U of U Graduate Business Team Wins National Innovation Competition

There’s no spring break for three University of Utah graduate students who returned to campus today with the life sciences grand prize-$20,000 in cash and $20,000 of in-kind services-from the Carnegie Mellon McGinnis Venture Competition. The U of U team competed against 30 teams of graduate students from 24 colleges and universities over a 3-day period and dominated one of the nation’s premier new venture competitions.

Charity Williams, graduating in May with Jurist Doctorate; Sean Mills, graduating with an MBA and Justin Baker, a second year bioengineering Ph.D. candidate, make up the three-student team from the U of U’s Lassonde New Venture Development Center.

The Lassonde Center team won the competition for a business plan they developed called ElutInc, a start-up orthopedic device company that improves orthopedic surgeries and bone healing by creating implantable devices that can release (or elute) antibiotics and various drugs directly into a surgical site. The technology was developed by David Grainger, Ph.D. from the U of U’s Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. The technology will improve surgeries by reducing surgical site infections and promoting bone healing.

While other students in Utah are taking full advantage of being off-campus this week for spring break, Williams, Mills and Baker will be preparing for another, even more prestigious, competition. That’s because the grand prize the Lassonde Center team brings home also includes automatic qualification for the University of Texas at Austin’s Moot Corp, the nation’s premiere business plan competition, as well as the opportunity to pitch the business plan to a top-tier venture capitalist.

Led by director Troy D’Ambrosio, the Lassonde New Venture Development Center brings together students from the business, engineering and science schools at the University of Utah and provides them a unique educational experience by working on the commercialization of university-developed technologies. After selecting high value technologies, the student associates spend a year performing core market research, developing business strategies, preparing business plans and making commercialization recommendations to the inventor and the university. This year, there are 20 students participating in the program.

The University of Utah is perfectly positioned to support high-tech startup companies like this one. Since the establishment of the University of Utah’s Technology Venture Development office in 2005, more than 60 companies have been launched to commercialize technologies developed at the university. For the second year in a row, the U of U has ranked 2nd in the country, behind only MIT, at starting companies from its research.

“We are extremely proud of the team for winning this championship,” said Jack Brittain, vice president of technology venture development at the University of Utah. “The students in the Lassonde Center and our educational programs director, Troy D’Ambrosio, make priceless contributions to the commercialization of the university’s cutting-edge research.”

For more information about the Carnegie Mellon McGinnis Venture Competition, please visit: www.mcginnisventurecompetition.com.

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