This is the second of a three-part series highlighting the winners of the 2020 Invest360 competition. The competition is part of SPARK’s a2Tech360, a week of events celebrating Ann Arbor’s spirit of innovation through experiences, conversations, and connections that strengthen and expand the region’s vibrant ecosystem. Check out part one featuring Dynamo Metrics.
Ann Arbor’s thriving biotech industry continues to advance the region in life science research and development. Startups in the biotech sector were poised to make a strong impression on the Invest360 judges knowing the wealth of innovative companies in the region. Among the six competitors in the healthcare division, StabiLux stood out for its high-brightness fluorophores (dyes) used in biomedical imaging. Their industry-disrupting technology earned the company the Invest360 healthcare session prize and $50k in funding. According to Mike Flanagan, Ann Arbor SPARK’s vice president of capital programs, their product can “unleash the next wave of innovation in the life science space”. The company’s signature product, NovoLux Dyes, utilize advanced capabilities that allow researchers to detect what was previously undetectable.
Invest360 showcases Ann Arbor’s regional strengths in information technology, mobility, and healthcare and provides a curated group of companies valuable exposure to investors. During the annual competition which was part of a2Tech360’s 2020 series of events, companies pitched their businesses to a panel to seed-stage investors whose funding ultimately nurtures the Ann Arbor region’s robust entrepreneurial ecosystem.
For StabiLux CEO Steve Tokarz, winning the prestigious funding award was unexpected, yet rewarding. “We’ve placed in other major competitions, but this was different because it was a nod of support from the state of Michigan. We’re incredibly grateful for that support. There are so many noteworthy healthcare companies in the region. To be recognized as a leader among that group was great and truly a surprise.”
The investment has allowed StabiLux to prepare its product for market and propel manufacturing developments. “Since September we’ve been hyper-focused on getting our product ready for commercial launch and making breakthroughs on the manufacturing and production side. We’re ready to raise a little more money and get the product into the market with our first exit potential.”
The company will also apply the funds to grow its team, strengthening the region’s rich talent pool. “There’s immense value in receiving receive an influx of funding to grow their business while simultaneously building on the region’s top tier talent”, said Mike Flanagan, Ann Arbor SPARK’s vice president of capital programs.
Currently, the startup has seven employees with plans to grow the team to 11. Most recently, StabiLux was able to hire five paid interns, funded in part through the Michigan STEM Forward program. Ann Arbor SPARK in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) links students currently attending Michigan colleges annually into STEM-focused internships throughout Michigan. Through funding from MEDC, employers are eligible to receive up to $3000 per intern for wages. At StabiLux three interns support the startup’s Ann Arbor operations and two are stationed in Houghton, Michigan.
As production developments continue, a promising future is on the horizon for the company. In terms of operations, StabiLux will continue to deepen its roots in the region and innovate within the biotech space. “We’ve come a long way since our company’s beginnings in 2007 and are excited about our future. We hope to bring our product to market within the next six – 12 months”, said Stabilux CEO Steve Tokarz.
StabiLux has been a client of Ann Arbor SPARK since 2017. The company is part of the Michigan Angel Fund portfolioand received seed funding that supported company growth and product development. StabiLux is currently a tenant at the Michigan Innovation Headquarters (MI-HQ).
This year’s a2Tech360 will be hosted from October 1 – 8 with both virtual and in-person events. Visit the website for event details along with news updates.