Not many start-up competitions offer access to both R&D resources and business mentorship, which is a powerful combination of resources for early stage companies,” said Godfrin.  He continues, “It is critical for early stage start-ups to validate both their value proposition(s) and the means of value creation (i.e., the business model) and doing so with the input of a potential partner and customer is invaluable.”

“The DuPont Fastpass will provide an early-stage startup like ours with systematic and organized mentorship along with rigorous and rapid education toward accelerating our growth and gaining years of knowledge in only a few months,” says Doshi.

About DuPont: 

DuPont (NYSE: DD) is a global innovation leader with technology-based materials, ingredients and solutions that help transform industries and everyday life. Our employees apply diverse science and expertise to help customers advance their best ideas and deliver essential innovations in key markets including electronics, transportation, construction, water, health and wellness, food and worker safety. More information can be found at

About Delaware Innovation Space:

The Delaware Innovation Space was created and developed in partnership with the State of Delaware, DuPont and the University of Delaware.  It is an entirely new innovation ecosystem located at the renowned Experimental Station designed for science entrepreneurs to help them address today’s challenging and diverse needs. Where scientists, business leaders, community members, investors, and service providers in the industrial biotech, advanced materials, chemical ingredients, renewable energy, nutrition and healthcare fields can build business concepts together and accelerate the path to commercialization. And where the advancement of science will be felt, not only across the region, but around the world.

Innovation Space Launches an Entrepreneurial Advisory Council

Leaders from across the United States join forces with the Delaware Innovation Space to assist science startups.

The Delaware Innovation Space is proud to announce the formation of the Entrepreneurial Advisory Council (the EAC) for the Delaware Innovation Space and is pleased to introduce its foundational class which includes the following experts with diverse perspectives from across the country:

  • Saeed Amidi
    Founder and CEO, Plug and Play Tech Center and Ventures
    Partner, Amidzad Ventures
  • Michael Burychka
    Founder and CEO, IP Group, Inc.
  • John Carlisle
    Director, Chain Reaction Innovations at Argonne National Lab
  • Vanessa Z. Chan
    Professor of Material Science & Engineering and Innovation & Entrepreneurship at UPENN
    Partner, Robin Hood Ventures
  • Frederick (Rick) Jones
    Partner at BioAdvance
  • Cheryl Martin
    Founder, Harwich Partner
    Former Director, ARPA-E
  • Purnesh Seegopaul
    General Partner, Pangaea Ventures
  • Ben Solomon
    Founder and Managing Partner, FedTech
  • Robert Urban
    Former/Retired Global Head, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, LLC
  • Andrea Wesser-Brawner
    Senior VP of Strategy and Partnerships, InBIA, International Business Innovation Association

The EAC will be asked to provide specific advice and perform periodic assessments to aid the Delaware Innovation Space with further development and enhancement of its overall offering with the continual goal of keeping abreast of industry trends and the needs of the scientific entrepreneurial community. 

“I am excited to partner with the EAC and their diverse wisdom and perspectives to enable the Delaware Innovation Space to provide the best home for science entrepreneurs and their startups”, says Bill Provine, CEO of the Delaware Innovation Space.  “Our goal at the Innovation Space is to rapidly accelerate science-based startups to market years earlier than otherwise would be achieved.”

About Delaware Innovation Space

 Delaware Innovation Space is a multi-dimensional, non-profit incubator & accelerator for start-ups that leverages the expertise, resources, and infrastructure of the world renown Experimental Station campus in Wilmington, Delaware. It is the result of a public-private partnership between the State of Delaware, DuPont and the University of Delaware. Delaware Innovation Space is an ecosystem where scientists, business leaders, community members, investors, and service providers in the industrial biotech, advanced materials, chemical ingredients, renewable energy, nutrition and healthcare fields can build business concepts together and accelerate the path to commercialization.

 Images for Media usage:

 Delaware Innovation Space Press Contact:  Mike Rinkunas

Innovation Space Receives $3+ Million Investment to Support its Mission of Advancing Science-Based Startups

National Development Council, Discover Bank, and Delaware Innovation Space Partner on Creating Jobs and Broadening Delaware’s Economic Base.

