UAA’s Rhizoform named one of best university startups of 2016

by Kirstin Olmstead, UAA Office of University Advancement  |   

Philippe Amstislavski

Philippe Amstislavski in a CPISB lab with samples of the "biofoam" insulation he and his team have grown from mycelium. (Photo by Philip Hall/UAA)

UAA's Rhizoform LLC has been named one of the best university startups of 2016 by the National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer, an association of university startup officers. Only 36 companies from among the 200 that entered were selected to showcase their startup at the council's first University Startups Demo Day in Washington, D.C.

Rhizoform was co-founded by UAA public health professor Philippe Amstislavski and UAA civil engineering professor Joey Yang. The team is developing a biotechnology to produce thermally insulating foams that are both renewable and biodegradable. The startup aims to fully develop this technology and bring the product to market for use in the building industry, which is seeking a sustainable, cost-competitive technology for thermal insulation.

"Biomaterials have many occupational health and environmental advantages. Unlike plastics, biomaterials don't require a lot of energy to produce and don't become waste that ends up in our waters," said Amstislavski. "We want biomaterial technologies to mature and succeed by becoming cost competitive. This is the key reason we created Rhizoform, and it is exciting to see that it is getting national attention."

Together, Amstislavski and Yang have developed a prototype for carbon-neutral and high-value insulation from forestry byproducts and mycelium that has piqued the interest of investors and venture capitalists.

Seed money from a $25,000 UAA Innovate grant in 2015 helped fund the research. Innovate grants are designed to inspire research and entrepreneurship resulting in additional funding or intellectual property.

The University Startups Demo Day will showcase the work of universities across the nation and the important role academic research plays in driving discoveries that foster economic growth and competitiveness.

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