Yiannis Monovoukas ’84 Supports Biomedical Innovation & Entrepreneurship with $1M Gift

Inspired by his own experience as an engineer, businessman, and entrepreneur, Yiannis Monovoukas ’84, who also serves as a member of Columbia Engineering’s Board of Visitors, has established the Yiannis and Jamie Monovoukas BiomedX Fund with a donation of $200,000 a year for the next five years to support the translation of academic research discoveries from the laboratory to the market. Under the aegis of the Columbia Biomedical Technology Accelerator, also known as BiomedX and originally established with a grant from the Coulter Foundation in 2012, Monovoukas’ gift will provide funding, education, and support to students and faculty interested in commercializing their biomedical inventions.

“As we anticipate the 20th anniversary of the biomedical engineering department next year, it is so inspiring to receive this generous gift from one of our own successful alumni,” said X. Edward Guo, chair of biomedical engineering. “Our researchers, in collaboration with Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center, are doing so much to advance the science of cancer detection and therapy, tissue and bone regeneration, and neuroscience, to name just a few areas. This gift will help assure the continuity and progress of their work while supporting its translation out of the lab to benefit human health.”  

Monovoukas is the former chairman, president, and CEO of TEI Biosciences, a regenerative medicine company that was acquired in 2015 by Integra LifeSciences. He currently heads two venture capital funds and is also the CEO of two startup companies, Helios Cardiovascular and AuraGen Aesthetics. A 2011 recipient of the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Life Sciences Award for the New England region, he went on to be named a finalist in the national competition, which recognizes global entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success. He earned his BS in chemical engineering from Columbia University, a Master’s and PhD in chemical engineering from Stanford University, and an MBA from Harvard Business School. 

“BiomedX combines my passions for innovation, engineering, and entrepreneurship,” said Monovoukas. “The Columbia Biomedical Technology Accelerator has an outstanding track record of bringing cutting edge research to market and partnering with Columbia Technology Ventures to amplify the discoveries that are underway at the innovative juncture of engineering and medicine.” 

Now in its eighth year, the Columbia Biomedical Technology Accelerator has funded 50 teams with cumulative support of $4.7 million; collectively, the funded teams have generated more than $75 million in follow-on funding. More than one-third of these teams have licensed their research to startups or to industry.

In addition to the Monovoukas gift, the Columbia Biomedical Technology Accelerator is funded by Columbia’s School of Engineering and Columbia University Irving Medical Center. 

NoMo Diagnostics on path to becoming the first FDA approved concussion detector

“Traumatic brain injuries and concussions contribute to nearly 50,000 deaths in the United States annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Many of those injuries are never diagnosed or are recognized too late. It's a hot-button topic from the NFL to the military—and certainly among parents of the 20 million American youths who play sports with concussion risk.

Harald Steltzer, CEO of NoMo Diagnostics, has set out to solve that. He's developing what he hopes will be the first FDA-approved, real-time concussion detector to facilitate early recognition and treatment. His technology monitors two brainwaves, which are strong enough to be measured outside the skull.

In addition to the undisclosed investment from Bats-Toi, NoMo Diagnostics received roughly $200,000 from the Coulter Foundation at Columbia University and $75,000 from the National Security Innovation Network.”


We are extremely excited to announce this year's newly funded projects in the Columbia Biomedical Technology Accelerator portfolio. 

Funds are awarded to perform a "killer experiment", that is, an experiment that will substantially remove risk and leave no doubt that the product will be an improvement over the status quo. 


