From Data to Doughnuts: Making Connections at the Economic Development Incubator Showcase
Following a three-year hiatus, the Economic Development Incubator Showcase returned to the Stony Brook University campus on June 8, bringing together an eclectic group of more than 50 companies from the university’s incubation system for a morning of networking with other businesses and the local community, as well as financiers and investors.
The showcase was held at the Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology (CEWIT) in Research and Development Park, and featured products ranging from AI-powered data analytics and oral cancer treatments to artisan coffee and doughnuts.
“We’re very pleased with the return of the in-person showcase,” said Peter Donnelly, associate vice president for technology partnerships in the Department of Economic Development at Stony Brook. “The event did exactly what we intended — provide a platform for the ecosystem of entrepreneurs, investors, faculty, students, government, and many others to come together and get caught up with friends and colleagues, make new connections, and learn what’s new. This not only showcased a thriving component of the community, but also facilitated the many conversations we want in building a thriving innovation ecosystem.”
Stony Brook University’s incubators include the Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center (AERTC) and the Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology (CEWIT) in Research & Development Park; the Long Island High Technology Incubator (LIHTI) on East Campus; the Center for Biotechnology on West Campus; and the Food Business Incubator at Calverton Business Park on the East End. Each incubator offers workshops, assistance in business development, mentorship from established businesses, labs to do research and professional space to hold meetings, as well as the camaraderie of other businesses growing within the incubators.
View photos from the showcase:
Showcase exhibitors represented a wide range of companies in biotechnology, energy, information technology and food businesses.
Alpha-1 Biologics is working to develop patented biotechnology related to the generation of immune cells from stem cells within the body to treat immunodeficiency with a focus on cancer therapy, HIV/AIDS and cardiovascular disease.
The company was founded in 2011 by Cynthia Bristow, who holds a PhD in basic and clinical immunology and microbiology and held research positions in academia before founding Alpha-1 Biologics. She moved her lab from Weill Cornell Medical Center to Stony Brook because she was impressed with the incubator program and its focus on biotechnology. She said she has developed an oral drug that elevates the number of immune cells and successfully suppresses tumor growth in mice.
“We’ve learned so much about the immune system and we develop thousands of drugs to treat inflammation, but none so far that’ll treat immune deficiency,” said Bristow. “This is the first drug that can boost the immune system. Studies have shown that our drug is effective in mice. Right now we’re looking at kidney cancer and colon cancer.”
In the fall, Bristow hopes to do toxicology studies in rats and then approach the FDA to see what is needed to get it approved.
Akai Kaeru, headed by Klaus Mueller, a professor in the Department of Computer Science at Stony Brook, is working to uncover hidden relationships in high-dimensional data and transform them into actionable information. The company was founded in 2016 to develop practical software to help data scientists solve critical problems in real-world applications.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” said Mueller. “This is a field that we developed in a research lab, and we’ve made it more usable for the common mainstream population.”
Mueller said the company’s AK Analyst software can be applied in virtually any field, and cited COVID research as an example.
“You can find patterns in certain population sets,” he said. “For example, early in the pandemic the CDC was trying to figure out the vulnerabilities and risks as fast as possible. The ability to analyze a massive set of data would be valuable in a situation like that where there are 3000 counties and 500 different social indicators. Having that knowledge could have prevented a lot of people from dying.”
Mueller said it can be a valuable predictive tool for medical treatment in general, and can also be used as an investment or business tool.
Mike Bauer, owner and founder of Bauer’s Brew in Calverton, Long Island, was one more than a dozen food entrepreneurs at the event. Bauer said he started his coffee business in 2020 during the COVID pandemic.
“I had a personal training business and soccer coaching business, and when COVID hit it got really difficult,” said Bauer. “I had been involved with coffee as a hobby for a very long time and I loved making my own lattes and being a home barista. So I just turned my hobby into a business.”
As he worked on getting his new business off the ground, he began looking for a suitable place to manufacture his product and found the Stony Brook incubator in Calverton. Two years later, Bauer is selling his cold brew both online and wholesale to retailers. He uses a roasting area in Brooklyn and brings the roasted coffee to the incubator. Everything else is done under one roof.
“We do very well in Montauk, which is a beach town,” said Bauer. “I’m in most of the delis and restaurants out there and I’m getting it into other places on Long Island.”
To go along with the coffee, of course, were the doughnuts, courtesy of North Fork Doughnut Company. The company was started four years ago by the husband-and-wife team of Jimmy Lyons and Kelly Brigucci, who saw a niche for doughnuts featuring fresh local ingredients.
“We thought the incubator might be a good fit for us and it has worked out well,” said Lyons. “We’ve been there for almost two years.”
The company now sells its doughnuts out of two locations on Long Island’s east end and makes all its products in the Calverton incubator.
“We also have a partner store in Connecticut and are opening a store up in the Bronx this summer,” said Lyons. “So we’re busy people right now.”
— Robert Emproto