KGI’s 2013 Business Plan Competition Markets the Next-Generation of Life-Saving Medical Technologies
— including those used in diagnosis and treatment of cancer, heart disease, infertility and autism
Autism, infertility, heart disease and cancer screening are some of the most significant and widely talked about issues in health care and science-affecting millions of Americans every day. Students competing in KGI's 2013 Business Plan Competition on May 1 are developing business plans for early-stage ventures that represent significant advances in each of these areas, including a fetal micropacemaker to treat complete fetal heart block and a diagnostic kit for Fragile X syndrome-an autism spectrum disorder caused by mutation in the FMR1 gene.
"One on hand, complete fetal heart block is a rare disorder that affects a very small percentage of pregnancies, but it's also a condition for which there is no current standard of care. So, this technology has the potential to do enormous good," said Stephanie Sakamoto, MBS '13, who is part of the team creating a business plan for a self-contained, single-chambered pacemaker. The device increases the fetus's chances of survival by preventing hydrops fetalis (an accumulation of fluid, or edema, in at least two fetal compartments) and avoiding premature delivery.
Teams, comprised of PPM and Master of Bioscience (MBS) students, create a written business plan, make a 15-minute pitch and field questions from an evaluation panel of venture capitalists, pharmaceutical executives and local entrepreneurs. The emphasis is on real science, based on technologies developed at world-class research institutions, such as City of Hope, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Caltech and USC's Keck School of Medicine. The 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.
"Our goal is to get real investors interested in these ventures," Dr. West said. "In order to be successful, the teams have to understand the goals of the technology developer and be able to clearly define what gives their product the competitive edge."
For Joanna Asprer's FastFraX team, the goal is pretty clear. "There's a biomedical incubator in Singapore developing diagnostic kits for Fragile X syndrome," said Asperer, PPM '13. "Our plan initially targets diagnostic labs, and then medical specialists, to help create a demand for genetic testing on patients suspected of having Fragile X-associated diseases. We hope it will be a launching point into the U.S for them and will help define issues such as specific commercialization strategies and regulatory hurdles."
The product's advantages over its competitors are pretty clear, too, according to Asprer: "The kits that we're trying to commercialize will minimize processing time and achieve operational efficiency. In terms of diagnostics, they're a vast improve on what's currently on the market."
Other teams include one representing HistoMosaic from USC, a patent-pending technology that produces high-sensitivity and high-throughput genetic analysis of cancer biopsies. HistoMosaic's process allows for the high-resolution mapping of cancer drug-resistant mutations, which can help to determine more effective treatment regimens, resulting in better patient outcomes and a reduction in unnecessary costs.
The CardioCyte Scientific team is developing a business plan for a breakthrough procedure based on a patented process of growing human cardiac stem cells and transplanting them into the damaged areas of a patient's heart. Developed by Dr. Ian Phillips, the director of KGI's Center for Rare Disease Therapies, this novel procedure could be a game changer in the treatment of cardiovascular disease.
At the end of the competition, the evaluation panel will select a winning team based on criteria similar to that utilized by early-stage investors. The judges include Robert Curry, chair of KGI's Board of Trustees and a partner of Latterell Venture Partners, Stephen Eck of Astellas Pharma, George Golumbeski of Celgene Corporation, Paul Grant of RCT BioVentures and Liam Ratcliffe of New Leaf Venture Partners.
"It's a tremendous pleasure to be invited to judge the 2013 KGI Business Plan Competition," Dr. Eck said. "This competition places innovative technologies in the hands of bright students who can bring a fresh perspective to biotechnology. This is how revolutionary ideas take shape."
Some of the teams will go also compete in the 23rd Annual Henry R. Kravis Concept Plan Competition, which awards cash prizes to students and alumni of the Claremont Colleges who demonstrate real promise as entrepreneurs. And, although all of the student-participants may not go on to be entrepreneurs, they all agree that working on their business plans was an invaluable experience.
"I'm not particular interested in becoming an entrepreneur, because of the risks involved, but I can really appreciate the intelligence and ambition and persistence that entrepreneurs have when they're venturing out to make a new startup," said Hoang-Lan Tran, MBS’13, of the HistoMosaic team. "Anyone who wants to be involved in the life science industry can get a lot of value from this experience because you really have to draw upon everything you know from science and business to get a successful business plan."
The 2013 KGI Business Plan Competition is open both to the KGI community, as well as interested visitors. It will take place on Wednesday, May 1 from 3–7 p.m. in the Founders Room. Because space is limited, attendees are asked to register.