How biotechs have found success with University of Florida technologies

The University of Florida offers a broad spectrum of technologies to license and an innovation ecosystem that moves research discoveries from the laboratory to the market. UF Innovate is the commercialization arm that includes Tech Licensing, Ventures, two business incubators (Sid Martin Biotech and The Hub), and UF Pathways – all designed to connect innovators with entrepreneurs, investors and industry; incubate startups; and foster a resilient economy. These three CEOs have found success building their businesses on the firm foundation of UF technologies. Today they’ll share their stories and give you an opportunity to ask what you most want to know about starting a company with technology from the University of Florida.

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Jim O’Connell

Jim O’Connell

Assistant Vice President for Commercialization, UF Innovate, University of Florida

Jim is the Assistant Vice President of Commercialization, and Director of Tech Transfer, responsible for commercializing and translating UF technologies into the marketplace as well as all startup activity and its two world-class business incubators. Jim has a broad background in business and product development as well as an extensive technology transfer experience from the University of Michigan and the University of Miami. He also has large corporate experience from Stryker Instruments, as well as startup experience from Xoran Technologies and Sensicore. In his more than 20 years in the industry, Jim’s roles have always focused on growing and establishing businesses while commercializing new, high-tech products, with both operations and engineering responsibilities. He has helped commercialize over 35 different products including biomaterials, RF Ablation devices, infusion pumps, surgical power tools, high volume sterile disposables, CT Scanners, surgical navigation systems, resorbable plates and screws, and amperometric electrochemical sensors and is also a patented inventor. He has a BS in Aeronautical Engineering from Rensselaer and an MS in Engineering Management from the University of Maryland. Prior to industry, Jim was a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Air Force.

Kevin Hershfield

Kevin Hershfield

COO, TearClear Corp.

Kevin Hershfield is the Chief Operating Officer and one of the founders of TearClear Corp, a clinical-stage ophthalmic pharmaceutical business. Offering preservative-free doses from preserved solutions, TearClear’s portfolio transforms trusted drugs into best-in-class therapies. The company is launching four candidates, all of which are focused on glaucoma.

Kevin comes to TearClear with 30-years of operational and commercial experience in chemical manufacturing including the ownership of a specialty materials producer. He has led commercial, financial, and operations teams to execute turnarounds, increase revenue for both start-up platforms and existing businesses, and has negotiated strategic M&A deals to deliver growth in new markets.

Prior to TearClear, Kevin was Portfolio Director at HTV Industries, a private holding company with a portfolio of diverse businesses including healthcare industries.

From 1990 – 2010, Kevin held various roles at Lancer Dispersions, Inc., a processor of niche polymer compounds and masterbatches where he rose from field sales representative to its President and owner. Here, he led a successful strategic merger to expand revenue and market reach.

Kevin is a member of the American - European Congress of Ophthalmic Surgery (AECOS) and has served as President of the Board of the Akron Section of the Society of Plastics Engineers, Committee Chair on the Cleveland Society of Coatings Technology, and other boards of civic and philanthropic organizations.

Kevin graduated from Hamilton College.

Edgar Rodriguez

Edgar Rodriguez

CEO and CSO, Lacerta Therapeutics, Inc.

Dr. Edgardo Rodriguez-Lebron is one of Lacerta’s co-founders and has actively guided Lacerta as scientific advisor, Chief Scientific Officer, Chairman of the Board, and now Chief Executive Officer.

Dr. Rodriguez-Lebron brings over two decades of research experience and entrepreneurial leadership to Lacerta. His research on Huntington’s disease, spinocerebellar ataxia, and other neurodegenerative diseases has been funded by the NIH and multiple foundations. He has also secured tens of millions of dollars in non-dilutive funds to fuel Lacerta’s growth and commitment to finding a cure for rare CNS diseases. His ongoing affiliation with the University of Florida keeps him on the cutting edge of scientific discoveries.

Dr. Rodriguez-Lebron holds multiple patents in AAV technology and degrees in Molecular Biology from the University of Central Florida and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Florida. An active contributor to the gene therapy community, he is an ASGCT member and serves as the CSO of NF2Biosolutions, a nonprofit focused on the development of a gene therapy approach to neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2). He has co-founded and helped launch multiple startups in the Gainesville, Florida area. A Florida Gator at heart and by degree, Dr. Rodriguez-Lebron can be found cheering on the home team most fall weekends.

Bo Cumbo

Bo Cumbo

President and CEO, AavantiBio, Inc.

Bo Cumbo, a seasoned biopharmaceutical executive, was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of AavantiBio in 2020, after 8 years serving as Chief Commercial Officer and Executive Vice President at Sarepta Therapeutics. Prior to joining Sarepta in 2013, Mr. Cumbo served as Vice President of Sales, Key Account Management, and Treatment Educator teams at Vertex Pharmaceuticals. This is where he launched the drug Incivek, one of the most successful drug launches in the history of US pharmaceuticals. Mr. Cumbo also held multiple roles at Gilead Sciences over a 9-year span and has served as an independent member of the Board of Directors of Ra Pharmaceuticals and CSM.

Mr. Cumbo received his BS in laboratory technology from Auburn University and started his career at GSK. He has over 26 years of pharmaceutical and biotechnology experience, with 11 specialty or rare disease launches during his career.

Arsalan Arif

arsalan arif

Founder & CEO, Endpoints News

Arsalan Arif is a news media entrepreneur who set out in 2015 to build his vision of an independent biotech news company at Endpoints News.