Five UCI Startups Pitch at the First Look SoCal Showcase Virtual Event

Past Tides
October 1, 2020 By Jackie Connor

The annual First Look SoCal Showcase event took to cyberspace for the first time in its three-year history, drawing investors, entrepreneurs, licensing officers and startup companies from across Southern California via Zoom.

The virtual showcase featured early-stage startup companies from top research universities across Southern California, including five from UC Irvine (UCI), that are commercializing tech and life science technologies. The event, presented by Alliance for SoCal Innovation and the Los Angeles Venture Association, took place over two days and gave startup companies the opportunity to pitch to investors.

“This is the premier platform for deep tech startups to connect with top tier investors and successful serial entrepreneurs with the expertise to help them leap from the lab to the market,” said Julie Hill, vice chair of Alliance for SoCal Innovation and UCI trustee.

During the first day, which primarily focused on life science startups, UCI startup companies Makani Science, Inc., Syntr Health Technologies, AquaTex and Amplifica gave two-minute presentations to investors. Startups ranged from breath monitoring, to strokes and hair loss.

From UCI’s School of Medicine, Dr. Ichiro Yuki, associate clinical professor of Neurosurgery and co-founder of AquaTex, discussed how his startup developed a new material to treat strokes and tumors using an aqua embolic system with a catheter. As opposed to opening up the skull to treat strokes and tumors, micro catheters can be inserted into the brain’s tiny vessels to seal off abnormal vessels. According to Yuki, there are two FDA-approved materials on the market that serve this same purpose, but one uses a method that can cause muscle bleeding and the other has a toxic organic solvent.

Yuki’s aqua embolic system is made from a liquid material that can be injected from the micro catheter and solidifies once it is exposed to calcium ions in the blood.

“So it never catches the catheter,” said Yuki. “It’s because it’s made of the elastic hydrogen. There is no toxic materials included, totally biocompatible.”

The team is working on a newer version with the goal of continuing their preclinical evaluation.

Maksim Plikus, Ph.D., UCI professor of developmental and cell biological in the School of Biological Sciences, and co-founder of Amplifica, a startup that has developed a new way to treat common hair loss, discussed how his startup stimulates dormant hairs by using a special type of pigment-producing cells from common skin growths, hairy moles.

“It’s projected that the hair loss market globally will surpass $12 billion by 2025,” said Plikus. “There are only two FDA-approved products on the market … we teased out the molecules that are enriched uniquely on the scalp that by themselves can introduce hair to grow without the need of a mole.”

Amit Sharma, MBA, UCI alumnus and co-founder and CEO of UCI startup AquaTrax, a next-generation, cloud-based water-loss tracking and compliance management platform, pitched to the crowd of tech-savvy investors on the second day. During Sharma’s presentation, he highlighted that the U.S. and California are experiencing billions of dollars in water losses because of aging infrastructure.

“There’s a big need of technological advancement to counteract these losses, control these losses, promote water conservation … current solutions are not able to meet the requirements,” said Sharma.

Sharma’s end-to-end solution would track water loss and compliance measures with individual water districts across the U.S. including identifying aging infrastructure and including a smart water network that manages pressure and flow. Their cloud-based solution can be integrated into any utility system.

Learn more about upcoming virtual events at UCI Beall Applied Innovation.

Main Graphic: Kate Wokowsky, UCI Beall Applied Innovation

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