• Entrepreneurship at UBC

Venture Spotlight Series: Lab2Launch x Mentors edition

Company building doesn’t happen in isolation: it takes drive, dedication and a lot of hustle...and a huge part of any venture's success depends on the mentorship received along the way. We are privileged to work with a pool of 200 extraordinary mentors across Vancouver’s ecosystem who share countless hours of their time and expertise to coach venture teams from the outset of their venture building journeys. Coming from a range of industries and entrepreneurial endeavours, our mentors are the bedrock of our program, helping to develop UBC entrepreneurs into the next generation of leaders shaping society. With applications for our Lab2Launch and CORE (formerly known as Core Technology) venture building streams open, we wanted to introduce some of our current ventures and mentors who are helping to drive discoveries and ideas to impact.

This is part 1 in a 2 part series. Our CORE x Mentors edition is coming soon.


ABOzymes is making blood type barriers a thing of the past. Developed in the laboratories of Professor Stephen G Withers from UBC Chemistry and Professor Jayachandran Kizhakkedathu from the Center for Blood Research at UBC with Co-inventor and Postdoc in Prof. Withers' lab, Peter Rahfeld, along with teammates Haisle Moon (PhD candidate in Prof. Kizhakkedathu’s lab) and Spence Macdonald (PhD candidate in Prof. Withers' lab), ABOzymes joined the Lab2Launch stream in Spring 2020.  The team’s innovative technology utilize enzymes from our own microbiomes to convert the ABO blood surface antigens to “O”, the Universal Donor Blood Group, ensuring blood types are no longer an issue when a patient needs a life-saving blood transfusion or organ transplant surgery.  ABOzymes was first introduced to entrepreneurship@UBC through the Innovation UBC 2020 Life Sciences Start-up idea Competition. Peter Rahfeld shared that since joining the Lab2Launch program, the team has been able to acquire the business skills and expertise necessary to launch their innovation into a viable venture:  “Working with the Mentors and EiRs helped us to gain those skills and develop a business network, allowing us to recruit experts for our management team.” Most recently, the team has advanced to the third round of the New Ventures BC Startup Competition.

Find out more about ABOzymes, here


ThorTech is developing an electrochemical reactor that makes hydrogenation - a ubiquitous chemical reaction in industrial synthesis - cleaner, greener and safer.

ThorTech has foundations in the research of UBC Prof. Curtis Berlinguette, (Depts of Chemistry and Chemical, Environmental and Biological Engineering) and Principal Investigator at UBC’s Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute. Prof. Burlinguette manages a multidisciplinary research program focussed on the theme of clean energy materials. Roxanna Delima, one of the pioneers of the ThorTech reactor, is a 3rd year PhD student in Prof. Berlinguette’s research group. David Weekes, the Business Innovation Manager for the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute at UBC, has worked with a number of early-stage innovations out of physics, chemistry and engineering, having completed his PhD in chemistry at UBC before serving as a Postdoc in Curtis Berlinguette’s group for 2 years.

On their experience as part of Lab2Launch, David Weekes shares: "Our biggest accomplishment came in the form of a major pivot in around the third or fourth week of Phase 1. The subsequent change in our messaging (and our market opportunity) led to a more cohesive story, and through customer feedback we are seeing a real progressive evolution of our business model."


Verdi is building intelligent systems for irrigation micromanagement. The team, composed of undergrad students and recent graduates, dove into the Lab2Launch stream to develop their innovation into a company that can thrive. Since being a part of entrepreneurship@UBC, they’ve been able to access our network of world-class mentors who invest a generous amount of time and insights into their experience.  Recently, Arterra Wines, one of Canada’s largest wine companies began using their system to optimize water delivery on one of their vineyards. So far, Verdi has helped them use 17% less water and will be measuring the quality improvement they can bring to their crops. 

Their biggest takeaway from Lab2Launch? Developing their investor readiness. Co-founder Arthur Chen notes: “Whether it’s by refining our pitch or by projecting our 3-year cash flow, we have come a long way in distilling our progress into a coherent story that we can use to fundraise.” 

Find out more about Verdi, here

John Barclay

John is an independent consultant with over fifteen years of broad business development and program management experience in the life sciences, health care and technology innovation ecosystem. He has significant experience supporting the development of innovations at a range of companies from early-stage ventures to large multinational companies. John also has extensive experience working with not-for-profit organizations that support technology development and commercialization, such as Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster, Genome British Columbia and the Rick Hansen Institute. 

A new mentor to entrepreneurship@UBC, John worked with Lab2Launch venture, ABOzymes, drawing from his extensive experience as Executive Director of the American Society for Apheresis to provide experience in an important market for this new venture: US blood banking and transfusion medicine. 

Despite only experiencing the program in the virtual world, John says:

"I have greatly enjoyed being a mentor for entrepreneurship@UBC. This experience has afforded me the opportunity to learn from the EiRs, staff, mentors and venture teams. The quality of the ventures in the Lab2Launch program is impressive."

Find out more about John, here

Nana Collett

Nana has over 20 years of experience in new product development in the life science sector, currently working as a consultant and mentor to start-up companies. She was on the leadership teams at her two previous companies, start-up Genevant Sciences and Arbutus Biopharma, where she was VP responsible for developing programs and alliances for novel biopharmaceuticals. She has an M.S. in Ecosystem Science and an MBA specializing in management of technology.

Nana was introduced to entrepreneurship@UBC in 2019, and has been working with the Lab2Launch program ever since, recently mentoring venture Smart Bandage. A generalist with scientific and business experience across biotech, medical device, agricultural technology, and environmental technology sectors, Nana is a huge asset to venture teams, sharing her expertise and insight across our portfolio.

On her experience working with entrepreneurship@UBC, Nana shares: "Innovation is the lifeblood of improvements to our society, and I'm grateful to be involved and give back my knowledge of new product development wherever it's useful."

Find out more about Nana, here

Ashish Sant

Ashish is a seasoned Technology Executive with experience in Medical Imaging and Healthcare technology. Most recently, he was the SVP/GM of the Medical Imaging business at Change Healthcare (formerly McKesson), which was a large complex business with an international team of 1000+ staff operating in 7 countries. With a career spanning 25+ years in roles of increasing responsibility across product development and general management, Ashish has developed a unique blend of business acumen, operational excellence and product/technology knowledge.

Ashish recently completed mentoring his second Lab2Launch cohort, working specifically with venture Tractus Medical. With his broad knowledge of healthcare economics, regulatory environment and buying behaviours across several countries, Ashish helps teams identify their path to commercialization.

On his experience, Ashish says: "The program enables structured education to the ventures to drive the fundamentals home, and also offers mentors like me an ability to exercise our intellectual freedom...It's great to see these ventures mature and get much closer to being a viable businesses."

Find out more about Ashish, here

Do you have a research innovation that would make a great venture? 

Apply to Lab2Launch

We have many amazing mentors in our ecosystem: keep a look out for our next Mentor Spotlight after this series to meet some more!

Thank you to all of our mentors who dedicate countless hours of their time and energy to furthering our ecosystems' venture building journeys. We couldn't do this without you.

Interested in becoming a part of our Mentor Network? Join here

This content was originally shared through our June 2020 Venture Spotlight, a monthly series sharing the latest news coming out of the entrepreneurship@UBC community. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay in the loop for all things entrepreneurship@UBC, from upcoming events and announcements to venture success stories and ways to get involved, here

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