Ideas turning scientists into startup founders

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Kids building robots, with Soapbox Robotics
“I’ve never seen anybody so passionate about robots,” said Cynthia Goh of entrepreneur Don Pasilino’s concept that combines the principles of Lego, programming and imagination to result in an introductory robotics kit for children.
Looking forward, Pasilino says he aims to partner with after-school programs and with existing computer science programs, and to widen the target demographic to kids as young as four, who would benefit from simple kid-friendly tools that could be understood as a “colouring book for robotics.”
Making every surface safe, with AllergenFree
With peanut allergies on the rise, this company wants to eliminate the anxiety felt by those affected and ensure that peanut and other allergen residues are properly removed from surfaces. AllergenFree is developing a gentle product that removes trace peanut allergens from tables and other surfaces, making restaurant tables, desks and other public places safe.
Creating seeds of sustainability, with BinhiVida
Entrepreneur Conception Ponce is developing a new way for farmers to plant, which she says will improve farming conditions in the developing world and, specifically, the Philippines. Her innovation is a combination of fertilizer and seed in one, reducing the time and capital it takes for subsistence farmers to tend their crops. By zeroing in on this under-served population of subsistence farmers, as well as locally sourcing materials to make them more affordable, BinhiVida will serve a market not addressed by industry leaders Monsanto and Syngenta while turning subsistence farming to sustainable farming.
Hacking dusty, dirty solar panel problems, with CleanMePV
Solar panels are a great energy option for homes and businesses in and around Saudi Arabia. But when a dust storm sweeps in and covers the panels with sand, there’s up to a 50 per cent reduction in efficiency. CleanMePV is developing a mechanical device to effectively clean these solar panels. Their product requires no water (a precious resource in the desert), does not scratch the panel surface, and can be cleaned panel-by-panel rather than in only set shapes of panel-arrays. Ahmed Balawi, the entrepreneur behind it, is also thinking ahead as to whether this device could also work for snow.
Listening for cancer cells, with Echofos Medical
Mike Moore, a biomedical physics grad student, is developing a diagnostic tool that utilizes sound waves to detect tumour cells in a patient’s blood sample. The technology provides an early warning system for tumour formation in the body, prior to any symptoms. Using information collected with the device, doctors will be able to formulate a better cancer therapy plan for their patients, ultimately leading to a better survival rate.
Simulating human tissue in a petri dish, with RHEO Biotech
During Oleg Chebotarev’s master’s research in U of T’s mechanical and industrial engineering department, he developed a research tool that simulates human tissue and blood. He now wants to take his technology beyond the lab and help pharmaceutical companies reduce the development costs for new drugs by reducing the need for costly animal and human testing. In recognition of the commercial potential of his work, Chebotarev was recently awarded a $32,000 U of T Heffernan Commercialization Fellowship, which supports researchers turning technologies developed in university labs into businesses.
Taking the stress out of decision-making, with DIRAC Analytics
Ed Harris’ innovative decision-making software connects consumers and producers by asking users to detail the qualities of a product they’re searching for, and pairs that search with both the most accurate result as well as a few sponsored options.
 Sticking it to hiccups through a convenience story candy, with Sticcups
Enterprising high-schooler Alexandra Goh-McMillan presented her tasty solution to a common nuisance  hiccups. She explains her business model as “by teens, for teens” and is seeking placement for her hiccup-calming candies in local corner stores.

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