Startup Grind - Buffalo hosts a special event for Female Founders Month at the Innovation Center on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus hosted by Colleen Heidinger of 43North and the Startup Grind Buffalo team.
Founder and Chief Scientific Officer
Norma Jean Nowak, Ph.D., is recognized as a leader in the field of human genomics. Her research contributed directly to the Human Genome Project, as well as to genomic based approaches to understanding heritable disorders and cancer. In 2015, Dr. Nowak was named executive director for the University at Buffalo New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences (CBLS), and holds the rank of Professor of Biochemistry. In addition, Dr. Nowak is the founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Empire Genomics LLC, a molecular diagnostics firm focused on enabling personalized medicine. Dr. Nowak was appointed to the Empire State Stem Cell Board in 2014. She also serves as Principal Investigator, UB Center for Advanced Technology in BIG Data and Health Sciences, as of the July 1, 2017 redesignation.
Dr. Nowak previously served as the director of science and technology for UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences from 2003-2015, as well as director of the UB/RPCI Genomics Facility from 1999-2012, a collaborative research lab shared by UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Prior to that, she was involved for 14 years in research at RPCI developing physical clone resources for cloning disease genes and mapping the human genome.
Among her major achievements, Dr. Nowak has authored landmark papers describing the cloning of several heritable cancer disorders, including a form of Ataxia Telangiectasia (Nijmegen Breakage Syndrome). Her work on the Human Genome Project was published in the 2001 landmark genome issue of Nature describing the sequencing of the human genome. Dr. Nowak led and coordinated the three groups for the NCI extramural Cancer Chromosome Aberration Project. As part of this project, Dr. Nowak also developed BAC based array CGH (Comparative Genomic Hybridization), a microarray-based method for identifying numerical differences in DNA between tumor and normal cells and cells from individuals with genetic disorders, including autism and other developmental disorders. The results of this work were published in Nature Genetics. She also was a key member of the GENSAT project studying spatial and temporal gene expression during development of the central nervous system in mice, and this work was published in the 2003 genome edition of Nature. Dr. Nowak received the 2008 American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Team Science award for the development of CGH (Comparative Genomic Hybridization) and array CGH technology. In addition she was awarded the 2008 Thomas B.Tomasi award for her outstanding achievements in science by the Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
Dr. Nowak's efforts were instrumental in obtaining more than $70 million in funding for research and infrastructure and she has authored or co-authored 145 research articles in leading scientific journals. She also has served on the editorial board of Cytogenetics and Genome Research as well as an Associate Editor of Physiological Genomics.
Currently, as the Executive Director of the New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences (CBLS) and a founding principal of Buffalo Institute of Genomics and Data Analytics (BIG), she plays a vital role in business development work, collaborating with companies to harness the University’s big data analytics capabilities to help them innovate, commercialize and grow. Dr. Nowak has been instrumental in growing UB’s expertise in bioinformatics through the Bioinformatics Hub Program funded by Buffalo’s John R. Oishei Foundation. In addition, she is a board member of 43North, guiding this one-of-a-kind, worldwide business plan competition. In just three years, 43North has awarded over $15M to 29 of the highest quality startup companies attracted to Western New York from around the world.
Bethany Deshpande is the CEO of SomaDetect. With more than a decade of experience in science and entrepreneurship, she is a highly motivated big-picture thinker who asks questions like a scientist, demands the precision of a surgeon, and takes risks like an artist. Bethany is most known for her work with youth at the SHAD summer program, her research in subarctic permafrost environments, her singing abilities, and her adoration of chocolate. She completed a PhD in Biology at Laval University throughout which she studied microbial activity in northern ecosystems and gained experience using sensor technology in remote, extreme environments. Bethany founded SomaDetect in July 2016 to provide farmers with the information they need to make the best possible milk. Since it began, SomaDetect has been selected as a winner of the Fierce Founders pitch competition, a recipient of the Ag Innovation Showcase 'Ideas, Energized' prize, and the $1 M Grand Prize winner of Buffalo's 43North Competition in 2017.
Director of Events & Programming