UArizona Startups Recognized at IdeaFunding 2021 Competition
Three companies based on UArizona technologies were awarded top honors in Tucson's annual business pitch competition. 

By Paul Tumarkin, Tech Launch Arizona
April 28, 2021

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Roslyn Norman of Paramium Technologies
Roslyn Norman of Paramium Technologies Courtesy of Paramium Technologies

Of the four companies that made it to the finals of IdeaFunding 2021, Tucson's premier pitch competition put on by Startup Tucson on April 15, three were startups founded to commercialize inventions developed at the University of Arizona.

Doug Hockstad, assistant vice president of Tech Launch Arizona, the university's commercialization office, said this shows how the university's entrepreneurial ecosystem is successfully connecting research, innovation and impact to launch the university's most promising inventions.  

"The university's innovation ecosystem is growing, and TLA represents the first step in launching companies based on U of A intellectual property," Hockstad said. "These startups not only bring great solutions to real-world problems, but they're helping to develop our economy right here at home." 

A New Method for Shaping Metals


From left: Paramium Technologies' Christian Davila, co-founder; Justin Hyatt, co-founder; and Roslyn Norman, principal investigator.
From left: Paramium Technologies' Christian Davila, co-founder; Justin Hyatt, co-founder; and Roslyn Norman, principal investigator. Courtesy of Paramium Technologies

Among the startups recognized was Paramium Technologies, a startup based on a method for shaping precision metals that was developed in the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences.

The company received a finalist award of $5,000 in the science and technology category and was selected as a runner-up for the People's Choice award.

Justin Hyatt, a senior research associate at the university's Steward Observatory and former student of renowned inventor and Regents Professor Roger Angel, led the development of the new technology, which the startup will initially use to precisely and inexpensively manufacture custom antennas.

TLA performed patent and market analyses for the technology, then formed a team to help Hyatt through the formation of the startup, eventually licensing the patent to the newly formed company.

From TLA, Paramium moved onto the university's startup incubator, the University of Arizona Center for Innovation, or UACI, which is guiding the company through a 27-point "startup roadmap." Paramium Technology won the UACI Sponsored Launch fueled by R&A CPAs – a competition for technology-based startups – receiving one year of admission to UACI and accounting services, for a prize valued at $15,000. 

"The genesis of Paramium would not be possible without the support of the University of Arizona," said Roslyn Norman, engineering manager for Paramium Technologies. "Since inception, the UArizona has been there for us. The technology was invented by Paramium's founders in the Steward Observatory Solar Lab, patented and licensed through Tech Launch Arizona, who also funded early development of the proof-of-concept and supported the early formation of our company including our NSF I-Corps experience. From there, our team won a sponsored launch at the University of Arizona Center for Innovation, where we plan to build our first prototype and begin scaling for commercialization." 

Diagnosing Hypertension

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From left to right: Martin Fuchs, CEO; Olga Rafikova, co-founder; Ruslan Rafikov, co-founder; Joel James, postdoctoral fellow.
From left to right: Metfora's Martin Fuchs, CEO; Olga Rafikova, co-founder; Ruslan Rafikov, co-founder; and Joel James, postdoctoral fellow. Courtesy of Ruslan Rafikov

Another UArizona team, Metfora, received an IdeaFunding finalist prize of $5,000 in the biotech and life science category.

Team members Ruslan Rafikov and Olga Rafikova, associate professors the College of Medicine – Tucson, are working to commercialize a metabolite biomarker that will allow for the creation of a blood test for diagnosing hypertension.

They have advanced their technology with the help of TLA funding are being mentored by TLA's Venture Development group as they are prepare to license the technology.  

They also went through an eight-week Advanced Entrepreneur Program at Arizona FORGE, which stands for Finding Opportunities and Resources to Grow Entrepreneurs and is part of the university's Research, Innovation and Impact division, along with TLA and UACI.

Like Paramium, Metfora been accepted into UACI, where the team will continue to scale the business.  

TheraCea Pharma 

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Iman Daryaei
TheraCea CEO Iman Daryaei Paul Tumarkin/Tech Launch Arizona

UArizona startup TheraCea received the $1,000 People's Choice award. The company is working to bring to market a new chemical process that will enable increased use of PET scans, allowing for earlier diagnoses of cancer.

TheraCea CEO Iman Daryaei led the research and development effort and co-invented the technology during his doctoral studies in the UArizona Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.  

TheraCea Pharma previously won the UACI Sponsored Launch fueled by Bioindustry Organization of Southern Arizona competition. The prize, valued at $15,000, included a $5,000 cash prize and space at UACI's new biotech incubator in Oro Valley.


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