Zho Therapeutics Team Wins the 2013 KGI Business Plan Competition
Judges cite the team’s knowledge of the science behind tissue engineering and on-target financials
The Zho Therapeutics team came out on top of the 2013 KGI Business Plan Competition by carefully thinking through "the key elements of how to convert a next-generation medical technology into a viable business," according to Bob Curry, chair of the KGI Board of Trustees and a partner at Latterell Venture Partners.
Team members Rajesh Pareta, Hadi Mirmalek-San, Porus Shah and Shrina Shah developed a business plan for a proprietary all-in-one kit that delivers tissue-engineered small intestine to patients with Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS). Developed by Dr. Tracy Grikscheit, a pediatric surgeon and scientist with a laboratory focused on regenerative medicine and tissue engineering at The Saban Research Institute at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, the kit can result in an improved quality of life and substantial long-term savings for SBS sufferers with limited treatment options.
Making tissue-engineering commercially viable is an extremely challenging undertaking, according to PPM (Postdoctoral Professional Masters) student Hadi Mirmalek-Sani, who acted as Zho Therapeutics' CEO. However, the team's efforts were bolstered by the fact that both he and fellow team member Rajesh Pareta have extensive backgrounds in tissue engineering.
"Between us we have about 20 years of experience in the field," said Mirmalek-Sani, who earned his PhD at the University of Southampton in the U.K. and directed projects for the regeneration of abdominal organ tissues and patient islet transplantation as a postdoc at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Although the Zho team was lauded by the judges for their knowledge of the science behind their product, Mirmalek-Sani says he thinks solid financial analysis was one of the main reasons for the team's victory.
"Once we'd done some financial projections, we could see that it was really a viable commercial opportunity," said Mirmalek-Sani, adding that although there were only approximately 12,000 adults and children in the United States with SBS, one-third of those patients fail to respond to existing therapies at some point and as a result the tissue-engineering kit has lifelong implications.
He added, "Although Rajesh and I were very familiar with the science, there was still a lot of different technology that we hadn't been exposed to previously. Luckily, our team was a very good fit from day one. Because Porus is an MD he acted as our chief medical officer, and Shrina had taken a lot of the necessary financial courses at KGI so she acted as our chief financial officer. We were able to do a lot of work together analyzing risk, compiling regulatory data and creating sales forecasts and projections."
When it comes to calculations, Dr. Curry noted that the most common mistake among the teams was "seriously underestimating the amount of funding that would be required to reach the various milestones in the plans." However, he added, the "quality of the visual elements displayed during the oral portion of the presentations, as well as the level of polish and poise displayed by participants was at a high level throughout all of the teams."
The business plan competition is part of KGI's Applied Entrepreneurship (ALS 458) class. Taught by Drs. Joel West and Mark Brown, students in the course learn how to source and filter emerging technologies, conduct a thorough market analysis, prepare a credible business plan and, most importantly, persuade others to invest in their vision.