BiomedX Awards:


Cuffless, non-invasive, and self-calibrating device for accurate and ambulatory measurements of blood pressure. Samuel K. Sia, PhD; Daichi Shimbo, MD

Rapid, point-of-care, low-cost aneuploidy screening using a handheld nanopore-based DNA sequencer.  Zev Williams, MD, PhD; Shan Wei, PhD


Improved T cell production through Immunomesh. Lance C. Kam, PhD, Pawel J. Muranski, MD **Co-funded with ACT (Accelerating Cancer Therapeutics, initiative of Cancer Center)


Biomimetic lung sealant to rapidly heal pulmonary air leaks, decrease recovery time, and reduce healthcare costs. Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, PhD; Matthew Bacchetta, MD, MBA

Ignition Awards:


A novel CRISPR/Cas 9 Based Mutation Correction Method for Hemoglobinopathies. Suleyman Ucuncuoglu, PhD; Wendy Chung, MD, PhD **Co-funded with TRx, initiative of CTSA from NIH and Irving Institute

Drug Based Modulation of Endogenous Fibrocartilage Stem Cells for TMJ Regeneration.  Mildred C. Embree, MS, DMD, PhD; Mo Chen, PhD, MBA  **Co-funded with TRx, initiative of CTSA from NIH and Irving Institute

To see all projects funded by BiomedX, click HERE.


On Wednesday, May 1st, teams of Columbia engineers, clinicians, scientists and students working to bring cutting-edge biomedical technologies to market will pitch their envisioned technologies and business opportunities to a panel of judges and invited guests for potential commercialization support.

Columbia BiomedX Pitch Day is the capstone event following a semester long “boot camp,” held in collaboration with the Translational Therapeutics Accelerator (TRx) Resource and Accelerating Cancer Therapeutics (ACT) Accelerators. Throughout the duration of boot camp, project teams explore two fundamental questions: 1) Does the envisioned product address a true unmet clinical need? and 2) Is there a viable business opportunity? These are the same questions judges will have in mind as they select projects to fund. 

We are excited about the 2019 applicant projects and look forward to seeing you on May 1st.



Friday May 01, 2019 from 8:30am to 1:00pm


Columbia University - Davis Auditorium

530 W 120th St Manhattan NY 10027

NoMo's Smart Helmet May Diagnose Concussions in Real Time

Tens of thousands of American football players are treated for concussions each year. However, that number is only a fraction of the total number of concussions actually experienced on the field. The Nomo team, awarded BiomedX funding in 2015 and recently featured in Columbia Magazine, is developing a wearable diagnostic helmet that uses electroencephalography (EEG) activity to detect sports concussions in real time to combat this gap in diagnosis.  

The device works by incorporating sensors in the padding of the helmet, which detects the distinct patterns of traumatic brain injury and alerts the appropriate personnel. Dr. James Noble and Dr. Barclay Morrison have been collaborating to develop the technology, which has the potential to make a significant impact on the future of concussion diagnostics.

“Within seconds of a player being hit, everyone will know whether or not he’s suffered a concussion. This will eliminate a lot of the problems you have now with coaches, athletic trainers, and team physicians having to make fairly subjective judgments about who should be removed from a game to receive a full neurological evaluation.” – Dr. James Noble, Columbia Magazine.

2018 Call for Pre-Proposals


We are very excited to announce that the Columbia Biomedical Technology Accelerator is currently accepting Pre-Proposals for the next application cycle (i.e. 2019 funding).

All technologies with the potential to directly impact human health will be considered (e.g. devices, diagnostics, medical imaging, biosensors, biomaterials, and platform technologies). Most relevant are technologies in which the time to market can be achieved in less than 7 years. To be eligible, the project/technology must be an idea or invention based on Columbia intellectual property.

Eligible teams must include both an engineer/scientist and a clinician, and at least one PI must have a faculty appointment at Columbia. If you need an engineering or clinical collaborator, we may be able to facilitate introductions. Please email matchmaking requests to biomedx@columbia.edu by October 15, 2018.



MORNINGSIDE: Thursday, October 4th, 12pm, Mudd 343

CUMC: Thursday, October 11th, 10am, CUMC, PH10-204 (Conf Room)

If you have any questions, please email us at biomedx@columbia.edu.

For more information on the application process, click HERE

DUVS Project’s ‘Safe’ UV Light May Prevent Infections In Catheters, Cardiac Drivelines

Awarded BiomedX funding in 2013, the DUVS team envisioned an ultraviolet light-based system that could selectively sterilize skin-penetrating medical devices. Since then, the project has successfully shown that a specific wavelength of UV light can be transmitted through optical fibers to kill drug-resistant bacteria, but leave skin unharmed.

