Springboard Innovation Forum – The Aseptia Story

Startup executive speaking to audience

The already successful startup Aseptia is on the rise. That was one of the takeaways from David Clark’s presentation at the recent Springboard Innovation Forum, a gathering of university innovators and prominent industry partners hosted by NC State’s Office of Technology Transfer. With an extensive career that spans investment banking and the food industry, Clark joined Aseptia in 2014 as the company’s President and CEO. Prior to Aseptia, Clark devoted nearly 10 years to the food industry with an ownership role in Pierre Foods. Clark began his career in banking, serving in multiple lending, marketing, administrative and executive positions at BB&T, prior to his role as President of BB&T of South Carolina.

Along with world-renowned food scientists Josip Simunovic and Pablo Coronel, Clark told the story of how Aseptia went from the Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Sciences department at NC State to signing multi-million dollar contracts with major food processing companies. The story began prior to 2006, when NC State researchers started exploring their ideas on improving food sterilization methods. By 2006 these innovators had perfected a method for aseptic food processing and formed a company called UltrAseptics. Over the next few years they added researchers and executives to their team and changed their name to Aseptia. In 2012, Aseptia negotiated a multi-million dollar food processing contract with Dole Packaged Foods, which led to the construction of Wright Foods in Troy, North Carolina. On the heels of that deal, they negotiated another multi-million dollar contract with Dannon that resulted in the opening of Carolina Dairy. After Clark’s arrival in 2014, they launched Aseptia Technologies to deploy their technology around the world.

Dr. Josip Simunovic, Co-Founder of Aseptia, talks about the AseptiWave™ systems deployed at Wright Foods, their processing facility in Troy, NC.
Dr. Josip Simunovic, Co-Founder of Aseptia, talks about the AseptiWave™ systems deployed at Wright Foods, their processing facility in Troy, NC.

Clark also highlighted some of the pitfalls along the way. While contracts with major industry players proved there was a market for their technology, the actual terms of the deals limited Aseptia’s ability to expand. Once Clark arrived, he began working through those contracts with their partners and the university to allow Aseptia to approach other customers. “We have a great relationship with the Office of Technology Transfer. We just re-negotiated a new license agreement with the university that extends for many years. NC State is a very, very important part of Aseptia. The IP portfolio that we share with the university is critical to our success,” said Mr. Clark.

Clark discussed building relationships with multiple stakeholders, including industry partners, the university, and the local community, with the goal of commercializing the technology. “My role within this company is to take this technology that we are so tremendously excited about and commercialize it. The importance of commercialization is you’ve got to move beyond your fellow scientists. You’ve got to talk to more people inside the organization that you’re trying to do business with. You must talk to the people facing the customer to determine if your technology has a place in the market,” said Mr. Clark.

Aseptia was very successful in raising capital along the way, raising over $50 million during a span of four years. In addition to attracting investment, their technology was recognized as a world leader, winning a 2015 Gold Edison Award, a 2015 Food Expo Innovation Award from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), and a 2015 Industrial Achievement Award and Industrial Scientist Award from IFT for one of their food scientists, Pablo Coronel. Aseptia was ranked the 20th Fastest Growing Private Company in America in 2015 by Inc. Magazine and was named in the Top 100 Most Innovative Companies by Red Herring in 2014.

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Dr. Pablo Coronel, Aseptia’s Process Authority, talks about their technology.

Clark is pleased with their success so far and is excited about upcoming opportunities, stating, “We are constantly looking for the next generation of our technology, whether it be our processing systems or our validation systems. That’s one of the things that’s so exciting about the relationship we have here with the university. Those ideas and all the unbelievably smart people who are here are constantly working on that and challenging us to do things better.”

Product samples from Aseptia.
Product samples from Aseptia.

After the presentation by Aseptia, guests enjoyed a networking session featuring beer brewed by NC State’s John Sheppard and supported by the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund.

About the company: Aseptia is a state-of-the-art food technology company, founded in 2006. Partnered with NC State and its team of scientists, Aseptia developed ground-breaking technology that enables the preservation of food products that maintain freshness, flavors, nutrients, and superior taste without the use of additives or the need for refrigeration. For this patented AseptiWave™ technology, Aseptia and N.C. State received a variety of accolades and recognition, including acknowledgment by the FDA.

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About the event: The Springboard Innovation Forum is a periodic event with a rotating technology sector focus that brings together NC State innovators and key industry partners. Please contact us if you would like to attend the next invitation only forum.