'Shark Tank' Competition for Medical Entrepreneurs

March 14, 2017    |  

To encourage entrepreneurial leadership among its medical students, the University of Maryland School of Medicine hosted a contest to give aspiring student entrepreneurs a chance to share product ideas, with winners receiving cash prizes and expert help. The four finalists competed before a panel of judges, including doctors, researchers, and investors, using a format similar to the popular television program Shark Tank.

The event, called the Lightbulb Moment Competition, took place Feb. 27 at the University of Maryland BioPark. Students, business leaders, and faculty from the School of Medicine were all in the audience. The keynote speaker was Alfred Berkeley, MBA, the former president of NASDAQ and chairman of Princeton Capital Management.

Prior to the event, the competitors went through pitch training with a volunteer from the Baltimore Angels, an angel investing firm based in Baltimore, as well as a staff member from the School of Medicine.

The winner of the competition was Nanobernetics, LLC, which has an idea for a device for monitoring molecular remission in Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. The founders won $500 and a three-month membership to Betamore, a nonprofit working to develop Baltimore into a global hub for entrepreneurship and education for the 21st century. Second place went to AgamiLife, Inc., which won $250, while EasyGene came in third, winning $100.

The four finalists were:

  • AgamiLife, Inc., a stem cell banking service for people undergoing tonsillectomies. Tonsils are discarded after being removed, but these students propose saving them as a way to harvest stem cells. The team included Ben Portney and Alex Meltzer (both PhD students in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology), and David Hurwitz, MBA, a medical school student (Class of 2019).
  • Nanobernetics, LLC: The team employs newly developed carbon nanotube technology that uses electrical current to very precisely detect levels of cancer cells. The team included Elizabeth Weingartner (PhD student in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology) and Camilo Vanegas (PhD student in Molecular Medicine), and Michael Lee, an MD/PhD candidate.
  • EasyGene, a new method for early detection of lung cancer. Now, lung cancer is typically not detected until much later. The team included Tyler Gable and Edward Cherok (PhD students in Molecular Medicine), and two medical school students, Wesley Chan (Class of 2019) and Azam Qureshi (Class of 2018).
  • IM-Print, a way to get immunization records by fingerprint. This is an app that will store immunization records by fingerprint. Now, doctors have a hard time getting these records; typically patients must get immunized again if there are no records. The team consisted of Albert Zhou, MD/PhD student, PhD in Epidemiology & Human Genetics.