This article was originally featured in the Greenwich Time
Nicole Bucala always wanted to launch her own startup. Now the Greenwich native is a rising entrepreneurial powerhouse in Connecticut, having recently won a top award from the Connecticut Technology Council.
Sponsored by the CTC, the 12th annual Women of Innovation Awards Gala on April 6 recognized 65 women from across the state for their efforts in leadership in innovation. The awards program honored women innovators, role models and leaders in the science and technology industries. Of the 65, 10 were dubbed category winners, including the 27-year-old Bucala, who won the Entrepreneurial Innovation and Leadership award.
As the president and CEO of the biotech firm MIFCOR, Bucala has dedicated her entrepreneurial efforts to commercializing therapeutic drugs that extend the lives of heart attack, stroke and kidney injury patients. Bucala, in collaboration with her father Dr. Richard Bucala, founded MIFCOR to develop a drug to lessen tissue damage caused by heart attacks and traumatic brain injury. The venture intends to use the “pro-survival” protein MIF as both a preventative measure to strengthen heart tissue and as treatment during heart attacks to assist in recovery.
“Nothing else on market can do this,” she said. “We’ve proven it works with mice, and now we’re testing on pigs.”
For years, her inventor father attempted to raise money on his own. While there was some interest, it wasn’t until his daughter joined the team that those efforts moved forward. Bucala was getting her master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School when she approached her father about using his technology for a class project in commercializing science.
Bucala and her newly formed team developed a business plan for MIFCOR and has been actively seeking funding ever since. In addition to awards from MIT and Yale University, MIFCOR has received $500,000 in funding from Connecticut Innovations, which provides investment and support for innovative companies throughout the state. The startup also secured a spot in the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, where it’s part of the Venture Creation Program. Bucala said they’re currently raising a second round of funding to support their work.
MIFCOR combines Bucala’s business savvy with her father’s medical expertise. Ultimately, the daughter-father duo hope to commercialize the drug and make it accessible to the mass market. Bucala estimated it would take two years to start testing in human clinical trials and eight years to mass produce the drug.
Bucala hopes this award will inspire other female entrepreneurs to innovate in science and technology. The state has been very supportive of young women in STEM, she said, and this award confirmed its continued empowerment of women in her field.
“I hope to capitalize on fact that I’ve been recognized in this fashion and inspire women of all ages to try entrepreneurship and not be afraid to innovate, especially in the state of Connecticut,” she said.
To be a successful entrepreneur, Bucala said, you need to take those first steps and then not give up, even if someone tells you “no” the first time. She credits a large part of her success to the Greenwich public school system where she was initially exposed to programs in science and technology. She hopes to give back by growing MIFCOR into the next big pharmaceutical firm, creating opportunities for residents across the state.