Innovation Showcase Pitch Challenge Finalists have been announced!
Oregon Bio’s Innovation Showcase – the heart and soul of this year’s Biotech Summit – connects researchers and entrepreneurs with industry leaders in the bioscience trade through a series of fast-moving pitch competitions. Admission to the Innovation Showcase is included with a ticket to the Biotech Summit.
The 2023 Pitch Challenge features four catergories divided into Company Pitches and Research Fast Pitches. Read below to learn more about our finalists.
Connor Barth, PhD, CoFounder & CEO, Trace Biosciences
Pitch: Imaging Agents for Surgery
Dr. Connor Barth has always been fascinated with science and engineering and is passionate about applying these principles to improve healthcare. He received his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at Oregon Health & Science University in 2018, where he worked on the development of targeted imaging agents for tumor and nerve detection during surgery. As co-founder and CEO of Trace Biosciences, Connor is working on the clinical translation of promising nerve-targeting imaging agents he developed as part of his graduate research. He has grown rapidly as an entrepreneur and effective leader of Trace, securing funding for and coordinating the completion of critical development milestones including proof-of-concept studies, first-in-human trials, and key clinical and industry partnerships.
Patricia Beckmann, PhD, Incoming CEO, Veana Therapeutics
Pitch: A New Oral Mitochondrial Inhibitor in Phase 1 Cancer Clinical Trials
Dr. Patricia Beckmann is the incoming CEO of Veana Therapeutics, Inc. and Managing Director of BioStrategy. She has an extensive background in science, law, commercial strategy and venture capital. Patricia believes biopharma should always emphasize patient needs first. Patricia has held positions in research, administration and law at Immunex and Amgen (co-inventing EnbrelTM, peak annual sales ~$8B). At Vulcan Capital, she invested in biopharma companies and helped to establish the Allen Institute for Brain Sciences. She was CSO at Homestead Clinical (now Integrated Diagnostics) and the former Executive Director of Oregon Translational Research and Drug Development Institute (OTRADI). Patricia founded Life Science Washington Institute to foster bio-entrepreneur development. Patricia also advises the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, serving on the National Advisory Council for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) and serves on the Board of Fe Pharmaceuticals (Canada). Previously she was on the Boards of Cancer Research and Biostatistics, Drug and Device Advisory Council at the University of Washington, and Northwest Technology Ventures. She received a PhD in biochemistry/pharmacology and a BA in biology/chemistry and art. She twice received Fulbright Fellowships (Sweden/India), a Kauffman Fellowship, and held a postdoctoral position at the National Cancer Institute. She is an inventor on more than 40 issued U.S. Patents.
Johan Kers, PhD, CoFounder & CEO, Birch Biosciences
Pitch: Reinventing Plastic Recycling Using Synthetic Biology
Johan Kers, PhD is the Cofounder and CEO of Birch Biosciences. Johan has 10 years of industry experience at leading synthetic biology companies, where he developed novel biotechnologies to engineer proteins and small molecules for agriculture, therapeutic, and industrial applications. In 2021 Johan founded Birch Biosciences to reinvent plastic recycling, a major global sustainability issue.
Reva Barewal, DDS, CEO & Founder, Savorease Therapeutic Foods
Pitch: A Novel Food as Medicine Solution to Improve Diagnosis, and Rehabilitation of Swallowing Disorders
Dr. Reva Barewal is a long standing oral reconstruction specialist in Oregon with a wide breadth of experience in clinical practice, research, healthcare policy and implementation science. Gaining insight from her patients into the struggles of people unable to swallow normally, she collaborated across disciplines and used her training in the culinary arts to innovate a new food technology that supports the needs of people with chewing and swallowing difficulties.
Jun Kamata, Head of R&D and Business Development, AirOmatix
Pitch: Revolutionizing Medical Oxygen
Jun Kamata studied Chemical Engineering at Georgia Tech and earned an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He brings a diverse range of corporate strategy (McKinsey, Nordstrom, NIKE), healthcare (DaVita), and startup (DocuTAP, Claimstake) experiences to AirOmatix, including expertise in strategy, marketing & sales, operations, and product management.
Catherine Robinson, PhD, CEO, KeyBiome
Pitch: Development of a Novel Therapeutic for Treating Inflammatory Bowel Disease
I have over 15 yrs of experience in the field of microbiome research, with a PhD in Microbiology from Michigan State University. I moved to Oregon nine years ago and currently am a senior postdoctoral research associate in the Guillemin lab at the University of Oregon, and co-founder and CEO of a newly formed UO spin-put company, KeyBiome. KeyBiome is focused on developing microbiome-sourced therapeutics, derived from discoveries in the Guillemin lab of immunomodulatory microbial species and their molecules. The first will be a novel therapeutic for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, based on a newly discovered bacterial anti-inflammatory protein. I am passionate about translating these impactful scientific discoveries to address dire clinical needs for diseases such as IBD. When I’m not doing science or planning for world domination, you can find me exploring the Oregon wilderness, experimenting in the kitchen, or hanging out with my daughters.
