Ph.D. Student Prepares to Launch Biotech Startup
ALBANY, N.Y. (July 11, 2016) – Tony Hoang is on the cusp of becoming a successful entrepreneur.
In April, the Ph.D. chemistry candidate won $17,000 through the University at Albany’s first Blackstone LaunchPad business competition, presenting his idea for a scientific accessory company called Advanced Modular Instruments (AMI).
AMI offers innovative technologies to enhance research in biology and chemistry labs. Hoang has pending patents on the company’s first two products, including a centrifuge machine attachment that helps scientists monitor the separation of particles. He wants to start commercialization this summer.
“Our goal is to simplify complex procedures by allowing our users to swap out different scientific instruments depending on their need,” Hoang said. “We want scientists to have a fast, cost-effective and hassle-free research experience.”
Reflecting back, it’s hard for the 29-year-old to believe how far he’s come.
Hoang’s family are refugees from Vietnam. They immigrated to the United States when he was only four years old. Growing up with very little, his interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) was sparked by watching reruns of “Bill Nye the Science Guy” on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). He also developed a talent for fixing broken electronics that his parents would buy at thrift stores.
“I guess you can say my intuition is high,” Hoang said. “Growing up, I had to figure things out on my own.”
That intuition led Hoang to earn his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biochemistry from the University of Minnesota in 2012. He continued his studies at UAlbany, intrigued by its unique offerings in life sciences – specifically research happening at The RNA Institute.
Upon arriving, Hoang began exploring the idea of creating accessories to help scientists. Though technology building came easy to him, learning how to monetize his projects was much more of a challenge. Luckily, he met UAlbany life sciences entrepreneurship expert Stephanie Black.
Black was hired by The RNA Institute last August to help members of the University community, like Hoang, turn their biotechnology ideas into business. She works closely with UAlbany’s Blackstone LaunchPad, a campus-based program designed to support students, staff and alumni entrepreneurs.
Hoang works in the lab of RNA researcher Alan Chen. (Photo by Paul Miller)
“Working with Stephanie and Blackstone have been game changers for me,” Hoang said. “From helping to build a business plan, to developing my presentation skills, to just working with me on all the little pieces it takes to run a successful business. They’ve played a huge role in my early success.”
Outside of UAlbany’s entrepreneurial resources, Hoang has also received mentorship from RNA researchers Alan Chen and Ken Halvorsen, along with additional help from classmate Antoinette Fraser (M.S. forensic biology ’16).
“I cannot imagine where I would be without the people I’ve met at this University,” Hoang said. “Entrepreneurship can be frightening. There is no guideline or rules. Having those around you show belief in your ideas goes a long way.”
Hoang plans to pursue AMI full-time after graduating from UAlbany next spring. He’s currently exploring additional sources of funding including small business technology grants and New York’s statewide business plan competition.