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Pressure Chamber pitch contest highlights up-and-coming startups in health technology, transportation and workplace productivity

September 21, 2021
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Madison-based startup Nano RED was crowned the winner of the eighth annual Pressure Chamber contest hosted by the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce last month.

The company has developed two drug delivery vehicles that work to prevent and treat COVID-19, with the potential to improve response efficacy in future viral pandemics and revolutionize cancer immunotherapy. The vehicle comes in the form of an artificial molecule, known as liposome, that carries drugs into the tissue. They prevent the virus from attacking at-risk cells in the lungs. They also provide treatment by delivering a combination of genomic medicines to vulnerable lung cells, which prevents the virus from replicating.

Founder Jonathan Ebben’s pitch to investors, business executives and a live audience at the Aug. 18 event earned the contest’s coveted Golden Suitcase.

“The support that we have received from the community here in Madison helps to power us forward,” Ebben said. “With this award, we will be able to launch our seed round to make effective, first-in-class COVID-19 therapies a reality even as we prepare to change the way we treat respiratory viruses and deliver genomic medicines in cancer.”

Nano RED’s prize is a reserved spot in the meetings the chamber has organized with major Silicon Valley firms this fall. It will be an opportunity to further expand Nano RED’s scale and outreach.

“In the process, we hope to join the ranks of other innovative companies that have gone before us to demonstrate that great ideas can turn into reality in Wisconsin,” Ebben said.

The other contestants—Advocate MD and Pivotal Health, both of Middleton, as well as eCIO and Mobile22, both of Madison—also delivered groundbreaking pitches about their promising innovations.

Advocate MD, founded by Dr. Nicole Hemkes, is a direct primary care company that strives to deliver health care in an innovative and affordable way. In this model, the doctor has an agreement directly with the patient to provide primary care for a monthly membership fee.

Pivotal Health, founded by Sal Braico, also plans to improve health care services by supplying urgent care home visits, transparent pricing and cash options for those who are uninsured or have insurance with a high deductible.

eCIO, founded by Rob Roquitte, helps nonprofits cut costs on investment management and increase productivity in their organizations by simplifying technology at an affordable cost.

Mobile22, founded by Shree Kalluri, is a company that has developed a shared mobility platform that connects businesses with transportation providers. The application allows businesses to have greater oversight and flexibility over their transportation, which strengthens efficiency and avoids unnecessary operational costs.

Although these four companies didn’t win the Golden Suitcase, their leaders say they’re hoping to get the same boost from the exposure generated by the contest that has benefited prior years’ contestants.

“Once we have the pieces in place, we can grow and go beyond Madison,” said Hemkes of Advocate MD.

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