Meet the University of Illinois’ Leading Innovators and Entrepreneurs


The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is hosting a Innovation and Startup Showcase on October 8th. If you are a venture capitalist, corporate technology executive, or government agency partner, you are invited to attend this exceptional opportunity to hear from the University’s leading innovators and entrepreneurs. This year’s event will feature 18 faculty and numerous start-ups discussing breakthroughs in human health, robotics, computer vision, networked systems and security. And new to this year’s event is a poster session featuring some of the University’s most exciting sudent-led startups.

Join us in Champaign on October 8, 2015 to get a preview of our next great innovations.  For more information on this event and to register click here

Featured Startups


Reducing immunoassay complexity and cross reactivity in order to provide tests with the potential for faster turnaround times, less variability, higher sensitivity, and increased capacity for multiplexing.


Porting the power of the traditional diagnostic labs to the comfort and convenience of local testing centers and patient’s homes with novel devices such as LifeCounts, the world’s first handheld Complete Blood Count diagnostic platform.


Developing a handheld imaging tool that will enable physicians to quickly and accurately diagnose middle ear infections during routine examinations.  The company was recently awarded a pilot grant from the National Capital Association for Pediatric Device Innovation.


Platform software that integrates with motion-sensing devices such as wearables or smartphones to learn, track and analyze gestures. The company recentuly closed a $3 million seed funding round co-led by KGC Capital and Intel Capital.


Providing new functional materials, such as thermoplastics and highly conductive silver ink, with a 3D printing platform to create customized electronic devices like quadcopters, electromagnets, and functional 3D electromechanical assemblies. The company recently announced $12 million in Series A financing; they have been named “one of the 50 smartest companies of 2015” by the MIT Technology Review and “one of the 9 best ideas from CES 2015” by Fast Company.


Creating the world’s thinnest, smallest, most flexible, and most lightweight near-field communication wearable device technology.

Embedor Technologies
Developing wireless smart sensor technologies and software for structural health monitoring.

Agrible, Inc.

Creating analytic tools for farmers and companies that deliver field-specific data and forecasts to help with decision-making in the field.


Developing a browser application that switches a few words on every webpage to the user’s desired language, so he or she can learn a new language passively.

Phi Optics

Developing optical imaging systems through its Quantitative Phase Imaging platfom.

AE Machines

Working to make automation accessible to a broader group of people and businesses.


Developing technology to improve mobility options for wheelchair users.

Featured Researchers

Stephen Boppart
Label-free, Multimodal, Multiphoton Imaging for Molecular Histopathology
Electrical & Computer Engineering; The Beckman Institute

Multiphoton imaging provides three-dimensional, high-resolution imaging and has been established as a powerful technology in biomedicine. The most attractive aspect of multiphoton imaging is the wealth of molecular contrast that can be generated from various modalities. Coherent anti-Stokes Raman/stimulated Raman scattering (CARS/SRS) probes molecular vibrations, two-/three-photon fluorescence (2PF/3PF) visualizes intrinsic fluorophores, and second/third harmonic generation (SHG/THG) maps non-centrosymmetirc media and heterogeneity. Integrating multiple modalities enables label-free imaging of complementary endogenous biomolecules, and is therefore highly desirable for biomedical diagnostics. However, integration and further clinical translation of these techniques are not trivial due to the complexity of the laser(s) and the imaging system and the compromises that are often made for multiple modalities.

We have developed a solution that uses a compact ultrafast source to replace bulky lasers and a pulse-processing device to arbitrarily tailor the illumination pulses for multiple modalities. We demonstrate an integrated multimodal multiphoton imaging platform using fiber supercontinuum and pulse shaping. The high-quality fiber supercontinuum is generated in a highly nonlinear, all-normal-dispersion fiber, achieving a spectrum spanning the optical biological window with high coherence, high power, and long-term stability. Adaptive pulse shaping of the supercontinuum pulses enables high-performance CARS/2PF/SHG/3PF/THG imaging of normal/cancerous human breast tissue, as well as the longitudinal molecular/structural changes during mammary tumor formation in a carcinogen-induced rat tumor model. This multimodal multiphoton imaging platform offers improved simplicity and expanded versatility, and the results show a promising path for the translation and commercialization of multiphoton imaging for molecular histopathology and intraoperative surgical applications. website

Paul Braun

Sensor Materials for In vivo Extended Continuous Glucose Monitoring
Materials Science & Engineering; The Beckman Institute

