Last week’s announcement that MATTER will acquire Chicago Innovation Mentors is another great move to build synergy in support of our life sciences startups. The growing excitement really came through at the 2015 Chicago Innovation Showcase hosted by iBIO PROPEL on October 29.

Bill Gantz of PathoCapital opened the showcase with his first-hand account of the Naurex story, from the groundbreaking work that led to the first intravenous treatment for depression through the company’s $560-million sale to Allergan this past July. Bill, of course, is one of the real heroes of our local biopharma ecosystem, a seasoned Baxter exec who also led with Jeff Aronin the $900-million sale of Ovation Pharmaceuticals to Lundbeck in 2009.

Bill’s story was followed by the enlightening PROPEL business plan competition. Diagnostics Photonics, a medical device innovator housed at MATTER and led by Andrew Cittadine, one of Chicagoland’s top young life sciences talents, edged out 4 other finalists to capture the $15,000 cash prize.

IBIO Director Barbara Goodman, who has done so much to nurture life science startups in the Chicago area, opened the competition by noting that previous winners, including UTP’s own Advanced Cooling Therapy, have garnered a total of $47 million in additional investments to fuel their growth. Barbara and her team are key players in the creation of a richer environment of mentoring, networking and funding for local startups.

Following the competition, we were entertained and impressed by 15 fast-pitch presentations, including two given by Illinois Tech standouts: UTP resident company MedTech BioScience and graduate-student-led startup Great Lakes Neuroscience.

We’re proud that so many life sciences innovators have chosen the UTP incubator as the best place to grow their companies. Emerging firms come to us when they need high-quality wet or dry lab space with the privacy and security to safeguard their intellectual property and proprietary processes.

One of our newest companies, DeNovX, is tapping the UTP ecosystem to develop IP generated at Illinois Tech. The company’s new technology will give pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and cosmeceutical firms better control over the production of complex protein crystals, helping to accelerate their R&D efforts. DeNovX founder Andrew Bond joined us at the Innovation Showcase and enjoyed the great networking that followed.

It’s exciting to see the growth of a supportive, collaborative local environment that will empower early-stage life sciences companies. Led by iBIO, our top universities, major biopharma firms and the startups themselves, this wave of innovation will no doubt lead to new technologies and treatments that will transform healthcare in the years ahead.