Entrepreneur of the Week - Crystal Icenhour

Pictured above: (from the left) Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, Steve Case, Crystal Icenhour, and Secretary of Technology Jim Duffey

In 2006, Crystal Icenhour, Ph.D., became President and Director of Research for Phthisis Diagnostics, located in Charlottesville, VA. Phthisis is a rapidly growing research and development company focused on development of easy-to-use molecular diagnostics for various infectious diseases. She is also an adjunct assistant professor at Duke University Medical Center’s Division of Infectious Diseases in their Department of Medicine.

Since her undergraduate student days and throughout her career, she has demonstrated leadership and business skills in addition to her scientific capabilities and has expressed a goal of “bridging the translational gap between these two worlds.”

While a postdoctoral fellow at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, she was the first to identify and characterize Pneumocystis melanins. She has authored seven patents, has authored and co-authored 13 research articles and theses, and has been a prolific speaker and presenter at scientific conferences. She has served on review panels for National Science Foundation and Environmental Protection Agency Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants.

Dr. Icenhour currently serves on the board of Virginia BIO. She is a member of the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council, Sigma Xi, Medical Mycology Society of the Americas, National Postdoctoral Association, and the American Society for Microbiology.

Following her undergraduate degree from the University of Tulsa Department of Biological Sciences, Dr. Icenhour received her doctoral degree from the University of Cincinnati Medical School of Graduate Studies in Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine. She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Thoracic Diseases Research Unit at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and was a senior postdoctoral fellow at Duke University Medical Center’s Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology.

CIT: Tell us about your current venture.
Crystal: Phthisis Diagnostics is a molecular diagnostic company focused on improving human health through faster, easier, and more accurate diagnostics. Phthisis is currently focused on infectious diseases of public health importance, including intestinal parasites. Phthisis has been awarded numerous grants through NIH and the State of Virginia and has closed two investment rounds to date. Phthisis’ first diagnostic will begin clinical studies in March 2013, with other diagnostics under development.

CIT: What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur?
Crystal: Listen to those who have traveled your path, but be selective as to what advice to act upon. There are a great number of people who will want to help, but not all advice is good advice!

CIT: What events/meetup groups are essential for startups?
Crystal: In Charlottesville, the essential event is Virginia BIO’s Biotech & Beer. Don’t miss the Virginia BIO 20th Anniversary Gala this May either!!

CIT: How important is collaboration and knowledge sharing to you?
Crystal: Collaboration is essential to success. No company can be successful without healthy and active collaborations with other groups.

CIT: What makes Charlottesville’s tech/Bio scene unique?
Crystal: Charlottesville has a very high number of biotech companies per capita – 35 at last count. And being a small community, it is possible to find lots of interesting connections to technology and capital.


Contact Information
Crystal Icenhour, Ph.D.
President & CEO, Phthisis Diagnostics