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June 10, 2020

Accelerated award funding helps cleantech startups maintain momentum during COVID-19

The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator is awarding $900,000 to help clean technology and sustainable agriculture startups retain staff and stay on track to bring environmental solutions to market.

The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator, or IN2, has accelerated its 2020 awards program to provide $900,000 in immediate financial support to help clean technology and sustainable agriculture startups manage through the economic disruption caused by COVID-19. The grant funding will allow these startups to retain staff, continue research and development, and stay on track to bring potentially game-changing environmental solutions to market.

IN2 is a technology incubator and platform funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and co-administered by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

For many recipients, the award will provide needed capital for their day-to-day operations and ongoing research projects. However, some awardees like Advanced Animal Diagnostics are using the funding to support a pivot to efforts directly tied to containing the spread of COVID-19.

Two images side-by-side: On the left, a person works with Advanced Animal Diagnostics testing technology. On the right, a row of cows eat hay from the ground.
Advanced Animal Diagnostics is using award funding from the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator to help convert its bovine-disease testing technology to a human white blood cell differential that can be used to screen for, or predict, the severity of illness in COVID-19 patients.

Based in Morrisville, North Carolina, Advanced Animal Diagnostics specializes in on-farm diagnostic technologies that allow livestock farmers to precisely test and detect diseases in their cattle, minimizing the large-scale use of antibiotics on healthy animals. Using AAD’s portable QScout lab-in-a-box diagnostic platform, farmers get a snapshot of a calf’s immune system to detect early disease from a 32-second blood test or identify subclinical mastitis from a dairy cow’s milk in just three minutes.

Joy Parr Drach
Joy Parr Drach is the president and CEO of Advanced Animal Diagnostics, a 2020 Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator grant recipient.

AAD President and CEO Joy Parr Drach said the IN2 award funding will allow the company to continue its efforts to file a 510(k) application for its human test with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. AAD has converted its bovine-disease testing technology into a human white blood cell differential that gives results patient-side in about 90 seconds. Measures from the differential can be used to screen for or predict the severity of illness in COVID-19 patients.

“Our test can save lives and extend limited medical resources by predicting early in the infection which patients are likely to become severely ill,” said Drach. “Other data show it could be used to screen and monitor patients. If we can make that kind of contribution, how could we not pivot? The award funding from the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator gets us that much closer to bringing this testing to market.”

Trish Cozart
Trish Cozart is the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator program manager at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The IN2 award to AAD comes from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, an IN2 Channel Partner that has helped fund AAD’s research and development from its time as an early startup and helped the company attract equity capital from investors.​ The North Carolina Biotechnology Center is a private, nonprofit corporation that transforms North Carolina’s life science opportunities into economic prosperity through innovation, commercialization, education, and business growth.

“Our Channel Partner ecosystem represents a wide range of experts in cleantech, ag-tech, and finance who understand the challenges startups grapple with during a global economic and health crisis and how they might be mitigated,” said Trish Cozart, IN2 program manager at National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “Innovation can and will persist — even during times of contraction — and this expedited funding is designed to support that.”

Ramsay Huntley
Ramsay Huntley is a sustainable finance strategist at Wells Fargo.

Launched in 2017 with $5 million from the Wells Fargo Foundation, the Channel Partner Awards is a competitive program open to IN2 channel partners — a network of more than 60 cleantech and sustainability-focused incubators, accelerators, and universities that refer promising startups to the program. The award funding helps to address gaps in the cleantech ecosystem and eliminate the barriers startups face on the road to commercialization, noted Ramsay Huntley, sustainable finance strategist at Wells Fargo.

“Startups have a difficult time getting from prototype to market even under the best of circumstances, and countless promising technologies focused on solutions to pressing global issues are at risk of being lost without immediate help,” said Huntley. “Startups need to be able to adapt quickly to changing realities. IN2 is showing that it is prepared to do the same by being nimble in our support.”

In addition to the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, 17 other IN2 Channel Partners across the U.S. — from Anchorage, Alaska, to Boston — will distribute the 2020 award funding to local cleantech startups through cash grants, education programs and webinars, access to laboratory research space, and pandemic response support.

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