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Ohio Third Frontier Commission bolsters Case Western Reserve University startup funding

Case Western Reserve’s work to bring university breakthroughs to the public received a recent boost from the Ohio Third Frontier Commission through two of its programs—the Pre-Seed Capitalization Program and the Technology Validation and Start-Up Fund (TVSF).

The state’s first award of $2 million will establish the Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) Pre-Seed Fund, which will provide early funding to startups based on campus research. Case Western Reserve is matching the state’s award. The university will partner with University Hospitals Ventures and the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET) to support these startups. 

The Ohio Third Frontier Pre-Seed Capitalization Program aims to encourage private investment to accelerate the growth of technology companies in Ohio and create jobs. These companies, in turn, have the potential to attract further investment from within and outside Ohio.

CWRU’s new $4 million Pre-Seed fund will capitalize on the university’s significant strengths in emerging technologies, medical diagnostics and imaging, surgical instruments and equipment, implant devices, therapeutics, regenerative medicine and software.

The commission also awarded Case Western Reserve $500,000 from its TVSF fund, designed to speed translation of promising technologies into Ohio startup companies.

Case Western Reserve is the only Ohio institution to receive five consecutive $500,000 TSFV awards (totaling $2.5 million) since 2017. To date, 34 projects have received funding, resulting in nine technologies licensed or optioned to companies, seven university startups, seven clinical trials and two initial public offerings. Both the Pre-Seed Fund and TVSF are managed by Case Western Reserve’s Technology Transfer Office (TTO).

The TSFV Fund awarded two CWRU startups in Cleveland—BiochipLabs Inc. and CelerPurus Inc.— Phase II grants, which go directly to companies.

BioChips Labs Inc. in Cleveland received $150,000 to advance a diagnostic tool to improve screening of patients with sickle cell disease and provide targeted therapies. Umut Gurkan, the Warren E. Rupp Associate Professor in the Case School of Engineering co-founded the company and serves as its director of technology. The other founder, Erdem Kucukal, is a CWRU double alumnus and the startup’s senior scientist. The company expects to start receiving clinical blood samples from centers around the country by mid-summer, once they secure federal certification of its lab for this specific work.

CelerPurus received $150,000 to advance and commercialize a mask-decontamination chamber for the medical community. The CelerPurus device is designed for convenient point-of-care accessibility for health care professionals and general consumers. Entrepreneur Peter Menges founded the company to commercialize the device invented by Jacob Scott, a staff physician-scientist at Cleveland Clinic and an associate professor at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve, and Ian Charnas, director of innovation and technology at the university’s Sears think[box].

“Over the last 10 years, CWRU has catalyzed its top research with translational programs, creating a new class of assets for licensing and start-ups, yet lack of early stage capital in the region has been our biggest hurdle,” said TTO’s Executive Director Michael Haag. “We hope that CWRU’s Pre-Seed fund will encourage startups to remain in Ohio and are grateful for the continued vote of confidence that the State of Ohio Third Frontier Commission has given to CWRU and our companies.”

For more information, contact Bill Lubinger at