Skip to main content

Success stories

Deciphering our best friend’s genome

Embark Veterinary, Ithaca, NY

With Pfizer Animal Health as their partnering company, Adam Boyko and Nathan Sutter, assistant professors in the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, received a CAT grant in 2012 to identify mutations in the dog genome linked to canine medical conditions. Encouraged by exciting research findings, Boyko founded his startup in 2016, hosted at Cornell life science incubator: the Kevin M. McGovern Family Center for Venture Development in the Life Sciences. Boyko and his team at Embark continued and expanded their work on canine genetics, which led them to develop a canine DNA test kit. The kit allows dog owners to learn about their dog’s breed mix, physical and behavioral traits, and genetic predisposition to over 160 diseases. The company graduated from the incubator in November 2017.

Big data for big saving

Agronomic Technology Corp., Ithaca, NY

Agronomic Technology Corp. is a startup based on an algorithm that improves farmer profitability and agricultural sustainability, by calculating the optimal time and quantity of fertilizer to apply to corn fields. Harold van Es, professor of crop and soil sciences, spent a decade collecting environmental data, such as weather, location, and soil composition, and studying their effect on nitrogen loss in fertilized corn fields. Realizing that these data could be used as a decision support system, the business advisors of the McGovern Center connected van Es with a big data software developer and a business team. Adapt-N, the new computer software they jointly developed, generated significant cost savings. This enticed corn farmers to become regular users – as well as the first angel investors of the startup. With high volumes of sales, the company attracted global attention and was acquired by Yara International in 2017.

A new option for allergy sufferers

Allovate Therapeutics, LLC, New York, NY

In partnership with Allovate Therapeutics, LLC, Dr. Reisacher, MD and professor of otolaryngology at Weill Cornell Medical College, was awarded a CAT grant to investigate the commercial potential of a new way of delivering immunotherapy to treat allergies in patients. While brushing his teeth at home, Reisacher remembered research findings showing that gums have the highest density of immune cells most responsible for desensitization. His “eureka” moment was the idea for creating a toothpaste customized with each patient’s prescribed immunotherapy, which they could self-administer through an everyday brushing routine. The collaboration resulted in Allovate’s premiere product, Allerdent®, a specially formulated, fluoride-containing toothpaste that is easily combined with immunotherapy allergens, and now available through allergy clinics in all 50 states.

Revolutionizing plant breeding

Nature Source Improved Plants, Ithaca, NY

While at Cornell, Professor Emeritus Steve Tanksley received five CAT grants to support his pioneering work in plant breeding. Tanksley developed techniques essential to modern plant breeding, with application to improve disease resistance and the nutritional value of major crops. Turning some of his discoveries into algorithms, Tanksley founded Nature Source Improved Plants, LLC. The company relies on advanced genomics methodologies for genetic improvement and the production of high-performing plant materials. Besides his commercial enterprises, Tanksley also created the first genetic maps of plants — a tool now universally used by plant geneticists all over the world. Tanksley’s CAT-funded projects were invaluable for building the foundation of modern plant genomics.

Capacitation and conception

Androvia Lifesciences, LLC, New York, NY

Many technologies and companies focus on female infertility, but very few on infertility in males. In his laboratory, Alexander Travis, professor of reproductive biology at Cornell University’s Baker Institute for Animal Health, made groundbreaking discoveries about sperm capacitation, the biochemical event that renders sperm capable of fertilizing an egg. This inspired him to create a clinical test for male infertility that differs from those relying on sperm count, motility, and appearance. To explore the market need and feasibility of his idea for a new business, Travis participated in the CAT’s Pre-Seed Workshop. It was the experience acquired at the workshop that brought Travis to the pivotal decision to create a startup, and a now a successful company, dedicated to the development of solutions to male infertility.