Aspiring UCSB entrepreneurs will compete for cash prizes and merit May 26 as they present their creative business endeavors and technological inventions at the New Venture Competition finals.
From new methods of diagnosing cancer to energy-saving window tinting, five groups of creative innovators have been selected from 20 teams that have been enduring preliminary evaluation since January to compete at this year’s NVC. The teams, comprised of both graduate and undergraduate students, will have 10 minutes to pitch business plans to a panel of judges, who will award a $10,000 first place prize.
This year’s teams — Aware Biotechnologies, Calipgen, Emergency Medical Technologies, Tamarisc and VeriTint — are also competing for three $3,000 awards for best business plan, best presentation/pitch and best original idea.
The competition will be held in Corwin Pavilion on Friday from 4 to 6 p.m.
Bill Grant, program manager of UCSB’s Technology Management Program – which has hosted the competition for the past seven years – said students put into practice the learning tools they have gained through the TMP while competing in the NVC. He said the competition builds self-confidence, a necessity in the business world.
“What starts out as a launch pad for innovative ideas becomes an exploration of not only communicative technology but a tremendous experience in personal growth and confidence,” Grant said.
Leslie Edwards, program manager for the TMP, said this year’s competition was especially interesting due to the combination of teammates.
“This year, the product teams are half grad, half undergrad,” Edwards said. “They’re all on fire about their ideas; it’ll be interesting to see who wins.”
One of the five finalist groups, Aware Biotechnologies, developed a technology that it claims will make diagnosing specific cancers much more efficient. The concept for the project originally came from chemical engineering graduate student Kevin Boulware’s thesis project.
Boulware, who is participating in the competition, said his new product could help cut down on expensive cancer detection methods such as mammograms for breast cancer by studying types of abnormal proteins common in cancer.
Aware Biotechnologies team member Sejal Hall said the TMP is good experience and exposure for students interested in marketing their ideas.
“There are lots of investors here with big interests in the university,” Hall, a chemical engineering grad student, said. “Through TMP, we get exposure to those people.”
Calipgen, another competing group, claims to have found a way to make gene therapy safer and more effective through the use of a certain type of lipid. Materials graduate student Nathan Bouxsein, one of four members of the team, said he first helped create the technology in the lab of materials Professor Cyrus Safinya.
The specific lipid, called a dendritic cationic lipid, consists of a positively charged fatty compound with multiple branches. This lipid can be used in gene therapy to insert new genetic material into cells.
“Our technology’s advantage is that it forms a more stable complex, higher efficiency of transvection, and is less toxic,” Jerry Macala, Calipgen member and chemistry grad student, said.
Macala said the team is going to market their project as a test-tube product for research, but hopes to eventually earn money for creating a product that could be directly injected into the body.
Tamarisc Diagnostics, another team concerned with improving diagnostic methods, uses already-existing genetic markers to detect a wide arrange of diseases. Alon Raphael, a senior business economics alumnus who founded the company, said the team got its idea from a patent awarded to Professor Norbert Reich in the biological chemistry department.
Raphael said his team’s idea led to a new scanning device that Tamarisc hopes to market.
“Tamarisc Diagnostics has built an instrument that can diagnose anything from strep throat to colon cancer in real time and in the doctor’s office – starting with HPV, which is the cause of cervical cancer,” Raphael said.
According to Tamarisc’s business summary, their instrument quickly diagnoses a variety of diseases based on molecular data determined through a blood test. This method is much quicker than conventional methods, the summary said, because currently, samples must be sent to separate labs and results can take weeks to process.
In addition, lab diagnoses do not test for multiple diseases, whereas the Tamarisc scanning device can test for many diseases within a few minutes, the summary said.
Also interested in improving the medical field is the Emergency Medical Technologies team, consisting entirely of undergraduates. The group devised a new laryngoscope that has a built-in suction device.
EMT’s chief executive officer Eran Levy said EMT’s invention improves upon a respiration tube that is inserted into the trachea of an unconscious patient. Before paramedics or practitioners can insert the tube, they use a suction device called a laryngoscope that helps push the tongue down and remove fluid from the patient’s throat.
Levy, a fourth-year chemical engineering and business technology management major, said the current technology is a time-costly process that has to be repeated until the patient’s throat is clear, which is dangerous in life-and-death situations.
“This inefficient process can lead to brain damage or death if the process is not done quick enough,” Levy said.
Levy said the product his group developed is more efficient than current technology because paramedics can remove fluid from the throat as they insert the tube, which can reduce the time needed for a life-saving operation.
“The second that something’s in the way, you can press a button that sucks out the fluid,” Levy said. “As soon as the paramedics can see the vocal cords, they can insert the tube.”
Meanwhile, VeriTint Solutions developed a new window tinting technology that could lower the energy costs for commercial buildings. Chemical engineering graduate student Jaideep Raje and computer science graduate student Gayatri Swamynathan developed an electrochromic window tint film that can be adjusted to any degree of tint desired.
Raje said the tinting film can be applied to already installed windows, and is adjusted by applying electrical voltage.
“It uses a small voltage, like the regulation on a dimmer light switch,” Raje said. “You stop the degree of voltage there, and it’ll hold that degree of tint.”
Levy said the New Venture Competition and the TMP have been a great educational experience.
“People always tell you to do something that you want to do,” Levy said. “TMP has given that to me. It’s actually something I like to do. I think about it all the time – as I’m riding my bike or at home. It’s just nice to know that it wasn’t a myth.”