The UV-based Sterilization System group is led by Dr. David J. Brenner. In mid-August, the team published their paper in PLOS ONE, detailing their study with the bacteria-killing optical technology.

“Our study suggests that far-UVC light, delivered by optical fibers that can be incorporated into skin-penetrating devices, could be used to prevent catheter-based and driveline infections.” - Dr. David J. Brenner, Columbia University Irving Medical Center news feature.

The Guardian and IEEE Spectrum Feature Ardent Cell Technology

The Cell Thermograft team was awarded BiomedX funding in 2013. Since then, the project has become a start-up named Ardent Cell Technologies, led by Dr. Brian Gillette (below). In late May, Dr. Gillette and his collaborators published a paper in Scientific Reports that described their fat burning technology.

Dr. Brian Gillettte

Dr. Brian Gillettte

Here is how the technology would work: "An overweight person would go to a clinic for a simple procedure in which a small scrap of bad “white fat” tissue would be sucked out of his/her belly. Doctors would stick that piece of tissue into an automated bioreactor, where it would get a chemical bath for about three weeks. Within that machine, it would change into the good “brown fat” tissue that helps the body burn calories to stay warm. Then the patient would return to the clinic, and the scrap of tissue would be reinserted into his/her body. This transmogrified tissue would raise his metabolism and help him lose weight, even without the hard work of diet and exercise."

"In a paper published on Monday in Scientific Reports, Gillette and his collaborators describe their preliminary experiments. They showed that their conversion procedure, which doesn’t require any genetic engineering, works on both mouse and human fat tissue. They also injected converted tissue into mice, and showed that the tissue retained its brown fat qualities (rather than reverting to white fat) for the eight-week duration of the study." - Eliza Strickland, IEEE Spectrum Article

Since this publication in Scientific Reports, the technology has been featured in The Guardian, IEEE Spectrum, Newsweek, BBC Radio, and Newsday.  

Forbes and NBC feature VisionIdeale project

Forbes and NBC have featured our VisionIdeale project, awarded BiomedX funding in 2015. The publications focus on the non-invasive vision correction technique and the impact of our vision correction surgery in today's world where there is an increasing number of patients with shortsightedness. 


Principal Investigator Sinisa Vukelic "has developed a new non-invasive approach to permanently correct vision that shows great promise in preclinical models. His method uses a femtosecond oscillator, an ultrafast laser that delivers pulses of very low energy at high repetition rate, for selective and localized alteration of the biochemical and biomechanical properties of corneal tissue. The technique, which changes the tissue’s macroscopic geometry, is non-surgical and has fewer side effects and limitations than those seen in refractive surgeries. For instance, patients with thin corneas, dry eyes, and other abnormalities cannot undergo refractive surgery. The study, which could lead to treatment for myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, and irregular astigmatism, was published May 14 in Nature Photonics." - Holly Evarts, Columbia Engineering


We are extremely pleased to announce this year's newly funded projects in the Columbia Biomedical Technology Accelerator portfolio. 

Funds are awarded to perform a "killer experiment", that is, an experiment that will substantially remove risk and leave no doubt that the product will be an improvement over the status quo. 

CONGRATULATIONS to the following teams!


MySmileBuddy: Electronic counseling tool to stop tooth decay and reduce dental treatmentChristie Custodio-Lumsden, PhD, and Burton Edelstein, DDS, MPH; TLO: Cynthia Lang


A Drug Delivery Injector for Highly Viscous Drug FormulationsOzgur Sahin, PhD; Richard D. Carvajal, MD, Eran Schenker, Research Scientist; TLO: Satish Rao

HAVA: Therapeutic OTC inhalant device to alleviate inflammation & pain of the upper aerodigestive tractSinisa Vukelic, PhD; Michael Pitman, MD; TLO: Sara Gusik


Dynamic Optical Tomographic Breast Imaging System (DOTBIS) for Predicting Cancer Therapy OutcomeAndreas Hielscher, PhD and Dawn Hershman, MD, MS; TLO: Satish Rao


To see all projects funded by BiomedX, click HERE.