Welcome to the Timothy P. Walbert Entrepreneurship Impact Award Competition, where we celebrate outstanding Illinois entrepreneurs in the life sciences who embody Tim Walbert’s dedication to patients, community, and business success.

Today, we showcase the most promising life science startups in Illinois and present the competition winner with a $50,000 cash prize to support their innovative work.

Thank you for joining us in recognizing these remarkable entrepreneurs and their potential to make a positive impact on the world.


1:00pm - Fireside Chat: John Crowley, CEO, BIO

John F. Crowley is the President and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), the world’s largest biotechnology advocacy organization. Crowley, a longtime BIO board member, was most recently the Founder and Executive Chairman of Amicus Therapeutics, a global biotechnology company focusing on developing treatments for rare genetic diseases. He served as Chief Executive Officer of Amicus from 2005 to 2022.

John’s decades of biotech experience and deep passion for the field have made him a strong supporter of policies that empower innovation, enable entrepreneurship, and put people and patients first. His involvement with biotechnology stems from the 1998 diagnosis of two of his children with Pompe disease—a severe and often fatal neuromuscular disorder. In his drive to find a cure for them, John left his position at Bristol Myers Squibb and became an entrepreneur as the Co-founder, President and CEO of Novazyme Pharmaceuticals, a biotech start-up conducting research on a new experimental treatment for Pompe disease (which he credits as ultimately saving his children’s lives). In 2001, Novazyme was acquired by Genzyme Corporation, where John continued to play a lead role in the development of a drug for Pompe disease as Senior Vice President, Genzyme Therapeutics.

John and his family have been profiled numerous times on the front page of The Wall Street Journal and are the subjects of a book by Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Geeta Anand, “The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million-And Bucked the Medical Establishment-In a Quest to Save His Children.” The 2010 major motion picture, Extraordinary Measures, starring Brendan Fraser, Harrison Ford and Keri Russell, is inspired by the Crowley family journey. John is the author of a personal memoir: “Chasing Miracles: The Crowley Family Journey of Strength, Hope, and Joy.”

John served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve from 2005-2016. He is a veteran of the global war on terrorism, with service in Afghanistan. His assignments included service with the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (NSWDG) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). John attended the U.S. Naval Academy and went on to earn a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, a J.D. from the University of Notre Dame Law School, and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.

2:00pm - Company Presentation: Wave Therapeutics

Wave Therapeutics is a healthtech startup with a unique, patent-pending therapeutic technology that can help prevent pressure injuries. Our initial product is an active therapeutic wheelchair cushion that will change the market, and we are designing a fleet of products to reduce the risk of pressure injuries everywhere. We bring affordable next-generation therapeutic cushions to the world’s mobility-impaired population. Our smart cushion products provide key metrics and generate analytics to better anticipate problems. We are committed to providing the highest quality therapeutic cushions to all in need including seniors, veterans, SCI & short-term patients. We build products efficiently to make our technology affordable to all.

2:30pm - Company Presentation: Rheoxtech

Rheoxtech is a pre-clinical medical device company operating out of Portal Innovations, a life-science business accelerator located in Chicago, IL that is creating groundbreaking treatments for the Acute Myocardial Infarction Market- a wide-ranging group of disease states involving occlusion of major arteries that supply blood to the heart occurring in some 805,000 people in the US annually.

3:00pm - Company Presentation: Ikaika Therapeutics

Our vision is to provide patients first-in-class therapies that slow disease progression by preventing fibrosis accumulation and preserving organ function. We developed novel antibodies against latent TGF-β binding protein 4 (LTBP4). LTBP4’s function and mechanism of action were discovered in an effort to identify genetic modifiers of fibrosis. Using genetic tools, we established that LTBP4 is a driver of fibrotic disease severity in conditions such as muscular dystrophy. Protecting LTBP4 from releasing TGF-β reduced TGF-β activity, significantly decreasing fibrosis deposition improving tissue function.

3:30pm - Company Presentation: Osteogen Technology

Osteogen Technology is developing artificial bone implants that are more like real bone. We licensed patented AquaPEEKTM technology that converts the surface of standard PEEK implants from hydrophobic (resists bone cell attachment) to hydrophilic (attracts bone cell growth). We’re planning for 510(k) FDA approval for initial use in spinal fusion implants. Animal studies demonstrate that AquaPEEK improves osseointegration and preserves key PEEK benefits compared to titanium implants, including stiffness and elasticity matching bone and radiolucency.

4:00pm - Company Presentation: Alanis Therapeutics

Alanis Therapeutics, LLC is a start-up biotechnology company that is focused on developing new immunosuppressive drugs to prevent or treat rejection after organ transplantation. The partners in Alanis are William Fitzsimmons, Pharm.D., M.S. , Inish O’Doherty, Ph.D. and Peter Nickerson, M.D.. Standard of Care transplant (SOC) immunosuppression is a 3 drug regimen (tacrolimus + mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) +prednisone) that has been used from more than 20 years. Although short-term outcomes are acceptable, up to 30% of transplant recipients still experience rejection. Moreover, tacrolimus is diabetogenic, neurotoxic and nephrotoxic, and MMF causes significant diarrhea. The target of Alanis is replacement of the tacrolimus+MMF current SOC with a new combination that includes an identified oral small molecule drug which targets a kinase enzyme involved in immune

4:30pm - Company Presentation: Varchas Biotechnologies

At Varchas Biotechnologies, our overall mission is to develop next-generation immunotherapy to improve human health. Immunotherapy has revolutionized cancer treatment by leveraging the body’s immune system to combat cancer cells. Despite its transformative impact, current immunotherapies face limitations in universal applicability across various cancer types. Addressing these challenges, we developed a novel CAR-T, which is highly versatile and allows the targeting of multiple tumor markers. This innovative and modular strategy enhances therapeutic efficacy, providing a flexible solution to target cancer cells and meet the unmet needs in cancer immunotherapy Varchas Biotechnologies is a Northwestern University “spin-out” and has exclusive options to develop this product.

5:00pm - Reception and Award Announcement Sponsored by Perkins Coie

Thank you to our reception sponsor Perkins Coie

Thank You to our Sponsors

Timothy P. Walbert is the former chairman, president and chief executive officer of Horizon Therapeutics, which was aquired by Amgen for $28 billion.

For nearly two decades under Mr. Walbert’s leadership, Horizon has been a pioneer in researching, developing and commercializing innovative medicines that have helped improve the lives of countless rare disease individuals and families facing life’s toughest challenges.

The Timothy P. Walbert Entrepreneurship Impact Award signifies Walbert’s ongoing commitment to advancing the life sciences community and supporting the next generation of innovative entrepreneurs.