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Cancer Diagnosis Firm Wins $500K Top Biz Plan Prize

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A Kalamazoo-headquartered company based on University of Michigan research to improve cancer diagnosis won the $500,000 first prize in the Accelerate Michigan busines plan competition Saturday.

Armune BioScience Inc. offers a breakthrough in early cancer diagnosis and says it plans to begin marketing its test technology in 2011.

Armune is targeting prostate cancer, the No. 1 diagnosed cancer. Today’s main test for prostate cancer, the prostate specific antigen test, does a good job of detecting prostate cancer — but also produces a lot of false-positive results.

Armune says its $250 test will save the American health care system $2.5 billion a year in unneccessary biopsies caused by the false-positive results the PSA test produces.

The company uses technology developed by UM researchers Arul Chinnaiyan, a professor of pathology and urology at the UM Medical School and director of the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology, and David Beer, a professor of surgery and of radiation oncology at the Medical School and co-director of the Cancer Genetics Program at the UM Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Armune BioScience’s prostate cancer diagnostic test uses auto-antibodies, which are capable of diagnosing cancer earlier and more accurately than competitive technologies. The technology can also be used to detect lung and breast cancer.  Additional tests will also be developed using auto-antibodies to determine how aggressive an individual patient’s cancer is, important information for treatment planning.

The company is expecting sales of $71 million by 2015. All of the company’s research is being conducted in Ann Arbor.

Winner of the $150,000 runner up award was Ann Arbor-based Arbor Photonics, developers of high-power, fiber-laser systems for advanced materials processing and defense applications. Arbor Photonics’ products will be lasers and laser subsystems that enable increased productivity and new capabilities in the growing $2 billion industrial laser market.

Specific applications include current and next generation manufacturing of solar cells, microelectronics, flat panel displays and LEDs. Target customers are original equipment manufacturers and defense contractors.

Other awards went to the following companies:

* People’s Choice Award, an award calculated by votes of the audience, $10,000: Sproxil, a company developing improved technology — a sophisticated variant on the serial number — to detect counterfeit products.

* Encore Award, for entrepreneurs ages 55 and over, sponsored by AARP, $25,000: Life Magnetics, a company developing new technology to culture bacteria so doctors can determine which antibiotics will work best against it. The patent-pending technology was created at UM, and the company is scheduled to be the first commercial tenant of UM’s North Campus Research Complex.

* Advanced Materials Sector award, $25,000: Mackinaw Technology.

* Advanced Transportation Award, sponsored by Ford Motor Co., $25,000: ENRG Power Systems, a Bloomfield Hills company developing a plasma-based replacement for the spark plug.

* Alternative Energy Sector Award, sponsored by DTE Energy, $25,000: Accio Energy, a company building a wind generator with no moving parts by using the concepts of static electricity.

* Defense and Homeland Security Award, sponsored by General Dynamics, $25,000: Evigia Systems Inc., an Ann Arbor company producing advanced wireless sensing, identification and tracking products.

* IT Sector Award, sponsored by Strategic Staffing Solutions, $25,000: Match RX, a Troy company developing an online marketplace for pharmacies to buy and sell excess inventory.

* Life Sciences Sector award, sponsored by Esperion Therapeutics, $25,000: Innovative Surgical Solutions, a Southfield company devleoping technology to map the location of nerves for use during surgery to minimize surgical risk.

* Medical Devices Award, sponsored by Cisco Systems, $25,000: Hygieia, a company developing a computerized diabetes treatment device to better monitor and adjust insulin therapy between doctor visits.

* Next Generation Manufacturing Award, sponsored by Whirlpool, $25,000: CSquared Innovations LLC, a Farmington Hills company based on University of Michigan technology developing laser-based plasma deposition technology for the more efficient manufacturing of nanomaterials.

* Next Sector Products and Services Award, sponsored by Masco Corp., $25,000: IX Innovations, an Ann Arbor company producing advanced electrical test and measurement instrumentation.

Accelerate Michigan also recognized Sam Valenti as its first Spirit of Michigan Award winner. The award recognizes a person who epitomizes the entrepreneurial spirit and understands the need to support entrepreneurism from the ground up.

Valenti is chairman of TriMas Corp., a billion dollar manufacturer of precision products for industry. He also serves as Chairman and CEO of Valenti Capital and World Capital Partners, investment firms located in Bloomfield Hills.  He is the former president of Masco Capital Corp., and a 40 year veteran of Masco Corp., a Fortune 500 manufacturer of homebuilding and home improvement products.

Valenti is also the former chairman of the investment advisory board of the $50 billion State of Michigan retirement system. In his nearly 20 year participation with the advisory board, Valenti spearheaded the state’s initial investments in venture capital as well as a broad range of alternative investments.

 He serves on the Harvard Business School Advisory Council. He also serves on the Advisory Council at the University of Notre Dame and the Advisory Board at the University of Michigan Business School Zell-Lurie Institute. Valenti is a member of Business Leaders for Michigan and serves as Chairman of the Renaissance Venture Capital Fund.

The New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan granted Ann Arbor Spark $750,000 to launch the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition on behalf of the Business Accelerator Network for Southeast Michigan, which is composed of four of the region’s key business accelerators – Ann Arbor Spark, Automation Alley, Macomb-OU INCubator, and TechTown. Joining the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition as premier sponsors is Accelerate Michigan.

Sponsors also included AARP, Cisco, Comcast, DTE Energy, Esperion Therapeutics, Health Alliance Plan, Ford Motor Co., General Dynamics Land Systems, MASCO Corp. Foundation, Strategic Staffing Solutions, Toyota, Whirlpool Corp., Arsenal Venture Partners, Bodman LLP, MichBio, ProQuest, Seneca Partners, SMART (Sustainable Mobility & Accessibility Research & Transformation), TranslinkeD, ForSee Results, UM Dearborn College of Engineering, Quicken Loans, Butzel Long, Grubb & Ellis, Menlo Innovations, UM Health System, Detroit Regional Chamber, Schox Patent Group, Corp Magazine, Ram Sun Services, Bank of Ann Arbor, Bizdom U, Michigan Radio, Michigan Venture Capital Association, and the National Association of Seed and Venture Funds.

More at www.acceleratemichigan.com.

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