University alumnus Rick Sontag for whom the competition was named, and his wife, Susan, announced the winners via Skype at a luncheon ceremony at the Joe Crowley Student Union. Sontag’s $1 million gift to the university created the competition in 2011.
The enzymes, discovered in bark beetles from trees in the Lake Tahoe area, have the potential to be used for a wide range of products including the pesticide and insect attractant application selected as the starting place for the business venture. The company is already working with a potential first client.
EscaZyme was accepted earlier into a highly competitive and intense National Science Foundation business-validation program known as Innovation Corps or I-Corps. The $50,000 I-Corps grant, the University’s Technology Transfer Office programs and continued use of a lab provided by Professor Gary Blomquist, chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, have also provided much-needed support for the company.