Isaac Ellmen (BMath ’19) and his co-founder Danielle Rose (BSc ‘19, University of Guelph) were one of the recipients of the grand prize of direct equity investments worth $50,000 in the Velocity Fund Competition in Toronto on September 19, 2019. SquidBio was started in November of 2018 and later joined Velocity Science.
SquidBio is a biotech company that is developing a system to allow for rapid prototyping in Synthetic Biology, including a benchtop DNA synthesis device. With this device, researchers will be able to synthesize DNA and put it into bacteria to solve real-world problems in-house and on their own time — cutting down on costs and the weeks it currently takes to have the same product ordered and delivered.
“I was first introduced to synthetic biology through Waterloo's iGEM team in 2015. Biology is an amazing field with many new discoveries being made each year, but the automation in biology is terrible,” said Ellmen. “As a software developer (and optimization graduate) I know we can do things much more efficiently.”
The team is tackling long wait times in synthetic biology through a three-step process. First a synthesis unit gives researchers the ability to print DNA fragments in their own labs. The assembly unit then assembles the fragments into the final product and this is supported by web software designed for biologists, built by biologists.
By the end of October, the assembling device prototype will be assembling DNA. SquidBio is currently in the process of organizing several partnerships with researchers at the University of Waterloo, and has received several letters of intent from individuals who want to purchase their systems. The assembly prototype will launch at the end of the year, and thanks to the $50,000 from the Velocity Fund Competition, SquidBio will soon begin developing the science used by their synthesis device.
“This will accelerate the pace of research, leading to new life-saving therapies, greener manufacturing of chemicals, and a slew of other disruptive innovations,” explained Ellmen. “The $50K gives us the resources we need to finish the hardware platform and start doing science. Now we get to do the fun part!”
The pitches were made in front of a soldout crowd at the Bram & Bluma Appel Salon in the Toronto Reference Library. During the competition, 10 finalists pitched their businesses to a panel of judges representing the investment, startup, and business communities. Judges considered innovation, market potential, market viability, traction, and overall pitch.