4 13 16 Business Plan Competition NewsStory

KGI Students Shine at Annual Business Plan Competition

KGI held its 13th annual Business Plan Competition on Wednesday, April 27. The competition, which was part of a semester-long group project for the Applied Entrepreneurship (ALS 458) class, was led by KGI faculty members Dr. Jim Sterling and Dr. Joel West. The course was inaugurated in fall 2003 by KGI founding Dean David Galas, PhD, and KGI Chairman of the Board of Trustees Robert E. Curry, PhD.

The ALS 458 course provides students with hands-on experience in planning a new life science business and reflects the key KGI values of preparing students to be entrepreneurial, interdisciplinary, and applied.

Describing the class and what students gain from it, Dr. Sterling said: “This course is representative of the broad curriculum these students experience at KGI. The students learn to integrate the science, business, and regulatory affairs components relevant to the venture and to design it to succeed in the current commercial life sciences environment.”

This year, the class included eight student teams of Master of Bioscience (MBS) and Postdoctoral Professional Master’s (PPM) students. Each team was matched to a specific patented or patent-pending life science technology seeking external commercialization. The course builds upon KGI’s strong relationships with local technology transfer offices, particularly through the Introduction to Market Assessment (ALS 359) course taught by Dean Steven Casper, PhD.

For the competition, each team was required to develop a complete business plan to commercialize the sponsor’s IP. These plans include industry sizing, competitive analysis, sales forecasts, development plan, and financial projections. To prepare the company for early-stage investors, each team prepared an estimate of the company’s capital requirements, valuation, and exit valuation.

The teams were judged by an external panel of veteran life science executives that included:

  • Marc L. Berger, vice president, Pfizer
  • Robert Curry, venture partner, Latterell Ventures Partners and chairman of KGI’s Board of Trustees
  • Stephen Eck, vice president, Astellas Global Pharma Development
  • Bruce McCarthy, former CEO of Afferent Pharmaceuticals
  • Liam Ratcliffe, managing partner, New Leaf Venture Partners
  • James Widergren, CEO, Orgentec 
  • William Wiesmann, CEO, Synedgen

Commenting on the high-caliber panel, Dr. West said, “The students benefitted from an unprecedented degree of expertise on our judging panel,” noting that it includes one current and three former vice presidents of Pfizer, the largest US pharmaceutical company. “At the same time, the returning judges said this was the best group of business plans they had ever seen.”

After their presentation, each team was grilled by the judging panel. This proved to be a rigorous test of each group’s ability to address questions from industry experts, as they would in a real-world situation.

Once the presentations concluded, the panel scored each team and announced the winners at a post-event reception.

The first-place team prepared a business plan for SeqOnce Biosciences and their product to speed sample preparation for DNA sequencing. The team consisted of four MBS students-Divya Gangrade, Kambiz Pashneh-Tala Yazdi, Regie Felix, Shruti Agarwal-along with Mihali Pandya of KGI’s one-year PPM program.

Agarwal said: “The Business Plan Competition was a great experience. My team and I worked really well together and learned a lot about developing a useful and relevant business plan. I am very happy that we won the competition because we truly did take this project seriously and put a lot of time and energy into our plan.”

The second-place team also included four graduating MBS students-Anu Arora, Dipika Gurnani, Rafael Ollervides, Rafael Akshat Porwal-and PPM student, Kevin Keller. The team developed a plan to commercialize technology developed by KGI Professor Angelika Niemz, PhD, to develop an inexpensive handheld instrument to test for infectious diseases (such as tuberculosis or dengue fever) in developing countries.

Keller, who joins Promidian Consulting as an analyst in May offered his thoughts on the competition: “I never thought that I would be able to present in front of such a prestigious panel so early in my career. When I look back at KGI, I will remember the business plan competition as one of the defining moments of my time here.”