Many stars must align for a uni­ver­sity research project to turn into a suc­cessful inde­pen­dent busi­ness. Just ask North­eastern alumnus Joel Berniac, the chief exec­u­tive officer and co-​​founder of Akrivis Tech­nolo­gies, a life sci­ences com­pany com­mitted to com­mer­cial­izing research from the lab of North­eastern pro­fessor of phar­ma­ceu­tical sci­ences Ban-​​An Khaw.

Akrivis has devel­oped a med­ical device that can detect the pres­ence of dis­eases like cancer ear­lier than existing methods. It uses blood tests capable of detecting bio­markers at very low con­cen­tra­tions and imaging tech­niques capable of visu­al­izing millimeter-​​size tumor lesions. The com­pany has raised nearly $750,000 since its founding in 2009 and late last year moved its head­quar­ters from a high-​​tech busi­ness incu­bator to new lab space in the Salem, Mass., head­quar­ters of US Bio­log­ical, now a strategic and dis­tri­b­u­tion partner of Akrivis.

Berniac credits the company’s early suc­cess to Northeastern’s new Labs to Ven­tures pro­gram, which guides top grad­uate stu­dents through the process of turning their research into inde­pen­dent companies.

We knew there was real poten­tial to com­mer­cialize this product, and we’re already seeing that spin­ning this research off into a new ven­ture was the smart thing to do,” said Berniac, who in 2005 earned his high tech MBA, which incor­po­rates inno­va­tion and business-​​planning courses.

Marc Meyer is the Robert Shillman Pro­fessor of Entre­pre­neur­ship and a Matthews Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor. Photo by Brooks Canaday. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

The Labs to Ven­tures pro­gram was designed last year by Marc Meyer, a Matthews Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor and the Robert Shillman Pro­fessor of Entre­pre­neur­ship. It is one of a family of pro­grams within the newly launched Center for Entre­pre­neur­ship Edu­ca­tion whose mis­sions is to engage stu­dent and alumni entre­pre­neurs and cul­ti­vate a campus cul­ture of inno­va­tion. Also included in the center is the Entre­pre­neurs Club and IDEA, the university’s student-​​run ven­ture accel­er­ator. Labs to Ven­tures fast tracks research-​​oriented star­tups into IDEA, which pro­vides advice, men­tor­ship, and finan­cial sup­port to com­pa­nies like Akrivis, which received $10,000 in gap funding last year.

A major com­po­nent of the pro­gram, part of the School of Tech­no­log­ical Entre­pre­neur­ship’s efforts to pro­vide ser­vices to stu­dents across the uni­ver­sity, is a course called New Ven­ture Cre­ation. As part of the D’Amore-McKim School of Busi­nessMBA cur­riculum, it teaches busi­ness stu­dents and researchers without formal busi­ness training how to find com­pelling appli­ca­tions for tech­nology, write a busi­ness plan, and obtain funding.

A dona­tion from alumnus Alan McKim, who earned his master’s in busi­ness admin­is­tra­tion in 1988 and is one of the two donors for whom the university’s busi­ness school was renamed, ensures that researchers without the finan­cial means can take the course, Meyer said.

Shashi Murthy is a pro­fessor of chem­ical engi­neering and is a co-​​founder and chief sci­en­tific advisor at Quad Tech­nolo­gies. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

Doc­toral stu­dent Sean Kevlahan took the course and then co-​​founded Quad Tech­nolo­gies with Shashi Murthy, an asso­ciate pro­fessor of chem­ical engi­neering, and fellow PhD can­di­dates Brian Plouffe and Adam Hatch.

Founded in 2012, Quad Tech­nolo­gies aims to com­mer­cialize a unique dis­solv­able hydrogel devel­oped in Murthy’s lab. The gel’s prop­er­ties make it a pow­erful tool to address a wide range of med­ical and sci­en­tific chal­lenges including pro­tein purifi­ca­tion and rare cell sep­a­ra­tion. The com­pany recently part­nered with a German firm that devel­oped a device to cap­ture cancer cells from a patient’s body; in this case, the gel dis­solved while the cancer cells remained intact for doc­tors and researchers to examine.

Bob Lentz is chairman of IDEA’s advi­sory board and the Center for Entre­pre­neur­ship Education’s inau­gural entrepreneur-​​in-​​residence. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

As part of the Labs to Ven­tures pro­gram, entre­pre­neurs also get the oppor­tu­nity to meet with poten­tial investors, many of them North­eastern alumni. Bob Lentz, the Center for Entre­pre­neur­ship Education’s entrepreneur-​​in-​​residence and a member of IDEA’s advi­sory board, helps facil­i­tate many of those meet­ings, intro­ducing founders of Northeastern-​​based ven­tures to ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists and angel investors.

Our whole system is built to con­nect all the dots,” Meyer said. “There’s amazing inno­va­tion hap­pening in labs all across North­eastern, and we’re cre­ating the tools to train and launch the next gen­er­a­tion of entrepreneurs.”