XLerator Network Selects 9 Innovators Across Southeast for NIH-Funded Entrepreneurship Program: I-RED's Inaugural Cohort Announced

Selected innovators are working on technologies that include Diagnostics, Manufacturing, Medical Devices, and Therapeutics.

LOUISVILLE, Ky.--()--XLerateHealth (XLH), a nationally recognized healthcare accelerator headquartered in Louisville, KY, in partnership with the University of Kentucky (UK) through UK Innovate, announced the selection of nine innovators across the Southeast IDeA State region to participate in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded IDeA Regional Entrepreneurship Development (I-RED) Program. Participants were selected through a competitive application process for work on technologies that include Medical Devices, Therapeutics, a Diagnostic, and a Pharmaceutical Solvent Manufacturer.

  • Marc Birtwistle, PhD, Co-founder and CEO of Blotting Innovations (Clemson University, SC) produces high-throughput Western blotting assays for academic and industrial research labs.
  • David Colby, PharmD, PhD, Founder of Fluoriq (University of Mississippi, MS) has developed new fluorinated alcohols as solvents for the efficient production of pharmaceuticals.
  • Michael Dunham, MD, Co-founder and CEO of Soteria Medical Solutions (LSU Health Sciences, LA) created an optical device that allows surgeons to verify tumor margins during surgery.
  • Jill Kolesar, PharmD, Founder of VesiCure Technologies (University of Kentucky, KY) developed a novel cell therapy for treating advanced stage ovarian and other cancers.
  • Nina McLain, RN, PhD, Founder and CEO of OSD Technologies (University of Southern Mississippi, MS) created a novel oral suction device for use in mechanically ventilated patients.
  • Jeremy Mercuri, PhD, Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of NovaVia Spine & Biologics (Clemson University, SC) invented a novel medical device designed to improve post-surgical tissue integration and healing for orthopedic patients.
  • Jay Potts, PhD, Co-founder and CEO of Carolina Biologics (University of South Carolina, SC) developed a novel therapeutics platform to treat various cardiovascular diseases.
  • Shafic Sraj, MD, MBA (West Virginia University, WV) an orthopedic hand surgery specialist, invented an external fixator device for small bone fractures.
  • Stephen Valentine, PhD, Co-founder and Vice President of Invibragen (West Virginia University, WV) developed a novel ionization source for mass spectrometry instrumentation.

"We are grateful to the NIH for supporting academic technology commercialization and bringing valuable resources to researchers and clinicians in the IDeA States. We are excited about the nine innovators selected to participate in the inaugural I-RED cohort, and the XLN’s External Advisory Committee was delighted to have been part of the selection process,” said Dr. David McLoughlin, Vice President, Seagen, and Chair, External Advisory Committee, XLerator Network.

The goal of the I-RED program is to help selected participants acquire the fundamental business and entrepreneurial skills needed to successfully commercialize their technologies. As part of this program, XLN will launch its first 25 healthcare focused commercialization modules on the ScholarRx platform. The team will also provide wrap-around commercialization services that include healthcare focused programming, talent access through their Executive-On-Roster® (XOR®) platform, and test a newly created Mentor / Startup Founder “Customer Discovery” matching program.

“This second NIH/NIGMS STTR award will allow us to build on prior work and develop, launch, test, and validate entrepreneurship education and training tools that foster the translation of promising biomedical discoveries and technologies from research laboratories into commercial products,” noted Jackie Willmot, CEO and Co-founder of XLerateHealth.

About XLerateHealth

XLerateHealth’s mission is to cultivate and grow impactful healthcare innovation in the Midwest, Southeast, and other areas of the country where great innovation often goes unrecognized and underfunded. Founded in 2012, XLH supports the development of healthcare innovation through its healthcare accelerator, which helps startup founders commercialize their business and attract funding. XLerateHealth also leads the efforts to build and operate the XLerator Network, an NIH-funded partnership with Academic Lead University of Kentucky along with 24 other academic institutions in the Southeast. The objective of this work is to increase the commercialization of promising life science and healthcare innovations in the NIH-designated Southeast Institutional Development Award (IDeA) states.

About UK Innovate

UK Innovate at the University of Kentucky is the innovation, entrepreneurship and economic enterprise for University of Kentucky Research. Through technology commercialization, corporate partnerships, social innovation, innovation training and economic development initiatives related to UK’s research innovations, talent and community, UK Innovate works to move ideas into the world faster, where they can make the greatest social and economic impact possible.


Nadia Jarfi


Nadia Jarfi