2022 Tiger Entrepreneur Award winners lead dynamic Princeton spinouts

Written by
Wright Seneres
Oct. 10, 2022

Princeton Entrepreneurship Council is pleased to announce the winners of the 2022 Tiger Entrepreneur Award. For the last six years, the Tiger Entrepreneur Award has been given to celebrate the value of entrepreneurship across the Princeton community and to emphasize the University’s commitment to Entrepreneurship the Princeton Way. “We are excited to see the impact that these three companies will have on our world - each in a unique and important way. Each of them embodies Princeton’s informal motto 'in the service of humanity',” said PEC Executive Director Anne-Marie Maman '84.

The Tiger Entrepreneur Award will be presented at this year’s Celebrate Princeton Innovation reception on Thursday, October 13. The 2022 winners, in alphabetical order:

Mark Esposito *17

Esposito is co-founder and vice president of Kayothera, a startup developing small molecule immunotherapies to treat solid cancers. Kayothera is a spinout from the lab of Yibin Kang, Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton, with whom Esposito earned his Ph.D. and also was a postdoctoral researcher. Kang and Esposito co-founded Kayothera in 2019 with seed funding from the New Jersey Health Foundation. Earlier this year, Kayothera raised a $8 million Series A round, led by Accelerator Life Science Partners. In addition to his work at Kayothera, he is Director of Biology at Optimeos, another Princeton spinout, as well as Principal at Meagi, LLC, a biotechnology consulting firm. 

“Mark has met with a number of our other portfolio company founders and innovation grant recipients to share his experience and best practices for successfully developing an early-stage life science company and in this regard, we greatly appreciate his support and contributions to improving the overall life science entrepreneurial ecosystem here in New Jersey.” –George Heinrich, MD, Vice Chairman and CEO, Foundation Venture Capital Group


Princeton NuEnergy: Jerry Xiang ’20 *22, Chao Yan and Xiaofang Yang 

A spinout from the Princeton labs of Yiguang Ju, Robert Porter Patterson Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Bruce Koel, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Princeton NuEnergy is developing green technologies to recycle and upcycle cathode materials of lithium ion batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage. The PNE team has raised $7.5 million in government and private funding. They will be opening their new cathode recycling plant with a dedication ceremony in McKinney, Texas on October 25th.    

Chao Yan is a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton and Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Princeton NuEnergy. The team of Ju, Koel, Yan and Xiaofang Yang co-founded Princeton NuEnergy in 2019. Previously, Yan was a Senior Scientist at HiT Nano, another spinout by Prof. Ju. He earned his Ph.D. from New Jersey Institute of Technology. 

Xiaofang Yang is Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Princeton NuEnergy. He was a Principal Scientist at HiT Nano, and visiting researcher and associate research scholar at Princeton prior to the founding of Princeton NuEnergy. He earned his Ph.D. from Lehigh University.

Jerry Xiang is a Research Engineer and member of the founding team at Princeton NuEnergy. He earned both his undergraduate and master’s degrees in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton. 

“Since the creation of PNE in 2019, the core research team members (all from Princeton University) of Chao Yan (Founder), Xiaofang Yang (CTO) and Jerry Xiang (engineer) has led a very successful technology, product, market, and demonstration plant development.” –Yiguang Ju, Robert Porter Patterson Professor and Director of Sustainable Energy, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Sóliome: Denise Koller and Micah T. Nelp

Sóliome is a spinout from the lab of John T. Groves, Professor of Chemistry and Hugh Stott Taylor Chair of the Department of Chemistry. This biotech startup is developing sustainable ingredients for sunscreen-based products. 

Micah T. Nelp is CEO and co-founder of Sóliome, who founded the company in 2021 while a postdoctoral researcher in the Groves lab. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. Since launching last year, Nelp and Sóliome won first place in Princeton’s 16th annual Innovation Forum and the 2021 Princeton Entrepreneurs’ Network Startup Competition at the Princeton Reunions Tiger Entrepreneurs Conference. Sóliome also participated in the I-Corps Regional Program from the Northeast Region Hub led by Princeton and in SOSV’s IndieBio accelerator.

Denise Koller is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton and member of the founding team of Sóliome. She has a range of experience in the beauty and personal care industry, including serving as Art & Beauty Editor and Head of Beauty for Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine. She has master’s degrees from the University of Oxford and the Courtauld Institute of Art.  

“IndieBio’s standards for human and planetary health required Sóliome’s product lifecycle to be completely sustainable, and they are reaching that key goal. This is a team and product ready to pursue the rigorous approval process for sunscreens across the world.” –Po Bronson, Managing Director, IndieBio, and General Partner, SOSV


Tiger on 2022, Tiger Entrepreneur Award