UCF’s Business Incubation saw one of its high-tech clients graduate and move to a bigger location this month, where it expects to grow and hire half a dozen employees with salaries of up to $80,000 a year.
axiVEND specializes in providing sophisticated instruments and test-development solutions to companies involved in the research, development and production of diagnostics test kits, sensors and microarrays.
The company spent 18 months in UCF’s Life Sciences Incubator in the Lake Nona Innovation District. It is the newest of the three Central Florida districts. During that time, axiVEND benefited from lab space to grow its enterprise and virtual training to better plan for financial stability.
“The success of axiVEND is another example of the impact we can have on our region by helping to nurture these companies,” says Carol Ann Logue, director of programs and operations, Innovation Districts and Business Incubation Program. “This company will be creating high-wage, specialized jobs in our local area for years to come, the exact reason why our community is investing in these programs.”
Claude Dufresne and his wife Suzanne founded and own the company. Claude Dufresne is a chemist and Suzanne is a microbiologist. The spent much of their careers with Merck & Co. in New Jersey. They chose to move to UCF’s Lake Nona Innovation District because a trusted colleague recommended it.
“By opening in the innovation district, using turnkey laboratory space was a quick way to get started,” Suzanne Dufresne says. “We’re quite thankful for having been a part of the incubator program. They offer a very valuable service for entrepreneurs.”
axiVEND will use its new 6,000-square-foot Winter Garden location to expand and continue developing new products such as multiplex testing products for the food industry for pathogen and contaminants detection. Using their new tests, laboratories can detect multiple bacteria or pesticides of interest with one test, as opposed to multiple single tests for each pathogen or contaminant.
“COVID-19 created a large demand for testing in people, and for our equipment and services,” Claude Dufresne says. “Beyond COVID-19, we see an emerging critical need for ongoing environmental and food supply monitoring.
“Food safety is an important factor for many consumers who trend to organic foods, but there is a significant lack of convenient accessible testing,” he says. “We have the know-how and equipment to produce these tests quickly and inexpensively.”
Claude Dufresne says the region’s infrastructure, which allows for easy nationwide shipping and the population growth in Central Florida, were key factors in choosing the Winter Garden site.
Logue says the success of each company the incubator helps, contributes to the local economy and demonstrates the value of programs that support the business development ecosystem in Central Florida.
The UCF Business Incubation Program currently serves 115 companies in several counties. For the 2017-2018 fiscal years, the activities of these participating firms have helped to sustain more than 6,725 local jobs and have had a cumulative impact of over $725 million on regional GDP and more than $1.3 billion on regional sales, according to a Florida High Tech Corridor bi-annual analysis. The program began 20 years ago and has seen