A student-led concept that aims to increase sustainability in research laboratories won the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy’s (UMSOP) inaugural Pharmapreneur’s Market competition, an honor that includes a $100,000 investment from the school to turn the idea into a reality.
In the coming months, Meya Ngundam, PharmD ’23, will launch her idea to help laboratory researchers dispose of or move unneeded laboratory equipment. Ngundam’s company will find sustainable ways of handling electronic waste that could include resale, donation, or recycling.
Magaly Rodriguez de Bittner, PharmD, FAPhA, Felix Gyi Endowed Memorial Professor in Pharmapreneurship and associate dean for clinical services and practice transformation, has been Ngundam’s faculty advisor and mentored her in UMSOP’s Pharmapreneurship pathway. She said Ngundam did a great job in the competition in clearly conveying the extensive research, including customer discovery and budget projections, she has put into the idea.
“Meya presented a clear and compelling need — universities across the nation are struggling to recycle, donate, and dispose of laboratory equipment,” Rodriguez de Bittner said. “I couldn’t think of a better candidate for the school to invest with than Meya. Her integrity and professionalism are a great example of a student who represents the next generation of pharmapreneurs.”
The competition, held May 2, was created for Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) student pharmapreneurs to compete for the chance to turn their ideas into a business through funds in the newly created Natalie D. Eddington Pharmapreneurship Award for Health Care Innovation.
John Gregory, BSP ’76, a UMSOP Founding Pharmapreneur and alumnus, created the fund to honor Natalie D. Eddington, PhD, FAAPS, FCP, UMSOP’s former dean and a professor at the school, and support pharmapreneurship initiatives. Gregory also is the board chair and CEO of Gregory Pharmaceutical Holding, Inc., and he founded King Pharmaceuticals.
The $100,000 pitch competition fund is thought to be the largest of its kind at schools of pharmacy across the nation.
“This award is the culmination of the school’s pharmapreneurship dreams to take the best ideas from our students, bring them to market, and provide health care solutions to our patients and society,” Rodriguez de Bittner said. “We are the exclusive home of pharmapreneurship and are actively transforming health care and pharmacy practice.”
The competition was open to individual PharmD students or interprofessional/interdisciplinary teams led by a PharmD student. After an initial call for submissions, four finalist teams presented their ideas to a panel of judges.
In addition to Ngundam, the other finalists were:
- Cannadelic Medical Training, a training program for patients to help them understand the history and benefits of cannabis-based and psychedelic-assisted therapies, led by Sharonne Temple, fourth-year student pharmacist, and Kyleigh Cumming, first-year MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics (MCST) student
- PharMed Consultants, a network of medical cannabis professionals providing telehealth consulting services nationwide, led by Pushti Shah, fourth-year student pharmacist; Linfah McQueen, fourth-year student pharmacist; and Jessika Bartron, first-year MCST student
- PillTok, a mobile app aiming to improve medication adherence, led by Ogechuwu Ekejiuba, third-year student pharmacist
Gregory and three other distinguished pharmapreneurs and entrepreneurs with ties to the school provided their feedback after presentations and served as judges:
- Holly DeArmond, MBA, executive director of the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers at Rice University
- Jefferson Gregory, BSP ’79, JD, managing partner of Gracetree Investments, LLC
- Kun Yang, PharmD ’15, CEO and co-founder of Pricklee Cactus Water
Ngundam’s startup idea blends her experience from pharmacy school and four years of experience working in research labs. She will first focus on universities in the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore area. Between the two metropolitan areas, Ngundam estimates there are around 200 academic departments engaging in scientific research that could be potential customers.
“It means so much to me to be the first winner of the Natalie D. Eddington Pharmapreneurship Award for Health Care Innovation,” Ngundam said. “It was a beautiful experience to have the school believe in me and invest in my idea. The Pharmapreneurship pathway and faculty empowered me to do this, and I’m happy to have this support system around me. Within the next year, I hope to launch my idea at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and I’d like the faculty here at the School of Pharmacy to be my first customers.”