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SPN Kernels: News from across the prairie

Kansas City, MO: Likarda Scales Up with New Space

Biotech research laboratory Likarda more than doubled the square footage of their laboratory space with a move to the former Marion Laboratories campus in south Kansas City, Missouri after having outgrown its space at the Bioscience & Technology Business Center (BTBC) on the KU Medical Center Campus.

Since their founding in 2012, Likarda’s success as a pharmaceutical contract research organization and pioneer in animal health has seen the lab space grow to encompass the ground floor of the BTBC.

“KU has been very supportive of our growth, and our incubator space has served us well,” says Karthik Ramachandran, Ph.D., Likarda Vice President & Co-Founder. “Likarda is unique because we live at the intersection between human and animal health. Our growth gives us an opportunity to continue to scale operations for entrepreneurs, pharmaceutical companies, and animal health alike.”

With support from the Missouri Department of Economic Development, Likarda plans to relocate seven employees to its new location in Kansas City, Mo., as well as create 16 new jobs as it continues to grow.

“Likarda’s move to Missouri is a testament to our state’s strength in innovation and technology,” said Rob Dixon, Acting Director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development. “Missouri is positioning itself to become the leading center of entrepreneurship between the east and west coasts. The company’s decision to grow its cutting-edge biotech research here in Missouri builds on this momentum.”


Ames, IA: Three Iowa entrepreneurs launch blockchain educational website

A trio of Iowa entrepreneurs are putting their passion to work in an effort to excite and educate the masses about the potential of an emerging technology with BlockchainGospel.com.

“I am confident blockchain will disrupt the way business is done,” says Clayton Mooney, the co-founder of a series of startups based in Ames. He started BlockchainGospel.com with fellow Ames entrepreneurs Nate Rippke and Andrew Zalasky. “Our entire mission is to introduce blockchain to the masses, with easy-to-understand articles, infographics, and multi-media content.”

He says the team is interested in the technology, which many in the field believe has the potential to change business in ways not seen since the dawn of the internet.

“We want to educate and inform,” Zalasky says. “There are plenty of resources out there offering insight on the future of blockchain, but we couldn’t find any that added a little bit of style to the substance. We are confident that the easier we can make the information to digest, the bigger the impact can be.”


Iowa City, IA: Iowa physicians unite to develop AI diagnostic solutions for use in primary care

Young H. Kwon, MD, Ph.D., a renowned ophthalmologist at the University of Iowa, is the newest clinician to join IDx, an AI diagnostics company developing a method to diagnose glaucoma using optical coherence tomography (OCT) scans.

Dr. Kwon will guide the company’s development of an algorithm that detects glaucoma in OCT scans. This work will lay the foundation for a suite of new products utilizing OCT to detect chronic diseases such as macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s, and more.

“Dr. Kwon and I have conducted research together for many years,” said Dr. Michael Abramoff, a retina specialist and the founder and president of IDx. “His measured approach to science, as well as his glaucoma expertise, will be invaluable as we work to bring automated OCT solutions to patients.”

OCT is a non-invasive imaging technology that uses light waves to measure the thickness of biological tissue and can be used to diagnose disease. OCT only takes one second per scan, making it more convenient for patients and more efficient for clinical workflow.

“I am pleased to join the outstanding and diverse team at IDx that has such a wide range of knowledge and experience,” said Dr. Kwon. “It is very exciting to play a role in developing a solution that can potentially save patients’ sight by making glaucoma diagnosis less burdensome and more reliable.”


Kansas City, MO: Plexpod acquires Think Big Coworking

Plexpod and Think Big Partners announced they are moving forward on an agreement that promotes expansion through partnership and provides greater support for growth-stage companies, entrepreneurs, and innovators throughout the Midwest Region.

As part of the agreement, Plexpod will acquire Think Big Coworking from Think Big Partners, which has operated as an early stage business incubator, emerging technology startup accelerator, innovation partner to established companies and Smart City consultant. Think Big Partners will launch Think Big Labs, a next-generation growth incubator program, which will operate from each Plexpod location.

Plexpod Founder and CEO Gerald Smith said, “Plexpod’s mission is to resource the best entrepreneurs that are solving big world problems, and then provide them with access to business networks across their city and region which we believe increases their chances for success. I am proud of what our team has accomplished. With this acquisition, there will now be over 225 growing companies operating on the Plexpod coworking platform, which includes over 220,000 square feet of flexible office space under management throughout the Kansas City metro area.”
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