Timothy Bates, PhD, CSO, AlpaCure
Pitch: Harnessing Alpaca Single-domain Antibodies for TB Diagnostics
Timothy Bates obtained his PhD in March 2023. His dissertation project focused on antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 vaccination and also development of nanobodies against infectious diseases like tuberculosis. His dissertation won the John A. Resko award for best doctoral thesis for 2023 from OHSU. He is now working with his PhD mentor, Dr. Fikadu Tafesse, to launch AlpaCure, a company focused on developing the next generation of diagnostics for the most serious and widespread infectious diseases globally.
Evan Fontaine, Senior Research Engineer, Oregon Health & Science University
I’m Evan Fontaine, a double graduate from the University of Portland with extensive experience in startups spanning drones, passive exoskeletons, and biomedical engineering research. For nearly five years, I’ve been the driving force behind the uEXOmini System while managing OHSU’s Biomedical Innovation Laboratory. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I collaborated with Dr. Albert Chi and Engineer Whitney Menzel to develop CrisisVent, OHSU’s gas-powered resuscitator. This autoclavable, lifesaving breathing aid is versatile enough to accommodate patients from infants to large adults, even those with ARDS and other respiratory complications. Notably, it’s the only respiratory device born out of the COVID crisis that is already being commercialized by an ISO 13485-approved company. My true passion lies in the uEXOmini project, for which I’ve designed and implemented not just the system itself but also the essential tools and workflows. I’ve hand-built four 3D printers from scratch and created my own carbon fiber cutting CNC machine to mill all uEXOmini parts myself. Concurrently, I’ve been collaborating with Astoria Pacific, our partner for the CrisisVent project, to update the mechatronics platforms in their neonatal blood testing machines. Outside of work, I enjoy life with my fiancé, raising our chickens, dogs, and cats.
Sanjida Yeasmin, Doctoral Candidate, Oregon State University
Pitch: Wearable Sensor for Stress Hormone Detection
[Bio will be posted shortly]
Amelie Andreas, Student, Reed College
Pitch: Easy-Peasy Manganesey: Regulating Bacterial Metal Ion Homeostasis with MntR
Amelie Andreas is a senior biochemistry major at Reed College, where she is currently working on her thesis investigating the structural biochemistry and regulatory genetics of bacterial metal ion homeostasis. Outside of the laboratory, she works as a nuclear reactor operator at the only undergraduate-run reactor in the United States, and has served as the host of Reed College’s flagship podcast, Burn Your Draft. She believes that the crux of scientific progress lies in effective collaboration between translational science and basic research, and hopes to one day helm her own lab bridging the two.e
Taylor Krilanovich, MS Student, Washington State University, Vancouver
Pitch: Puzzling Pigments- Understanding the Off-Target Developmental Effects of Albinism
I am a 2nd year Masters student at Washington State University Vancouver in the research group of Dr. Cynthia Cooper. Our lab studies inherited disorders of skin pigmentation using a zebrafish model, with my personal direction in the lab focusing on the hypopigmentation condition Oculocutaneous Albinism Type II. My previous research at California Polytechnic Humboldt focused on cooperative metabolism amongst bacterial communities living in the nutrient poor microhabitats inside of carnivorous pitcher plants (Darlingtonia californica). I aspire to a research career in industry, where I hope to use my experience in transcriptomics, bioinformatics and cell signaling to tackle problems from host-pathogen interactions to cell cycle regulation and carcinogenesis. In my spare time, I enjoy indoor gardening, fishkeeping, and being mom to two very spoiled cats
Natanya Villegas, Doctoral Candidate, University of Oregon Knight Campus
Pitch: Scalable Targeted Gene Enrichment
I am a fifth year PhD student at University of Oregon with a drive to innovate and address pressing issues in the world today. Early in my graduate school journey, I encountered the Plesa lab and was inspired to pursue hands-on experience in the world of synthetic biology. I am passionate about working in teams and using interdisciplinary approaches to re-purpose and/or develop tools that address challenges in the DNA synthesis space. I am looking forward to sharing my work and engaging in meaningful conversations with investors and investigators alike. Overall, I hope to impact life sciences industries with helpful new technologies that can increase scale while decreasing costs.