By Liz Warren-Pederson
The Eller College is pleased to highlight Emre Toker, with his background in startups that help screen, diagnose, and treat breast cancer, during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
McGuire Entrepreneurship Program students are guided through the venture launch process by people who have been there, in the real world. The Program’s mentors-in-residence, including Jim Jindrick and Robert Morrison, offer the kind of insight and guidance that comes only from experience.
In spring, the Program welcomed a new mentor-in-residence, Emre Toker.
Toker came to the U.S. from his native Turkey to study physics at Reed College and electrical engineering at the California Institute of Technology. He came to the UA for grad school, where his thesis focused on digital mammography. “That was what changed my life,” he said.
He applied the insights from his thesis to found a biomedical technology company in Tucson, MedOptics, using no outside capital and relying instead on non-dilutive federal small business research grants to develop his new products. After that company was acquired by a Canadian company, he formed Bioptics Corporation and co-founded Radicon Imaging Corporation, based in Santa Clara, California. Each of the companies focused on an aspect of breast cancer screening, diagnosis, or treatment, and each was acquired by larger firms within six years of founding.
With three successful firms in his portfolio, Toker gave semi-retirement a try. “I knew Bob Morrison, and was always envious of his job at the McGuire Center.” When the Program started searching for a new mentor-in-residence, Toker jumped at the chance.
“I rush to get here in the morning,” he said. “I can’t wait to get to work. I love interacting with teams. I work with 50 students in 12 teams. They’ve just finished the venture formulation phase, and are now entering validation phase.”
Working full-time with students hasn’t dampened Toker’s enthusiasm to develop his own ventures. He’s collaborating with a UA pathology professor to start a new company, and is also helping to build a small children’s science museum in Turkey.
Toker is a member of the Desert Angels and Desert Tech, two Tucson-based angel investment groups; a member of Lab-X, an angel investment group based in Istanbul, Turkey; and a partner in Arch Partners, a local micro-seed fund.