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Monday, Nov 28, 2022
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STARTUPS & INNOVATIONS

LAUNCH

Cheferbly, an Irvine-based private dining reservation platform, has kicked off its booking services in Orange County.

The web-based platform aims to “democratize and demystify” private dining experiences and spotlight private chefs and caterers, according to company officials. Much like how users can make restaurant reservations on OpenTable Inc. and Tock Inc., Cheferbly users will be able to create dining experiences and attend local pop-ups organized by private chefs. Cheferbly, which currently counts 18 chefs, is in the process of vetting more caterers to add to its platform, which can be found at cheferbly.com.

The company was founded this year by Orange County native Kevin Kim. Kim also works as a real estate agent at Keller Williams Realty Inc. in Newport Beach. He previously founded Ms. Hungry LLC, another Irvine-based private chef marketplace as well as computer programming company Touch Media Enterprises. Kim also served as a financial manager in the U.S. Air Force.

Laguna Beach Spirits Co., a Laguna Beach-based beverage maker, has debuted its first product, Two Shores Gin, after it earned a gold medal in the 2022 San Diego Spirits Festival.

The company’s CEO, Laguna Beach resident Eileen Keighley, collaborated with an unnamed 12th generation distiller in London to create the small-batch gin that blends 14 different botanicals that were grown and harvested in California. Two Shores Gin pays homage to Keighley’s father, who made gin from the fruit and botanicals she foraged as a child near the coastline in Edinburgh, Scotland.

“After decades of passion, followed by years of research and development, I’m proud to introduce a gin that embodies the beautiful bounty of California, the rich tradition of London and the memories of my father,” Keighley said in a statement.

The company plans to build a portfolio of botanical-based beverages that will include gins, ready-to-drink cocktails and non-alcoholic mixers.

Keighley founded Laguna Beach Spirits in 2020. She’s also a director of development and associate producer at production studio Cake Plate Productions in Laguna Beach and a digital marketing manager for holistic health clinic OC Whole Family Wellness.

Keighley previously co-owned European rain barrel importer Cool Water Barrels. She has also held account director marketing roles at sales promotion company Claydon Heeley International and branding agency Billington Cartmell.

Elevai Labs Inc., a Newport Beach regenerative skincare company, unveiled its proprietary Elevai Exosome technology, which aims to restore damaged skin using stem cells, at the Global Aesthetics Conference this month in Miami.

Exosomes are microbiological structures generated by cells that contain proteins and acids. Elevai Exosomes are currently patent-pending, according to company officials. They are the “powerhouse ingredient in all Elevai products, mimicking the elegant repair processes of nature and paired with a selection of high-quality science-backed actives to provide regenerative skin health for any type,” the company said.

“By employing ethically sourced stem cells, Elevai can harness the power of Human Umbilical Mesencymal Stem Cells, and in proprietary conditions, capture the released exosomes and carefully filter the concentrate to produce ELEVAI exosomes,” CEO Jordan Plews, Ph.D., said in a statement.

Elevai, founded in 2020, has raised over $1 million in funding to date. Plews, the company’s co-founder, did post-doctoral research at Stanford University on stem cells and regenerative medicine. He previously served as chief science officer at Chico-based biotech aesthetic company FactorFive Skincare.

MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS

Laboratory Services MSO LLC, a Costa Mesa diagnostics firm, plans to sell a 60% stake of its business to Avalon GloboCare Corp. (Nasdaq: ALBT), a Freehold, N.J.-based developer of cell-based technologies, for $31 million in cash and stock.

The transaction will be complete by next month, company officials project. Following the acquisition announcement, Avalon changed its ticker symbol from “AVCO” to “ALBT” to “reflect [its] expanded focus on lab testing and services,” the company said. Shares in Avalon were about 50 cents apiece, giving it a market cap of around $50 million when the deal was announced.

“Laboratory Services has an impressive history of growth and is an established leader within the highly fragmented market for lab testing and services,” CEO David Jin said in a statement.

Laboratory Services CEO Sarah Cox will assume the role of COO at Avalon and join the company’s board of directors.

“We believe that the combination of our established infrastructure with Avalon’s resources, as well as cutting edge diagnostic and immune-therapy platform, is expected to establish Avalon as a formidable force in this rapidly growing industry,” Cox said in a statement.

Laboratory Services, founded last year, provides drug screening, genetic, urinary and STD testing services, among others. The company has performed over 450,000 tests and last year reported earning over $25 million in revenue.

PARTNERSHIPS

Immerse Inc., an Irvine VR edtech firm, is teaming up with Westin Hotels & Resorts to create a virtual rendition of the Westin Seattle in the Meta Platforms Inc. (Nasdaq: META) metaverse.

The partnership will create the first-ever hotel in Meta’s VR world. Westin Hotels & Resorts is owned by Marriott International Inc. (Nasdaq: MAR).

Immerse partnered with Meta earlier this year to launch the first educational VR world on Meta’s app store. Membership for the VR world, which is subscription-based, costs $44.99 per month.

Immerse, launched in 2017 at UCI’s Wayfinder incubator, has raised a total of $11.5 million. The company’s CEO, Quinn Taber, previously worked as an investment analyst at the philanthropy-focused Middle East Foundation. Taber also founded Praxis, a business and nonprofit accelerator.

NKGen Biotech Inc., a Santa Ana biotech company developing natural cell therapies to strengthen the immune system, is collaborating with nonprofit Parkinson’s Foundation to accelerate NKGen’s clinical program for cell therapy, SNK01, designed to treat advanced Parkinson’s disease.

“Recent research has shown that NK cells can help remove alpha-synuclein proteins, reduce autoreactive T cell generated inflammation and remove damaged neurons,” NKGen Biotech Vice Chairman Paul Song said in a statement. “We believe our non-genetically modified, enhanced and expanded NK cells (SNK01) can provide an entirely new therapeutic approach to Parkinson’s disease which currently lacks effective disease modifying modalities.”

Company officials expect SNK01 for Parkinson’s disease will be available in clinics next year.

NKGen Biotech has raised $11 million in funding to date. The company, a subsidiary of Korean biotech company NKMAX Co., was founded in 2019 by Sangwoo Park. Park founded NKMAX, which is traded overseas and valued at $226 million, three years ago. He previously worked as a financial analyst at wealth management Samsung Securities Co.

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