Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Medical Technologies dominate Entrepreneur Challenge

The pitches included technologies to cure cancer, brain computer interfaces for patients without speech, an automated portfolio management system, sensor assisted orthopedic surgery, garbage compactors, and an enhanced dental implant. More than 300 students, faculty, investors, professionals and entrepreneurs were in attendance as an esteemed panel of judges representing San Diego’s business and technology communities decided who would take home $100K in funding and advisory services in the 6th annual University of California, San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge.

In the end, medical technologies ruled the day.  Kenan Azam, CEO for the Entrepreneur Challenge and a programmer/analyst in the Jacobs School’s Department of Bioengineering, described 2012 as a record year in both number and quality of submissions, which he believes is an indication of growth in San Diego’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The quality of the participating teams forced planners to expand the number of finalists from five to seven. Teams connected to the Jacobs School took the top two spots.

Nasseo, the first prize winner, with the Entrepreneur Challenge team and judges. Photo courtesy: UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge.

First prize, with $57,000 in cash and services went to Nasseo, Inc., a medical device startup that has developed novel technologies to treat dental/orthopedic implant failures.  The technology was primarily developed in the lab of Sungho Jin, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Nasseo is led by Garrett Cale Smith (Co-Founder, CEO), a PhD Candidate in Bioengineering at the Jacobs School.

Second prize with $28,000 in cash and services went to SONRGY, which is aiming to be a leader in localized drug delivery directed to cancer tumors.  SONRGY’s focused ultrasound enabled proprietary nanocarriers improve the effectiveness of cancer therapy by reducing administered dose and toxic side effects through exquisite 3D spatial selectivity.  SONRGY is led by a seasoned team of technology leaders, entrepreneurs, and marketing experts including co-inventors Michael Benchimol and professor Sadik Esener from the NanoEngineering Department and the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.

In its six years of existence, the Entrepreneur Challenge has raised and awarded over $500,000 in prizes to enterprising students and researchers.  Many of these start-ups have continued to grow and have raised significant venture funding.  Challenge VP Rajesh Grover, a scientist at The Scripps Research Institute, and COO Helen Saad, a PhD candidate in bioengineering, honored six San Diego based start-ups that started out by winning the Entrepreneur Challenge. These companies are: NeuroVigil, Biological Dynamics, Cognionics, Cypher Genomics, Lumedyne Technologies and The Nicholas Conor Cancer Institute.
You can read more about the Entrepreneur Challenge and the winning teams here.

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