You never know what may lead to a new startup company at Kansas University. Diabetes in dogs and cats was the catalyst for the university’s most recent startup.
Likarda LLC formed in mid-2012 to take advantage of biomedical research conducted at KU that may help reverse diabetes in the nearly 400,000 American dogs and cats that require daily insulin injections.
The startup — which is housed in the Bioscience and Technology Business Center’s incubator building at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City — is the 24th active startup company using KU research.
That’s more startups than all other universities in the state combined, according to Joe Monaco, associate director of strategic communications for KU.
“Commercialization of university research always has been part of what we’ve done, but there has been such a renewed focus on it in the last couple of years,” Monaco said. “There really is an entrepreneurial mindset that we maybe didn’t have on campus in past years.”
Likarda is just the latest example, but it has been getting significant national attention since its public launch in November.
Company cofounder Karthik Ramachandran was named as the “Top Young Entrepreneur to Watch in Kansas City” by Under30CEO.com. The company also was named to the Global Entrepreneurship Week 50, a list of the world’s 50 most promising new companies, as compiled by the Kansas City-based Kauffman Foundation.
The company’s technology is centered on engineering cell clusters — known as Kanslets — that can be transplanted into dogs and cats to cure diabetes. But it was help from business professionals at KU that led Ramachandran and fellow researcher Lisa Stehno-Bittel to realize that the company’s cell cluster technology also could be valuable to other pharmaceutical companies that are testing and screening new drugs.
“They think in a completely different way than scientists,” Ramachandran said of the business professionals KU has connected him with. “It has really been a philosophical switch for me.”
Monaco said providing those type of services to KU-based startup companies has been a major point of emphasis for the university. Last year, KU attracted Rajiv Kulkarni to serve as its new director of its bicampus Center for Technology Commercialization, which helps new companies both at the Lawrence campus and the KU Medical Center.
Kulkarni came to KU from the University of Utah, which for the two previous years had been ranked No. 1 in the nation at starting companies based on university research.
“We really have hired people with a national reputation in the area of commercialization,” Monaco said. “There is a strong argument that we have the best in the business right now.”
Among the active KU startup companies based in Lawrence are:
• CritiTech, a firm that provides patented technology to the pharmaceutical industry.
• HylaPharm, a drug delivery company that focuses on chemotherapy drugs.
• Cadstone Inc., a company that focuses on design automated development tools.
• DARcorporation, which provides aircraft design and configuration.
• Computerized Assessments and Learning, a company that provides computer-based testing services.
• Arcademics, a company that produces educational online video games.