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Innovations and Innovators...It All Begins at IIT

David E. Baker, Former Vice President for External Affairs, Illinois Institute of Technology

“The Jules F. Knapp Entrepreneurship Center in partnership with University Technology Park sets up a win-win-win situation. IIT’s students benefit from the opportunity for part-time and full-time jobs, internships, and co-op experiences right here on campus. IIT’s faculty benefits both from the opportunity for consulting contracts and space for their own business endeavors. Clients from the Knapp Center and University Technology Park will benefit from their ability to leverage the research, human capital, and equipment resources available at IIT.”

Daphne Preuss, President and CEO, Chromatin, Inc.

Chromatin taps the tremendous natural biodiversity of sorghum to create new seed products that use resources efficiently and grow on marginal land. Its products are enabling farmers worldwide to produce crops optimized for traditional agriculture or for bio-industrial processes that create renewable chemicals, materials, and fuels. 

“University Technology Park (UTP) is a great setting for our research and provides access to excellent facilities and connections to the City of Chicago and IIT. We are experiencing significant growth, and UTP provides capacity for our current and future needs.”

Sarfaraz Niazi, founder and CEO of Therapeutic Proteins International LLC (TPI LLC.)

Sarfaraz Niazi grew up in India and, as a pharmaceutical consultant, he later visited impoverished countries where families sometimes had to choose between buying medicine for one child or food for them all. He says his experiences inspired him to create a new class of off-brand drugs that are more affordable. TPI LLC produces biosimilar drugs that are cheaper copies of biologic drugs, which are complex molecules manufactured with living cells to replicate products such as insulin and vaccines.

A prolific author and inventor, Niazi says he has a secret weapon in his quest: a pre-sterilized, disposable bag. Large companies traditionally make their products in big stainless steel kettles, then pipe in miles of steam to sterilize the containers, a process that can take days. Therapeutic Proteins, based at IIT’s University Technology Park, performs the entire manufacturing process in a bag, which Niazi likens to a big plastic pillow about eight feet by four feet in size. Niazi says, “The support I’ve received from IIT has helped me grow my business much faster than I could have done anywhere else. The IIT entrepreneurship community is second to none.”

Annie Mohaupt, Owner, Mohop Shoes

"Our experience so far with IIT has been great. They have been in consistent contact with us about opportunities for our business. They seem committed to helping us reach our sales and production goals. They have been pleasant and full of ideas, and even went out of their way to come visit us at our workshop. We really appreciate their efforts to assist us, and we are looking forward to working with them further in the future."

Annie Warshaw, Co-Founder and CEO, Smarty Pants Yoga

“The Knapp Entrepreneurship Center has been a tremendous help as we begin to scale Smarty Pants Yoga. I explained our business growth model and was immediately provided a number of opportunities to meet investors and tools to effectively plan our finances. Chicago's entrepreneurial community will flourish because of the services the Knapp Entrepreneurship Center provides.”