June 19, 2007

Maker of sour power cherry drink developed with Cornell food scientists gets $2.3 million in venture funding

CherryPharm Inc., a start-up company that sells an all-natural, tart cherry sports drink developed in conjunction with Cornell food scientists, has received $2.3 million from the Cayuga Venture Fund (CVF). With this investment, CherryPharm will expand its marketing, distribution and manufacturing capacity at its juice-processing facility in Cornell's Agriculture and Food Technology Park in Geneva, N.Y.

The shelf-stable drink retains what are believed to be the pain-prevention and muscle-damage recovery powers of sour cherries.

The CVF, which is based in Ithaca, N.Y., focuses on investing in companies commercializing technology developed at Cornell. Cornell, the land-grant university of New York, is a significant investor in CVF.

"We're pleased with the addition of CVF as a strategic partner due to their strong ties to upstate New York in general and Cornell University in particular," said John Davey, CherryPharm's founder. "This investment is an opportunity to take the company to the next level."

Added Zach Shulman, managing partner of CVF, and the J. Thomas Clark Senior Lecturer of Entrepreneurship at Cornell's Johnson School: "In investing in CherryPharm, we're continuing to promote the commercialization of Cornell technologies for regional economic development."

In 2005 and 2006, CherryPharm worked extensively with Cornell food scientist Olga Padilla-Zakour to develop a shelf-stable drink that retains the anti-inflammatory, muscle-damage recovery powers of tart cherries, while maintaining its quality and taste. Padilla-Zakour, who directs the Food Venture Center (FVC) at Cornell's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, assists small companies in developing and testing new food products and meeting state food safety compliance regulations. Currently, she and other food scientists at Cornell are working with CherryPharm to identify new product applications.

"Working with CherryPharm has given us the opportunity to apply Cornell research to the development and marketing of healthful products," said Padilla-Zakour. "CherryPharm's proximity to our Geneva campus facilitates the evaluation and implementation of food science technologies and initiatives."

In 2006, CherryPharm hired a former Cornell graduate student in food science as director of product development and, with the CVF investment, plans to add several more employees. CherryPharm further promotes economic development in upstate New York by buying Montmorency cherries from Pro-Fac Cooperative Inc., a grower-cooperative located in Rochester.

CherryPharm's initial product offering is a fresh, not-from-concentrate juice available in 8-oz. bottles that has been developed in collaboration with leading academic and research institutions to retain maximum health benefits. The New York Rangers professional hockey team consumes the product. Further research with other professional athletes is ongoing.

The restorative properties of tart cherries are thought to be the result of phytonutrients and anti-oxidants like anthocyanin, melatonin and quercetin.

Jennifer Drumluk is director of corporate relations and business partnerships in Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.