USF Research News

USF Tech Startup Cellvana Biotechnology Wins Coveted Cade Museum Prize

October 27, 2017

$50,000 prize recognizes one of Florida’s most promising startups

Cade Museum Prize Left to right: Eric Godet of the Community Foundation of North Florida; Stephanie Bailes, Executive Director of the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention; Phoebe Miles, Founder and President of the Cade Museum and daughter of Dr. Robert Cade; Dr. Alina Ruta, CEO and Founder of Cellvana; and Richard Miles, Co-Founder and Vice President of the Cade Museum.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Cellvana Biotechnology, a startup company based around technology developed at the University of South Florida, has won the prestigious Cade Museum Prize for Innovation. The affiliate company of USF’s Tampa Bay Technology Incubator is focused on commercializing a patented rare cancer and stem cell culture technology.

Cellvana was selected from a field of four Florida startups in the 8th Annual Cade Museum event in Gainesville on Thursday for the $50,000 prize. Cellvana was selected as a winner after the four teams made live presentations to a panel of judges.

Cellvana is developing products to enable pharmaceutical, biotechnology companies, stem cell researchers, and contract research organizations to develop faster, more cost effective, and more accurate rare cancer therapies and stem cell therapies. The company’s goal is to speed-up therapy discovery to help save lives and improve economic outcomes.

Cellvana Logo

“We are thrilled to have won this prestigious award,” said Dr. Alina Ruta, Cellvana’s founder and CEO. “Cellvana Biotechnology is honored and grateful to have the opportunity to give a glimpse to the public of the immediate future of cell culture and how this technology stands to revolutionize the medical field by speeding-up rare cancer and stem cell therapy discovery. At Cellvana our mission is to contribute to saving lives and making dreams come true.”

Cell culture is a common activity in medicine and research where cells are taken from a source, such as a patient, and put in a culture dish to multiply. The challenge is to remove the attached cells from the culture dish for further use. Current methods of removing cells use chemicals that can damage or kill the cells making the study of rare cells challenging and slow. The company’s patent pending innovative cell culture technology uses a simple, rapid (100 times faster than existent technologies), non-destructive cell culture platform providing a significant improvement that greatly enhances the ability to develop novel regenerative and cancer therapies requiring rare human cancer and stem cells.

The technology was invented by USF College of Engineering faculty Nathan Gallant and Ryan Toomey as well as three former graduate students: Akintewe Olukemi, Michael Cross and Samuel DuPont. The technology was developed in a collaboration between USF’s Physics, Mechanical Engineering and Chemical Engineering programs. In 2015, the Cellvana team was selected for the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program and received a $50,000 grant to help advance bringing the technology to market.

Cade Museum Prize Phoebe Miles and Dr. Alina Ruta

The Cade Prize is one of the largest cash prize competitions for innovation in the state of Florida. The Cade Prize awards a $50,000 cash prize (provided by the Community Foundation of North Central Florida) along with in-kind incentives to the winner of the competition each year. The goals of the $50,000 prize are to provide seed capital and publicity for great ideas with market potential.

Every year finalists are chosen from diverse sectors. Previous winners have included biomedical, healthcare, tech, IT and environmental ideas.

USF technologies have won the prize before. In 2012, USF’s electronic catheter stethoscope technology won the prize and in 2014 USF’s NEWgenerator technology, an invention that turns waste product into fertilizer, renewable energy and clean water was the winner. Last year, USF’s Ablenook, which develops more portable and easy-to-construct emergency housing for natural disaster victims, was a finalist.

About Cellvana Biotechnology, LLC
Cellvana Biotechnology, LLC is an early stage biotechnology start-up headquartered in Tampa, FL – USA. Our mission is to speed-up rare cancer therapy discovery and stem cell therapies wide adoption and ready-availability to patients. We do this by making available on a large scale, economically rare cancer cells and stem cells that remain physiologically relevant without the chemical modification resulting in cell alteration that all other present-market technologies offer.

About the Cade Museum
In 2004, Dr. James Robert Cade and his family established the Cade Museum Foundation to design and build a museum in Gainesville in order to inspire creative thinking, future inventors, and early entrepreneurs. A physician at the University of Florida (UF), Dr. Cade was best known as the leader of the research team that invented Gatorade for the UF football team in 1965.

About the University of South Florida
The University of South Florida, established in 1956 and located in Tampa, is a high-impact, global research university dedicated to student success. The USF System includes three, separately accredited institutions: USF; USF St. Petersburg; and USF Sarasota-Manatee. Serving more than 49,000 students, the USF System has an annual budget of $1.6 billion and an annual economic impact of $4.4 billion. USF is ranked in the Top 30 nationally for research expenditures among public universities, according to the National Science Foundation. In 2016, the Florida Legislature designated USF as “Emerging Preeminent,” placing USF in an elite category among the state’s 12 public universities. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference.