February 6, 2023

Although more than half a dozen local manufacturers got shut out of the Kansas Manufacturing Council’s annual “Coolest Thing Made in Kansas” bracket competition, one Kansas City-area company may prove to have the “Coolest Innovation” yet.
Ronawk Inc., an Olathe-based life sciences startup, and three other Kansas manufacturers have advanced to the final round in the new category.
Founded by CEO A.J. Mellott and CTO Heather Decker, the three-and-a-half-year-old company built a biological platform that accelerates research for next-generation therapies by simplifying biological processes.
The Bio-Block platform, which now consists of E-Blocks, T-Blocks and X-Blocks, utilizes biomimicry to simplify the process of growing cells outside the body in a manner that more closely resembles how cells grow naturally in the body.
The technology includes different substrates that easily connect to one another like Legos and enable cells to grow in a 3D format thus eliminating the need for subculturing, which allows scientists to rapidly grow cells and focus more time on high-impact experiments.
Ronawk’s T-Blocks joins three other products competing for the new Coolest Innovation award. The others are:
According to a Friday release from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce’s affiliate program, the new category got 40 nominations, out of which a panel of judges selected the top four products.
During the final round on Oct. 12, the four companies will make in-person presentations about their innovations. The judges then will choose a winner based on how the product solves challenges as well as its impact on the business, employees and customers.
“The KMC added this new contest category to highlight the many ways Kansas manufacturers research and develop new products and work to improve products to address crucial challenges,” Brandie McPherson, executive director of the Kansas Manufacturing Council, said in the release. “We look forward to learning more about the final four products.”
The winner will be announced Oct. 13 during the Kansas Manufacturing Summit at the Kansas Star Casino and Event Center in Mulvane.
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