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Teknovation article featuring Liora


Liora – December 2020

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

   A start-up that we spotlighted about a year ago in a article has a new name, with a new and expanded location. Having a slightly altered initial focus and an internationally recognized expert who has joined the effort.

For Founder Michelle French, the venture – named Liora, LLC [previously ZOEVET] at the time – was her third company, coming on the heels of exiting Animal Element Inc., an enterprise she founded in 2008.  

As the old saying goes, “What a difference a year makes.” French reviewed those developments in a recent interview.

The first order of business is to brand Liora. It checks several boxes. For starters, it does not connote veterinary services, something that the original name ZoeVet did. “It allows for an expansion into other cutting-edge veterinary technology for tissue healing in the future if we want to do so,” French explained. “I wanted a name that was easy to say, be able to be remembered, and have long-term relevance.”

To achieve that goal, Michelle discussed her rebranding and long-term vision with the Co-Founder and Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Cymbeline Culiat (Bem). Bem suggested Liora, the Hebrew word for “My Light”. Liora will represent the company’s goal and lead the way in the field of veterinary regenerative medicine. Liora is also an equivalent name for “Lucy”, a character in the famous children’s book by C.S. Lewis: Chronicles of Narnia. Lucy had a healing potion that treated her friends’ life-threatening battle injuries. Michelle immediately liked the meaning and substance of the word: “Your name has power.”

We immediately secured two URLs for the company – and  


The new brand also comes with a slight shift in the initial focus of the start-up. While the target market is still treating debilitating limb injuries in high-performance horses, the first product priority has changed to tendinitis instead of laminitis. This strategy is a quicker route to market because the former is a localized injection while the latter may require a sizeable whole-body dose or a new drug delivery system to the laminae in the horse hoof. Sustained delivery requirements, R&D costs, and regulatory path challenges led Michelle to focus first on the tendinitis and tackle the laminitis problem later--likely post-revenue stage. That said, Liora will still be using the novel signaling regenerative protein called NV1 that is the basis of another local start-up – NellOne Therapeutics Inc. with CEO Bill Malkes– focusing on the human market.


The key is market placement and revenue. A tendon therapeutic will have a quicker market launch. “There is not a therapeutic with efficacy for tendon repair,” French says. “In studies, we have reviewed, Stem cell or PRP (Platelet-rich plasma) injections have not shown real efficacy in healing the injured tendon.”

For those in the horse industry, tendon injuries are a significant financial issue. It is not “If,” but “When” the horse will have a tendon injury. 

“Forty-six percent of all performance horses are afflicted with tendon issues. French says. “Every boarding facility across the US will have at least one horse afflicted with a tendon problem.”


Liora recently landed an international superstar as its Chief Veterinary Officer. Jim Schumacher, Professor Emeritus at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s (UT) College of Medicine, joined the company in November 2020.    

Among his many recognitions are being a Diplomat in the American College of Veterinary Surgeons and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

“This man is highly decorated, global, and humble,” French said, citing his 100-page vita and experience teaching in 20 countries. Dr. Schumacher was part of the UT team many years ago that conducted the wound study with Dr. Culiat. Using the new, patent-protected shorter form NV1 on wounds against the full-length NELL1 protein on horses. Dr. Schumacher was able to see firsthand what an exciting product the NV1 could be for the veterinary industry.”


Liora has recently relocated to the Fairview Technology Center, operated by The Development Corporation of Knox County, where she has an office, conference, and lab space. French states, “We are excited to be part of this innovative start-up opportunity in Knox County.”




