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Farley's Director, Michael Marasco, Named to VentureWell's Board

Northwestern University’s partnership with VentureWell just got stronger. Michael Marasco, director of NU’s Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, has been named a VentureWell board member. The announcement highlights a relationship that has proven beneficial for VentureWell and Northwestern for more than 10 years. Marasco describes his new leadership opportunity as “phenomenally exciting.”

“As someone who’s been a strong advocate for experiential and interdisciplinary learning, I bring both to the table. I’m passionate about encouraging other universities to do that also,” Marasco says.

Marasco’s new position on VentureWell’s board will allow him many opportunities to do so. The foundation has an impressively large higher-education network for Marasco to interact with. Founded by the Lemelson Foundation in 1995 as a funding source for biomedical student entrepreneurs, VentureWell has since expanded its support to all aspects of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) related research. VentureWell now counts more than 200 universities and colleges across the United States as connections. Marasco explains that the Amherst, Massachusetts-based foundation has been able to broaden its organization while maintaining a biomedical, clean tech, and social impact focus.

In addition to its well-known E-team program, team competitions and coveted financial grants, VentureWell offers the ASPIRE, I-CORPS™ and Xcelerator training programs. And, in keeping with its commitment to revolutionize education by targeting faculty as well as students, VentureWell has implemented Lean Launchpad™, a two-and-a-half day seminar for entrepreneurial faculty to learn lean startup principles, and Pathways To Innovation, a program that helps universities develop routes that ensure attending students have access to the entire spectrum of entrepreneurship.

Marasco says VentureWell plans to take its growing operation beyond U.S. borders. As the foundation goes global, Marasco wants to use his expertise to help VentureWell focus on how to better quantify international ecosystems and the role diverse communities need to play within them. According to its website, VentureWell is already moving in the right, worldwide direction. The foundation currently supports the U.S. Department of State’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) initiative, which empowers young entrepreneurs from 135 emerging countries worldwide.

Following more than a decade under Marasco’s innovative leadership, the Farley Center, like VentureWell, is expanding its educational footprint. In addition to its ever-popular flagship Nuvention: Medical and Nuvention: Web & Media courses that established the Farley Center as pioneer in experiential, entrepreneurship programs in higher education, the center offers lectures on a variety of subjects that give students from varying disciplines multiple avenues to the entrepreneurial realm. Farley’s two newest NUvention courses, NUvention: Transportation taught by MEM professor and Farley’s associate director, Mark Werwath, and NUvention: Therapeutics co-taught by lauded Bioengineer Joe Moskal and Marasco, debuted this fall to positive reviews from students and the VentureWell foundation.

Marasco understands why. “The NUvention curriculum is unique and very much aligned to the goals of VentureWell,” he says.

The winning history between the center and the foundation speaks to Marasco's point. In the past few years, VentureWell sponsored two Farley Center startups that have gone on to achieve notable success. The first, Hazel Technologies LLC, formed by students from a NUvention: Energy course, created an ethylene inhibitor that prolongs the shelf life of fruit produce. Hazel Tech creations FruitBrite™ and BerryBrite™ have the potential to save the food industry billions each year. The industry has noticed - Hazel Tech was the grand prize winner of the 2016 Clean Energy Challenge.

Briteseed, a second Farley Center startup built in the NUvention: Medical classroom, detects blood vessels during surgery and thereby prevents unintended intra-operative bleeding. As a 2012 winner of the Chicago Innovation Challenge, Briteseed was chosen to ring the closing bell at NASDAQ, and was recently listed as one of "The 10 Most Promising Medical Technologies of 2016" by MPMN Medtech Pulse magazine.

Marasco says there are many more successful businesses like Hazel Tech and Briteseed in VentureWell’s and Northwestern's future. He believes that these new startups will come from all university departments, including Weinberg, Medill, Kellogg, the Feinberg School of Medicine and the Pritzker School of Law. “All Northwestern students, no matter their fields, should have access to an education that will help them become successful entrepreneurs. With VentureWell’s support, among others, we will continue providing these learning opportunities at the Farley Center.” Naming Marasco as a board member to its foundation shows that VentureWell agrees with Marasco’s goals, and believes in his ability to bring these goals to fruition.

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