Jay Moran & Marian Hetherly | WBFO

Oncolinx took another major step last night toward its goal of creating targeted cancer immunotherapies. The company was named the winner of the $1 million prize in the 43North business idea competition. Co-founder Sourav Sinha says the prize will expedite the company’s timetable of developing new cancer treatments.

More than 540 startups entered the competition, created three years ago to spur economic growth in Western New York. The winners were announced Thursday night at Shea’s Performing Arts Center in a ceremony emceed by former NBC News Capitol Hill reporter Luke Russert, son of the late Meet The Press host Tim Russert of Buffalo.

Grand prize winner Oncolinx, in conjunction with the National Cancer Institute, is developing targeted cancer immunotherapies called antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs). Oncolinx describes these ADCs as carrying “a patented, immune-activating drug payload called the Azonafide directly to the tumor. The Oncolinx platform is partnered with 14 leading pharmaceutical companies and is planned to enter clinical trials in mid-2017.”

“When we launched this year’s competition, we went all in on the quality of our applicants and tonight was proof that it paid off,” SAID 43North Board Chair Bill Maggio. “I’d like to congratulate our eight tremendous winners, especially Oncolinx, our grand prizewinner. I look forward to welcoming them all to Buffalo.”

Winner of the $600,000 runner-up prize is HigherMe, also of Boston. HigherMe helps retail and hourly employers hire better employees faster and more efficiently. The company offers a suite of software “all layered on top of an industry-specific network of candidates.” Companies like Dunkin’ Donuts and Panera Bread already use the software.

Two other Boston-based companies won $500,000 prizes: Bounce Imaging for its 360-degree throwable cameras and UltraCell Insulation, which makes high-performance building insulation from recycled corrugated cardboard.

Whether a police officer responding to a shooting or a rescue worker is digging through earthquake rubble, Bounce Imaging’s cameras “give first responders critical intelligence as they enter dangerous spaces. Whether a police officer responding to a shooting or rescue worker digging through earthquake rubble, users get instant 360/VR video right to their smartphone, letting them see the dangers ahead.”

Other $500,000 prize winners were Asarasi of Katonah, NY. It developed a completely new source of water to help replace the consumption of fresh ground water. The company says “its water is harvested from trees and does not affect ground water resources. It is sustainable and renewable. Asarasi is pioneering the recovery and bottling of this biologically pure water.”

Formarum of Toronto, ON, developed “a turbine technology that allows for the creation of self-powered and self-contained devices that can be installed in pipes. It eliminates the need for all external components, including control panels, electrical cables and communication modules., which reduces upfront costs and simplifies the purchasing and installation process.”

PathoVax of Baltimore, is commercializing RGVax, a low-cost vaccine to prevent all HPV-associated cancers. According to the company, “Current vaccines focus on sexual transmitted types, resulting in low uptake due to incomplete coverage and social stigma. RGVax’s protection covers all oncogenic HPVs and the added skin HPV protection positions RGVax as a childhood vaccine with superior uptakes.”

WeDidIt of Brooklyn helps nonprofits raise more money and reach new donors through online software. The company touts its software service as taking “the hassle out of online fundraising” and making “donor research simple and powerful. WeDidIt’s platform aggregates donor data so that nonprofits can automate their prospect research and launch highly targeted fundraising campaigns.”

“43North continues to attract world-class talent to Western New York’s growing startup community…bringing eight of the world’s best and brightest startups to our city,” said Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky.

We are eager to see how this year’s winners can build and further this success,” said Jeff Belt, Western New York Regional Economic Council Co-Chair.