PhotoZyne Biotechnologies, Inc. wins Panasci entrepreneurship competition

Five teams competed to win a cash prize of $52,000 to startup their business

PhotoZyne Biotechnologies, Inc. was crowned as the first-place winner at the final round of the 15th Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition.

The competition is “designed to bring together UB students from science, technology, business and other disciplines to maximize their potential and create viable businesses in Western New York,” according to the UB’s School of Management website.

On April 15, five teams competed at UB’s Center for the Arts for the first-place title at the Panasci competition, created by the UB School of Management and the UB Office of Science. This competition is funded with a $1 million endowment from the late Henry A. Panasci Jr.

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“The goal of this competition is to launch companies and we’ve done that successfully,” said Thomas Ulbrinch, executive director of UB’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.

This year there was a record of 33 teams and 177 students who competed in the first round of pitches. The five teams that made it to the last round presented their business plans and were evaluated by a panel of judges. Each team had 10 minutes to present its ideas followed by a 10-minute question and answer from the judges.

“We want to engage as many people as we can and then help them refine and enhance their plan to come up with an even better idea for a business,” said Arjang Assad, dean of UB School of Management.

PhotoZyne Biotechnologies, Inc.

Jonathan Smyth, Michael Bisogno and Kevin Carter created the winning team, PhotoZyne. They pitched their winning idea of distributing drugs related to cancer treatment.

Bisogno, who has received a MD and MBA from UB, Kevin Carter, a graduate chemical and bioengineering student and Jonathan Smyth, a graduate law student, won with their revolutionary drug treatment.

“Cancer is a terrible disease and today’s treatment isn’t much better,” Bisogno said. “Right now cancer treatments rely on toxic aspects that essentially have to limit the dose so that they don’t kill the patient while trying to kill the cancer.”

PhotoZyne developed a light activated nano-balloon that transports drugs through the body and doesn’t release the drug until it’s exposed to a specific light wavelength at the target site.

“Our drug system is easily delivered intravenously and accumulates at the target,” Bisogno said. “It then is activated with a laparoscopic lazar light at the target cancer site releasing the chemotherapy only there. That allows us to give a focus and highly effective treatment in just one session.”

They have done pre-clinical studies at UB labs to test their drug treatment.

By focusing the drug delivery on the specific cancer it would kill it and decrease the chance of recurrence and treatment resistance. By eliminating the damage to the rest of the healthy tissues in the body it will decrease the side effects of chemotherapy while improving patient survival just in one session, Bisogno said.

By 2020, this team anticipates $30 million and by 2023 they anticipate $220 million.

PhotoZyne Biotechnologies brought home first-place and received $25,000 in seed funding, as well as in-kind services for accounting, business development, human resource, legal and office space valued at $27,000 for a total of more than $52,000.

According to Bisogno, the main use of their proceeds from the competition will be going toward money for research.

Buffalo Automation Group

Thiru Vikram, a sophomore computer engineering major, and Shane Nolan, a sophomore electrical engineering major, presented their idea of a robotics startup that develops self-navigating technology for boats and ships.

“One thousand one hundred and 40 people die every year in recreational boating accidents,” Nolan said. “Why? Human error, and the technology, is not helping. That’s because today’s marine watercrafts are not smart enough.”

Under a UB research grant, Vikram and Nolan built their first prototype –Poseidon 1. This prototype has a field of vision that extends above and below the surface of the water. Users can control the device using a smartphone. They will be able to tell it where they want to go and the system takes care of the rest.

Each device costs them $4,100 to make. They plan to sell it to two classes of marine vehicles: a motor yacht and an inboard boat.


Jorge Cueto, a Ph.D. student studying civil engineering, Rohin Sethi and Siddhartha Parepally, students in UB’s School of Management, presented concrete walls used to protect buildings and neighborhoods against water-related hazards.

“Floods cause $8.2 billion per year [in damages] in the U.S.,” Cueto said. “Hurricane Sandy caused $50 billion in damages alone.”

SMART WALLS will be hidden in the ground so you won’t see them. Sensors will trigger the walls and stop the water from getting into homes.

The first component is the base box that is fixed into the ground. Another main component is the ceiling plates. Once they are deployed, they create gaps between the pieces, which stops the water from flowing through the walls.

This team plans to sell 3-foot walls at the price of $600 per foot and 15-foot walls for $4,700 per foot.

College Underground

Michelle Greco, a graduate accounting student, and Warren Goh, a graduate finance student, created an app that connects college students with relevant on-campus information.

“Problems that college students come across include finding housing, meeting people, joining student clubs, keeping track of on an off campus events, seeking out good deals and many others,” Goh said. “College Underground will digitalize the bulletin board concept and eliminate flyering. This will save money, time and ultimately trees.”

After a few weeks of a beta launch, they got more than 300 users and more than 30 contributors. Their user forecast is that by fall of 2018 they will have over 3 million users and make $1.8 million.

Off-campus organizations will be charged $10 a month to use the application.


Mark Branden, a volunteer at the City of Buffalo animal shelter, and Joel Colombo, CELAA chair of PSG, presented their business of a crowd funding platform to benefit animals in need.

“Every year, unfortunately, 8 million pets enter shelters and only about half of them get out alive,” Branden said. “One of the primary reasons is due to financial restraints.”

Pawraiser, a for-profit resolution to animal campaigns, allows an animal-only focus on campaigns to secure donors trust through trusted and verified campaigns.

This company is in the middle of a $50 billion pet industry and they want to reach out to the over 14,000 rescue groups across the nation and 70 million pet owners to help their animals in times of financial need.

Pawraiser will be based online with a mobile friendly site where shelters can post updates. They will be charging a fee for campaigns – five percent fee for rescue shelters and a seven percent fee for individuals.

They plan to make $50,000 in their first year of launch.

Dani Guglielmo is a staff writer and can be reached at