Purdue Agriculture - In Focus

Biochemistry graduate hopes to grow Tymora startup into 'multimillion-dollar company'

Anton IliukAnton Iliuk never expected to be an entrepreneur.

Now, the former Purdue University biochemistry student’s doctoral project — to develop new technology that can help pinpoint potential targets for cancer therapy — has transformed into a growing startup in Purdue Research Park.

Iliuk’s former adviser, biochemistry associate professor W. Andy Tao, is his business partner.

“Most science majors have two paths,” Iliuk said. “One is academia. One is industry. This is the path less traveled. I’m not a business guy.”

But the company’s first product, PolyMAC, still managed to generate sales of nearly $50,000 in five months for his company, Tymora Analytical Operations LLC.

“I’d like to turn this into a multimillion-dollar company,” Iliuk said. “If you don’t believe, nobody else will.”

Iliuk, the company’s president and chief technology officer, said a realistic goal for next year would be to double the sales of PolyMAC, which analyzes tissue modification on a cellular level.

“You send in a fishing net, you try to pick up everything there is, sort through it and see what has changed from normal tissue to cancer tissue,” Iliuk said.

The next step for Tymora is to get its next product, pIMAGO, to market. Iliuk said the goal of pIMAGO is to cut the cost associated with the early stages of drug development by showing which drugs will be more effective.

“It’s sort of a launch pad,” Iliuk said. “We’re trying to improve the way people do lab research.”

The company is looking ahead to profitability and success. The path to revenue generation hasn’t been easy. The company has relied on grant money to continue its research.

It has received money from the National Science Foundation, Purdue’s Emerging Innovations Fund and the Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition. Tymora is looking to find strategic partners.

For a brief period it thought the Purdue Research Foundation might license Tymora’s technology to another company, which would mean Iliuk and Tao would be out of the picture.

“They’re sort of believing in us,” Iliuk said. “It’s a good learning experience to see how the business world works. We’re trying to create science that can be commercialized, that people will pay for. If nobody needs it, then nobody will pay for it.”

Tymora has competition — Iliuk said four companies make similar products — but he said his company’s technology has an edge because of how many proteins it can identify.

“Maybe the majority of companies will fail when they try,” Iliuk said. “But we’re hoping with Purdue backing us, we can succeed.

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