Innovation Fund Invests $250,000 in Microbiome-based Startup

Updated: May 21, 2019



BiomeSense co-founders Savas Tay, Jack Gilbert, and Kevin Honaker present at the Innovation Fund Finals. [Photo: Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation]

The University of Chicago Innovation Fund has announced plans to invest up to $250,000 into BiomeSense, a startup developing a fully-automated biosensor for low-cost, scalable microbiome testing.


On Thursday, May 31, five finalists presented their ventures to the Innovation Fund advisory committee, as well as to a standing-room only audience at the Polsky Exchange. Over 200 students, faculty, alumni, and members of the entrepreneurial and investing community heard from companies that are working in the fields of prenatal care, nanomaterials, mortgage services, and health services platforms.


“The five teams presenting in this cycle’s finals represent the Physical Sciences Division, the Biological Sciences Division, the Medical Center, and Booth School of Business,” said Nancy Harvey, managing director and director of technology commercialization at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “I have no doubt that they will follow the successful companies before them that have gone on to raise external capital and build exciting businesses.”


The Innovation Fund, which is managed by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, invests in promising technologies and startups created by current faculty, students, and staff of the University and its affiliates, including Argonne National Laboratory, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and the Marine Biological Laboratory. Fund applicants receive expert feedback from a committee of industry experts, both internal and external to the University of Chicago – distinguished angel and venture capital investors, scientists, and entrepreneurs – to help them move their projects forward and create lasting impact.


BiomeSense will be awarded up to $250,000 to develop a fully-automated biosensor for low-cost, scalable microbiome testing. The device will solve the cost and patient adherence problems with current testing methods, making longitudinal sampling routine. This will exponentially improve the data available to researchers, accelerating the microbiome’s integration into therapeutic development, clinical practice, and more. BiomeSense is based on research from Jack Gilbert, a professor in the department of surgery at the University of Chicago Medicine and the faculty director of the University’s Microbiome Center, and Savas Tay, an associate professor at the Institute of Molecular Engineering. The team also includes Kevin Honaker, a recent graduate of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.


The investment into BiomeSense continues the support of microbiome-based startups and research at the University of Chicago – following on last year’s Innovation Fund investment into microbiome-based AVNovum and ClostraBio. In 2017,the University of Chicago announced a $100M gift from The Duchossois Family Foundation to the University of Chicago to establish The Duchossois Family Institute, which seeks to accelerate research that combines genetics, immunology and microbiome to create ‘new science of wellness’. The Polsky Center helps accelerate breakthrough discoveries from UChicago microbiome scientists and faculty—including the BiomeSense team—by supporting the development, translation and entrepreneurship of this science through several competitive programs.


This post was originally published by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago on June 6, 2018.

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