Startup aiding pharmaceutical research wins Innov865 Startup Day award, $7,000 grant


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A startup that is making human cells capable of continuously producing a visual light signal that adjusts in real-time to represent changes in cellular health has won the Innov865 Judges’ Choice Award at Startup Day 2020.

Knoxville-based 490 BioTech developed the bioluminescent technology so pharmaceutical companies can more accurately identify how a drug reacts with human cells.

“Healthy happy cells are bright, sick cells go dim, and dead cells go dark,” 490 BioTech co-founder and CEO Dan Close said. “Our product provides continuous information about a drug’s effect on human health so pharmaceutical companies can operate more efficiently.”

Their patented genetic architecture allows cell lines to produce their own luciferin internally, allowing for continuous light production throughout the life of a culture.

As the winner, 490 BioTech will receive $7,000 that the company will use to develop its business further.

Other winners from Startup Day 2020 include: the Innov865 Crowd Favorite prize, Quantum Lock; and the Innov865 Impact Award, N95 mask developer Dr. Peter Tsai.

The virtual “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition included previously taped pitches and virtual question and answer sessions hosted on the local startup virtual platform Lunchpool.

Quantum Lock won the $3,000 Innov865 Crowd Favorite prize as voted on by viewers of the competition on Startup Day. Quantum Lock, co-founded by Erica Grant, creates random, untraceable combinations for hotel room locks, among other safeguards. Later plans include securing the energy grid, hospitals, homes, smartphones and personal security.

The inaugural Innov865 Impact Award was given to University of Tennessee researcher Peter Tsai.

The Innov865 Impact Award recognizes an inventor for their efforts in fighting COVID-19. Tsai, a research faculty member at the UT Department of Material Science and Engineering, used a method called electrostatic charging to develop the N95 mask material which filters out 95% of particles from air that wearers breathe through the mask.

Frontline health care workers and others use the N95 mask as part of the essential personal protective equipment they need during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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