June 15--About four years into their business venture, two Orlando cancer researchers turned entrepreneurs have taken a new turn in their effort to commercialize their research work.
Philip Arlen and Melissa Kuchma -- co-founders of Orlando-based Pandora Genomics LLC -- have rebranded their drug-treatment research company, which is now ambitiously dubbed Revolution Medicine LLC.
Exactly why they are making the change is not clear. They say investors and customers liked the sound of the new name. Like many entrepreneurs in the competitive biotech arena, they're playing it close to the vest. They are developing sophisticated computer software that uses DNA analysis to match patients with the most effective drugs to treat their illnesses.
"Listening to our future customers prompted us to rethink how best to identify our company and services," Arlen said last week in an email. "And we are excited to unveil our new company name and website in the next few weeks."
They are also looking for a fresh round of investment capital, amid efforts to patent their technology and fine-tune their business model.
"Even with so much going on, there is still much to do," he said. "And we have been focusing on pursuing the next stage of funding to get the company to commercialization."
In 2011, Pandora Genomics was one of the first winners of the Orlando-based Florida IDEA Grant Program competition. It won $100,000 in cash and in-kind services such as professional legal, accounting, marketing and mentoring assistance.
Arlen credited the IDEA Fund award with helping the company make significant progress in getting its technology to market. After winning the award, he and Kuchma went full time with their business. They had been scientists with the former M.D. Anderson cancer research unit at Lake Nona.
Since then, they have landed more investment financing from local "angel" investors, according to Orlando venture capital expert Richard Fox, director of the Florida IDEA program. Arlen and Kuchma have now focused their company on developing drugs to treat heart disease, he said.
"When they made the jump to full-time entrepreneurs, they really didn't know which market would be the most important one for their technology," Fox said. "After a lot of work to answer that question, they selected cardiology as the first candidate."
2 Orlando firms win challenge
Two Orlando companies recently landed top honors in the fourth annual Sikorsky Innovations Entrepreneurial Challenge. The team of Vision Engineering Solutions LLC and Plasmonics Inc. was recognized for its detection and warning system to prevent aircraft pilots from the growing problem of ground-based laser beams. They are tenants of the UCF incubator at Central Florida Research Park. They shared the winners circle with Iowa-based Micoy Corp.
The competition is sponsored by Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., a unit of aerospace giant United Technologies Inc. Winners of the contest receive mentoring, marketing, technical assistance and other services.
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