New Beginnings: The Story of VeloCity Science

“Dear Science, its 2013 and where are the robots?” Unfortunately, science has not been able to provide us with consumer jetpacks, flying cars, or teleportation…yet.  Enter VeloCity Science, a new program progressing students by providing them with the right tools and resources to initiate and develop world-class start-ups in the life sciences industry.

VScience lab VScience lab 2VeloCity is well known for the prowess it holds in building engaged tech-based startup communities like the Garage, but the organization is stepping into new territory with the launch of VeloCity Science. The VeloCity Science lab will be located in the Biology 1 building on the University of Waterloo Campus.  The facility is comprised of space with 24-hour wet lab access, high-tech equipment, technical resources, and basic consumables that students can use to develop, test, and implement their startup ideas.

Last Thursday, over 70 students attended the launch of VeloCity Science, which included a presentation from Armen Bakirtzian, the CEO of Avenir Medical. The attendees also heard from Harry Gandhi and Peter Hong, current University of Waterloo students and the driving forces behind the initiation of the VeloCity Science program. According to Gandhi, “It was a perfect storm,” of their hard work paying off and things just falling into place.

Science ThumbAfter a failed startup venture of his own, Gandhi pitched the idea of expanding VeloCity to the Faculty of Science. The Faculty loved his idea, and Gandhi was offered a subsequent co-op position. During the same time, Peter Hong was working on the iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) team.  Hong was already in talks with Bud Walker, special advisor to Provost on entrepreneurship, about bringing VeloCity to the Faculty of Science. When Gandhi pitched his idea of VeloCity Science to Hong, he could barely hold in his excitement enough to put together proper grammar. But Hong was calm, he smiled and said, “I’m already doing these kinds of things with iGEM.” They realized that with their collective experience, combined with the demand on campus and support from the faculty, this idea could become a reality.

 

In collaboration with the VeloCity team, Hong and Gandhi worked over 5 months spreading the word and creating connections within the Faculty of Science.  After the launch, these two students and VeloCity are now seeing the fruits of their labor manifest. The first ever VeloCity Science Bio-hacking night was executed last night, with over 20 students working tirelessly for 2 hours on problems anywhere from vitamin deficiencies to emergency wait-time problems.

When asked to explain the journey, Gandhi and Hong both agreed on drawing a “roller coaster” like diagram on the whiteboard. They marked their ups and downs on the range of the diagram, rejection and acceptance on almost every stage. Similar to the the scientific method, their experiment required trial and error to confirm a hypothesis.