Knoxville Entrepreneur Center

Featuring Liora

Knoxville Entrepreneur Center

Lilly Tench |

Jim Biggs |



March 11, 2021, Knoxville, TN


AgTech Industry Experts Support Up-and-Coming Entrepreneurs: The Tennessee AgTech Mentor Network kicks off with three startups and thirteen mentors


The Tennessee AgTech Mentor Network, a partnership between the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center , AgLaunch , and Launch Tennessee , is the latest addition to the thriving ecosystem focused on supporting AgTech startups and companies in Tennessee. The goal of the network is to create a meaningful feedback loop for startups, engaging industry veterans, startup experts, and farmers that will lead to additional investment and create more viable AgTech companies in the state. The program will build upon existing entrepreneurial support programs by the three partners and will prepare startup founders to validate and scale their technology with Tennessee farmers. The first three startups to take part in the TN AgTech Mentor Network are listed below:


      S&J NanoChemicals , Founder – Soubantika Palchoudhury: S&J NanoChemicals is a University of Tennessee-based startup that has designed a sustainable nanoparticle fertilizer with a seed pre-soaking nutrient delivery strategy that increases growth and vitality in a variety of plant species.


      Eden Concepts , Founder – Walter Cromer: Eden Concepts is working to develop a revolutionary planting technology for commercial vegetable, flower, and specialty crop growers. Their solution will solve the problem that these growers have with finding labor to plant their crops. It will also reduce their energy use and improve soil health by reducing soil compaction. They are currently focused on the development of a product for small and mid-size growers.


      Liora , Founder – Michelle French:  Liora is a biotechnology company focusing on the veterinary market creating FDA approved drugs and or devices. The core technology is a recumbent protein with an exclusive license from NellOne technologies for veterinary applications.


The thirteen mentors participating in the TN AgTech Mentor Network include a wide variety of industry experts and accomplished entrepreneurs. Current mentors bring skills and experience in legal, financial, agriculture equipment manufacturing, animal pharmacology and entrepreneurship. The list includes the following:


      Kent Anderson, Principal Systems Architect, Blue River Technology

      Kevin Christopher, Founder & Principal, Rockridge Venture Law®

      Will Conrad, Industry expert with previous experience at Indigo Ag and Deere and Company

      Daniel Crask, Creative Director, Brand Shepherd

      Derrick Davis, IP Attorney, Quist, Fitzpatrick & Jarrard, PLLC

      Mahni Ghorashi, Founder, Clear Labs and Director of Strategy, Launch Tennessee

      Lisa Herickhoff, President, Membrane Protective Technologies, Inc.

      Edward MacFawn, CEO, BIT Dealership Software

      Susan Morrison, retired Pharmacist, FarmVet

      John Reiher, Technology M&A, Deere and Company

      Casey Rieder, Consultant and Founder, EEA

      Loston Rowe, Grower Relations Executive, Indigo Ag

      Nick Wijnberg, VP Food and Agribusiness, Farm Credit Mid America


“This program is an excellent opportunity for us,” said Dr. Soubantika Palchoudhury, founder of S&J NanoChemicals, “I am a scientist from a family of farmers, so agtech is a natural fit for me, but entrepreneurship is new. It is invaluable to have guidance and support from experts and entrepreneurs experienced in the field.”


The program is coordinated by Margaret Oldham from AgLaunch and Lilly Tench from the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. Margaret has deep roots in agriculture that began on a family dairy farm and has extensive experience bringing agricultural innovations to market through her work with Beck Ag, Indigo Ag, and AgLaunch. Currently, she leads accelerator and mentor programming for AgLaunch.  Lilly has experience in technology commercialization from her time as Program Manager at Columbia University Technology Ventures and as Director of Membership at tech innovation center, Newlab, in New York City. She is currently completing an MBA & MS in Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.


The AgTech Mentor Network is one of four statewide industry mentor networks initiated by Launch Tennessee and coordinated by partner organizations across the state.


“We’re excited to expand our strategic initiative to develop mentor networks across the state of Tennessee, collaborate with AgLaunch and the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center to support this important industry that is one of the largest economic drivers in the state and across the country, and especially to welcome these three startups and thirteen mentors to the program,” said Van Tucker, CEO of Launch Tennessee.


The TN AgTech Mentor Network is currently accepting applications for mentors and startups on a rolling basis. More information and links to apply as a startup or a mentor can be found at .


Knoxville Entrepreneur Center is a business accelerator located in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee, built to serve as the front door for entrepreneurs and big ideas in East Tennessee. Our mission is to build a community where entrepreneurs have access to the capital, customers, and talent they need to be successful. Learn more at