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Posted on Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 11:08 p.m.

Ann Arbor startup wins $500,000 at statewide business competition

By Sven Gustafson

DEARBORN—Ann Arbor area life sciences firm DeNovo Sciences took home the top prize of $500,000, and manufacturing technology company Fusion Coolant Systems Inc. won $150,000 at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition here Thursday.

Several other local companies also took home smaller amounts in the second annual version of the statewide business competition, which culminated in an awards gala at The Henry Ford and featured a keynote address from Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley.

DeNovo has developed a device to detect, capture and isolate rare circulating tumor cells without need of a biopsy. The company says it has applications in cancer biology research, biomarker and drug discovery and developing therapies.

“I feel very happy and grateful to the community for the support they have shown in a young team that wants to do some good in the world,” DeNovo CEO Kalyan Handique said.

Handique, a co-founder of University of Michigan spinoff HandyLab, said his new company would use the money to kick-start a $1 million round of funding to complete testing of its prototype and begin the lengthy regulatory approvals process. DeNovo plans to launch its product in 2014.

Fusion Coolant is an advanced manufacturing startup spun out of the U-M that has developed a coolant and lubrication system that increases production rates and tool life. In its presentation materials, the company said it is already seeing sales revenue and has customer trials under way with the likes of Boeing, Chrysler, Ford Motor Co. and Stryker Corp.

Calley, addressing the competing startups tonight, said Michigan's growing companies will fuel the state's recovery. He cited a study that he said showed company expansions were the source of the most new jobs in Michigan during the 1990s boom era.

“We should have been investing in our people the whole time,” he said, “because we have the researchers and the innovators and the capacity for success.”

His refrain of optimism was a familiar one among speakers and presenters, who told of being impressed by the caliber of entrepreneurs on display throughout the three-day vetting process. All told, judges whittled down 53 companies, 24 student groups and 42 angel and venture investors over three days, including the first two at Eastern Michigan University.

“The response to this competition was quite extraordinary, and I think it clearly demonstrates the opportunity that we have in our state,” said Mike Jandernoa, former CEO of Perrigo Co. and the founder of Jandernoa Entrepreneurial Mentoring.

The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition was organized and funded by the Business Accelerator Network for Southeast Michigan, whose members include economic development group Ann Arbor SPARK, and by the University Research Corridor, Business Leaders for Michigan and the New Economy Initiative. A total of $1 million in cash investment awards was distributed to startups throughout the state. Among other winning firms with local ties:

--Are You a Human LLC, a startup launched by U-M grads and students that is moving to Detroit, won first place honors in the student business startup category.

--Ann Arbor-based LLamasoft, a supply-chain analytic software firm, won $25,000 as best of the products and services sector.

--H3D LLC, a U-M technology spinoff, won $25,000 in the defense and homeland security sector.

--i3D Technologies, a clean water technology software company, won $25,000 in the information technology won the IT category.

--ePack Inc., another U-M spinoff, won $25,000 in the next-generation manufacturing category.

Sven Gustafson is a freelance reporter for


Sven Gustafson

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 8:11 p.m.

James, you're right. I double-checked with the company a moment ago, and they're in the Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center in Plymouth Township, which is operated by Ann Arbor SPARK. I asked the CEO if they were in Ann Arbor when I interviewed him last night, but perhaps the noisy surroundings confused things. We'll be clarifying that shortly.

james vandenbosch

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 7:28 p.m.

This article has an unnecessary UM/Ann Arbor slant. It is worth noting that DeNovo is actually located in Plymouth, Michigan rather than Ann Arbor and that the founding scientists were trained at Eastern Michigan University. Since the training of these scientists was partially funded by state monies (State of Michigan support for universities), the concept that this is "what happens when Government gets out of the way" seems unfounded.

Kai Petainen

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 4:45 p.m.

congrats! it's nice to see "Are You a Human" in that list... congrats!


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 2:19 p.m.

This shows what happens when Government gets out of the way and lets smart Americans do their thing. Businesses like life can grow in some of the difficult areas but they grow better where they are giving a little TLC!


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 1:35 p.m.

This must be a fantasy piece, as we know that there are no businesses in Ann Arbor and the govt (UM "elites") cannot create jobs or businesses.