Success Stories

The Duke Start-Up Challenge has produced numerous successful companies.  Recent successes and spin-outs include:


Computational sensor technology for the pharmaceutical industry.  Centice was the winner of the "Commercial Enterprise Competition" and "People's Choice Award" in 2004's Start-Up Challenge.  They went on to close more than $12 million in series A and B venture capital funding.


Medical device development company focused on developing solutions to large markets with unmet needs through two separate pathways- internal concept generation and development and external project support. TheraNova was the Runner Up in the Finals of the 2002 Start-Up Challenge. TheraNova has successfully spun-out several venture capital or seed funded ventures. Such spin-outs as BAROnova, EMKinetics, and Velomedix have all entered clinical studies with their technologies and NovaShunt is in the process of initiating its First In Man clinical trial overseas.

Precision Biosciences

Precision’s proprietary Directed Nuclease EditorTM (DNE) technology enables the production of genome editing enzymes that can be customized to modify essentially any gene in plant or animal cells. Precision was awarded Second Place in the 2006 Duke Start-Up Challenge. The company went on to receive grants from NIH, SBIR, and North Carolina. In its third year of operation the company has become profitable (as outlined in its original business plan).


Developer of new optical biopsy technology for detecting cancer in its earliest stages. Oncoscope won first place overall and first place in the Healthcare track at the 2007 Start-Up Challenge. The company went on to receive a $40,000 grant from NC IDEA and a round of venture funding from IDEA Fund Partners and Southeast Techinventures.

Hannon Hill Software

Web content management solutions.  Two time competitor in the 2000 Start-Up Challenge that now has a successful business in Atlanta employing over 40 people.


Engineering of human-based tissue scaffolds that can be shaped into tubes, sheets, or particulate conformations and can be applied to many specific applications.  Humacyte was the winner of the "Health Sector" track in 2005's Start-Up Challenge.  They subsequently moved into the Becton Dickinson Incubator.

Sandbox Learning

Personalized children books and educational toys.  Sandbox Learning was the winner of the Social Entrepreneurship track in 2004's Start-Up Challenge.

Sun Dance Genetics

Drought tolerant corn.  Sun Dance competed in 2002's Start-Up Challenge and went on to receive over $800,000 in government grants and licensed their agricultural technology to the United Nations.