Success Story

Four Penn Startups Make The Philadelphia Business Journal’s PHL Inno List of 2024 Startups to Watch 

Philadelphia Business Journal released their PHL Inno 2024 Startups to Watch list, which recognized emerging companies that they believe are poised to make the greatest impact in the coming months. Four Penn startups made the list: 


Founded by a trio of Penn Engineering alumni, Baleena is developing a device that traps microfibers and microplastics shed in laundry machines, with the goal of reducing microplastic pollution protecting oceans and waterways. 

In 2023, the company received $100,000 by winning the Penn President’s Sustainability Prize. Baleena also raised about $500,000 in pre-seed money from gener8tor, the 776 Fellowship Foundation, and Samsung’s Climate & Circularity Tech Challenge. 

In 2024, Baleena plans to use the funding to further develop its patent-pending product and secure letters of intent from distribution partners in Philadelphia and Seattle. The company’s founders are also working on pilot opportunities with commercial partners.

BlueWhale Bio 

BlueWhale Bio, which came out of stealth mode in September 2023 with $18 million in funding, is founded by immunotherapy pioneers Carl June, MD, Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy and winner of the 2024 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, and James Riley, PhD, Professor of Microbiology. The company has a technology platform designed to make the cell and gene therapy manufacturing process faster and more cost efficient, thus improving access opportunities for patients.

BlueWhale is currently hiring scientists and process development technicians, and Penn has granted the company an option to enter into a licensing agreement for rights to certain intellectual property owned by the university. 


Founded in 2020, Treeswift uses drones and robotics to capture extensive data on forests quickly and effectively. It can detect different species of trees, gauge the health of trees, measure tree size and timber quality, and gather inventories of carbon emissions in forests.

Treeswift’s services are used in areas like carbon volume measurements, timber value appraisal, deforestation monitoring and wildfire mitigation, providing detailed insights more efficiently compared to manual methods. 

The company raised $17.2 million in funding, most recently securing $10.8 million in September 2023, and plans to use the funds to further develop and optimize their products.


Verismo Therapeutics is focused on immunotherapy candidates that target a variety of cancers and has developed what it calls a novel KIR-CAR platform technology. Compared to traditional CAR-T therapy, which involved the genetic modification of cells outside of the body, Verismo’s KIR-CAR platform makes the alterations in vivo, and is being used to create the first “multi-chain” CAR therapies capable of maintaining the T-cell activity even in harsh solid tumor environments and destroying tumors from the inside until they disappear. The KIR-CAR platform has been proven to kill solid tumor models in in vivo studies.

In June 2023, Verismo raised a second pre-Series A round of $17 million to cont, bringing its total capital funding to some $50 million just three years after launching. 

Additionally, Verismo received fast track designation last spring from the Food and Drug Administration for SynKIR-110, its experimental therapy targeted at individuals with advanced ovarian cancer, mesothelioma and cholangiocarcinoma, and dosed its first patient with it in September 2023. 

Read the full Philadelphia business journal article and see the full list of startups here.

Skip to content