A.D.A.M. (Advanced Development of Additive Manufacturing) Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder Denys Gurak spoke with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about how the company launched in Ukraine and became involved with Connecticut’s startup ecosystem.
NAN PRICE: How has your background helped to prepare you for your current role?
DENYS GURAK: I began working on reforms in Ukraine in technology sectors from 2010 to 2018. I have a degree in international law and a Master of Business Administration—a good combination that helped me leverage the knowledge to become a venture investor and eventually founder of a global biotech startup.
My initial reform experience was in the pharmaceutical sector reform in State Service of Ukraine on Medicines (an analog to the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration), where I was leading the implementation of international standards and international certification. Later, I was recruited by the Ukrainian Defense Industry as Deputy Director for foreign economic activity, where inter alia I worked as a primary contact for technology cooperation with U.S. government and defense contractors.
There, I realized the potential that Ukraine has in engineering on the global scale. Currently, Ukraine is an IT services exporting powerhouse with a lot of global companies having R&D offices there. The same applies to hardware for historical reasons—in USSR, Ukraine was a center of sophisticated defense, aerospace, and biotech R&D.
With this in mind, after working for the Ukrainian Defense Industry in 2018, I became a partner at WeFund Ventures. We were focusing on innovative technologies to launch to the U.S. market. Eventually, I became introduced Kwambio, which at that time was developing a ceramic 3D printer. The founders were already in the United States because they were participating in the Stanley+Techstars Additive Manufacturing Accelerator in Hartford.
WeFund Ventures joined with Kwambio to create a new spinoff company, A.D.A.M. (Advanced Development of Additive Manufacturing), that utilized Kwambio’s core technology but modified it to medical applications. Because of my previous experience, I understood that receiving an FDA approval and eventual commercialization in the United States were doable tasks.
NAN: Was the technology developed in the United States or Ukraine?
DENYS: Both. We have advisors, consultants, and operations, including business development and marketing in the United States. Our back office operations, R&D, and production are in Ukraine.
NAN: Why Connecticut?
DENYS: Many Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in Connecticut. There’s a lot of production of high-tech, sophisticated aerospace product, for instance turbines. There’s also significant biotech R&D here with Yale University and the University of Connecticut comprising a big biotech cluster jointly with Massachusetts. Just as an example, Pfizer’s global R&D headquarters is in Groton. So, you can say the first COVID-19 vaccine was developed here.
Overall, business and the science ecosystem are huge in Connecticut. And, at this point, it’s not overcrowded.
NAN: How did A.D.A.M. become involved with the University of Connecticut Technology Incubation Program (Uconn TIP)?
DENYS: We were plugged into the Connecticut startup ecosystem through the Stanley+Techstars Accelerator, so we did some additional networking there. First, we established an office at the BioCT Innovation Commons in Groton. But, when the COVID-19 pandemic happened, there was little activity because we couldn’t be present. Later, we figured that the UConn TIP would be a good place for us to have a lab. We applied to the program and got accepted.
NAN: What’s next for A.D.A.M.?
DENYS: When A.D.A.M. launched and based on the technology we had, we strategized and brainstormed to develop our concept based on the idea that the healthcare industry needs disruption in a good way—not only in the United States, but worldwide. We realized there is a shortage of tissues for transplant and those that do exist are very expensive. Our vision was to create an infrastructure where any part of the human body can be treated like a replaceable part. Now, the practical solution is to build an infrastructure to 3D print implants onsite at hospitals.
We are viewing bones as the beginning. That’s an initial the technology we’re working on with the plan to launch it in the market tentatively at the end of 2022, after we receive FDA approval for bone implants. The bigger plan is to add some tissues to our portfolio and build a platform where people will be able to have their tissues printed on demand.
So, in the future, people will have their digital atlases stored in our platform. For example, if someone has a bad break in their arm and they need to replace part of the bone and part of the skin, they could just come to the hospital and the hospital will 3D print the skin and install it onto the bone right there. We want to give this capability to hospitals and the solution to people. That’s the ultimate product we’re pushing.
NAN: Do you have any advice for other international companies looking to become involved with the innovation ecosystem here in Connecticut?
DENYS: My advice is to just start exploring. All the opportunity is here. Connecticut is a very good location in terms of logistics and there’s a great scientific and business ecosystem.
Frankly, before 2018, I didn’t know much about Connecticut. I only knew about Sikorsky Aircraft, because the founder of the company, Igor Sikorsky ,was just like me, a Ukrainian native from Kyiv who moved here in 1919s and became the creator of first helicopters.
But when I came to the Stanley+Techstars Demo Day, I was really impressed by how things work here. I met a lot of people and just started exploring myself. It became a very logical, organic decision for me to move things here and then to come to Connecticut as a new resident and start doing business here.