Diabetes is a worldwide epidemic, and as such, extensive research efforts towards glucose measurement technologies have been maintained for the last 3 decades.  Although continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) has garnered considerable attention due to the advantages in maintaining tight glycemic control, successes in continuous monitoring have been limited, and thus today, most glucose monitoring is still performed using single use test strips.  CGM requires sensors with high precision, accuracy, sensitivity and stability, and if possible, a linear response, characteristics that prior to our developments have not been demonstrated in a sensor material. We have now developed a new class of hydrogels that volumetrically respond to glucose with the aforementioned features. A photonic crystal is incorporated into such glucose responsive hydrogel matrix as a signal transducer to convert the hydrogel volume change into diffracted wavelength shift which is recorded by a spectrometer, although other readout modalities are also possible.  The sensor materials meet key CGM requirements in physiological buffer solutions and serum at body temperature. Furthermore, miniaturized devices suitable for in vivo blood glucose monitoring can be formed using such sensor materials. website

Martin Burke

A Billion Year Head-Start

Natural products represent a billion year head start in the process of discovering new medicines, and most of this potential remains untapped. The problem is that the process of making such complex molecules and their derivatives is difficult and slow, and this bottleneck precludes practical access to the full range of this untapped functional potential.  REVOLUTION Medicines has exclusively licensed from UIUC an automated building block-based synthesis platform initially developed in my lab that for the first time enables practical, generalized access to complex natural products and their derivatives for medicinal chemistry. The company is now advancing and harnessing its REVBLOCKS platform to redesign evolution’s products into new medicines for treating serious human diseases. website

Jianjun Cheng

Selective Cell Labeling and Cancer Targeting
Materials Science & Engineering; The Beckman Institute; The Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

Cell surface protein receptors play a vital role in regulating the interaction between cells and extracellular environment, especially the influx and efflux of materials including therapeutic agents. The differentiation of cell surface protein receptors between normal and diseased cells will potentially enable targeted delivery of therapeutic agents into the diseased cells and thus minimize undesired side effects. However, the difference in the population of existing receptors between diseased and normal cells in one individual is either too small to impart good high selectivity or highly specific to certain cell types. Our group recently developed a controlled labeling strategy to label cell types of interest with chemical groups by using chemically modified metabolic sugar precursors. This controlled labeling strategy, coupled with various efficient Click chemistries, can be used for diagnosis and treatment of diseases, especially cancers. My presentation will cover basic chemistry design and demonstration of the controlled labeling strategy and its key properties and applications in cancer-targeted treatment. website

Paul Hergenrother

Traversing the Valley of Death in Anticancer Drug History
Chemistry; Woese Institute for Genomic Biology
Anticancer drug discovery is typically a lengthy, expensive, and high-risk enterprise.  Statistics show that even after multiple years and millions of dollars, only 5% of candidates that enter a Phase I trial in oncology gain FDA approval.  We have pioneered a strategy that enables us to more intelligently choose drug candidates in a rapid and cost-effective manner.  In this strategy we evaluate drug candidates in pet dogs with cancer, offering hope for these veterinary cancer patients and their owners, and allowing us to optimize treatment parameters in real cancer patients with heterogeneous tumor populations, metastatic disease, etc.

A case study for this strategy will be presented, the discovery and development of the anticancer drug PAC-1.  PAC-1 selectively induces cancer cell death though a novel mechanism, activation of procaspase-3.  The dosing, timing, and formulation of PAC-1 was optimized through its evaluation in canine cancer patients; over 50 dogs with cancer have been treated with PAC-1 and its derivatives, and PAC-1 shows considerable promise in some of the most difficult-to-treat canine cancers.  Largely on the basis of this dog data, the FDA approved our Investigational New Drug application and PAC-1 is now being taken by human cancer patients as part of a Phase I clinical trial at the University of Illinois Cancer Center in Chicago, and at Johns Hopkins University.   For more information please see the listing on clinicaltrials.govwebsite

Douglas Mitchell

Genomics-Enabled Natural Product Discovery
Chemistry: Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

Natural products have been, without question, the most prolific source of all medicines, especially antibiotics. Genome sequencing has revealed that our knowledge of natural product structure and function is astonishingly incomplete. Therefore, exploration of uncharted natural product chemical space will undoubtedly lead to improved, and entirely new, medicines. Against this backdrop, our group focuses on elucidating the biosynthesis, structure, and function of natural products. This talk will highlight our recent advances in genomics-enabled natural product discovery while covering a few case studies in enzymatic biosynthesis that could be exploited to introduce new drug leads. website

John Rogers

Millimeter-Scale Wireless Wearables
Materials Science & Engineering; Materials Research Laboratory

Advanced concepts in antenna design, hybrid materials, computing platforms and energy harvesters form the technology foundations for the world’s smallest wireless sensors.  This talk demonstrates these ideas through a family of wearable systems configured to mount on the fingernails, for robust operation over months of continuous use, without removal, during normal daily activities.  Application opportunities range from authentication, hardware security and data transactions, to personal health monitoring and UV sensing. Joint development activities with two large corporate partners will be highlighted. website


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