Wilmington, Del. – Delaware Innovation Space announced today (Tuesday, March 26, 2019) that it has received $3 million in funding from National Development Council (NDC), through a start-up innovation loan program established with Discover Bank, along with an additional $225,000 operating grant from Discover Bank, to help fulfill its mission of transforming science-driven start-ups into industry-leading companies focused on creating products and technologies that will enhance and expand everyday living.

Founded in 2017, Delaware Innovation Space was created to accelerate the formation and growth of new science-based start-up companies.  Today, the Innovation Space is working with more than 20 different early stage companies in areas such as developing life saving therapeutics, enabling the next generation of alternative energy, and creating new materials for industrial applications and consumer electronics. 

“Our partnership with NDC and Discover Bank is a shining example of how working together can help accelerate the development of critical innovation capabilities and entrepreneurial infrastructure,” said Delaware Innovation Space President and CEO William D. Provine.  “The work of Delaware Innovation Space will enable more science-driven start-ups to flourish and ultimately expand the economic base in Delaware.”

The funding will enable Delaware Innovation Space to better serve start-ups by supporting infrastructure improvements, equipment investments and enhance operational performance.   Collectively, these actions will stimulate and grow the overall operations of Delaware Innovation Space in support of job creation in the fields of industrial biotechnology, advanced materials, renewable energy, chemical ingredients, nutrition and healthcare.

“Delaware is a great place to start a business and Discover Bank is proud to help Delaware Innovation Space create opportunities for young businesses to incubate and thrive,” said Discover Bank President James J. Roszkowski.  “This investment is one of the ways in which we help to develop our community and we look forward to the impact it will have on the State’s economy.”

“When our long-time financial partner, Discover Bank, asked us to join them in supporting the Delaware Innovation Space, we jumped at the chance to support this great opportunity,” said National Development Council President and CEO Daniel Marsh. “With funding obtained through Discover Bank to support Delaware based businesses and non-profits focused on assisting entrepreneurs, we were able to provide a long-term loan on very favorable and patient terms to allow the Delaware Innovation Space to attract and nurture science-based start-ups and create the future that includes even more good-paying jobs.”

Delaware Innovation Space Press Contact:

Mike Rinkunas


Innovation Space Launches First Fund™ Investment Program

Up to $75,000 in value per company available to accelerate early stage science startups

Wilmington, Delaware – March 19, 2019:  First Fund provides early stage startups with critical funding to easily and quickly access Delaware Innovation Space’s business building expertise, core programs, scientific equipment, and extensive multi-use wet laboratories. Eligible startups can each secure up to $75,000 investment from the First Fund Program, via a convertible note, funding monthly site-license costs for residency at the Delaware Innovation Space. 

“One of the biggest barriers in building a science based business is access to early stage capital,” said William D. Provine, Delaware Innovation Space President and CEO. “Science startups require specialized capabilities that routinely incur substantial cash outlays even at the earliest stages of development,” according to Provine.  Raising funds for scientific startups can take in excess of 12 months in today’s economic climate, delaying the start of critical work by more than a year. First Fund provides science entrepreneurs a mechanism to start critical lab and business development work today, getting them to successfully reach early important business milestones in rapid fashion.

First Fund is designed for early stage science startups with the following characteristics:

  • Main focus area in Healthcare, Industrial Biotechnology, Advanced Materials, Nutrition, Renewable Energy, or Chemical Ingredients.
  • Compelling business model focused upon a validated problem or opportunity
  • Under 3 years since company formation
  • Raised less than $500,000 total to date, including both dilutive and non-dilutive funding

Companies seeking funding from the First Fund program will start by completing an on-line application. “This process will only take a few weeks as we’re looking to accelerate our clients’ successes, not be yet another bottleneck or roadblock,” says Provine. 

“Science based companies truly impact our current daily lives in so many ways, from the strength of the vehicles we travel in, to the powerful medicines which heal us, to the latest electronics and batteries in our smartphones enabling our digital lifestyles,” says Provine.  He continues, “It is our mission at Delaware Innovation Space to enable the next generation of science companies & entrepreneurs to create the materials and products to improve our future daily lives.  First Fund will be the tool providing rapid access to critical scientific resources to speed up the arrival of that future.”

Find additional First Fund information at:

Delaware Innovation Space Press Contact:

Mike Rinkunas