Entrepreneurial Biotechnology Students Present Their Semester-Long Project

On March 1st, 2017, two groups of MS biotechnology students currently enrolled in Entrepreneurial Biotechnology presented their semester-long project to peers and faculty.

The assignment was to create a biotechnology company based on current innovative research, an abandoned patent, or an original idea of their own.

In preparation for the company presentations, each group drafted a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant- one of the main sources of funding offered by the National Institutes of Health.

The first group to present, Monika Mahajani, Nikolas Kinney, Brent Knoblauch, and Rua’a Alsaigh, detailed their company Bactrosine, which is based on an innovative way to produce Carnosine via bacterial expression. Carnosine is a common active ingredient in many anti-aging serums, dietary supplements, and eye drops.

Team leader Brent Knoblauch remarked, “The opportunity to pitch a start-up idea to a group of your peers is nerving racking, yet thrilling at the same time. It has been a great lesson in what investors are truly looking for in a biotech startup, and how to shape your business pitch to maximize your chances for success. Ultimately it was a fun, hands-on lesson in biotech entrepreneurship.”

The second group made up of students Emily Winters, Raul Vaknalli, and Hantao Huang, presented on NucletiX: a startup that licensed an electricity-free early HIV diagnostic molecular device, which shortens HIV diagnostic time from 35 days post-infection to 10 days. NucletiX is based on a real patent held by The University of Pennsylvania.

“The process of developing a company that is both unique and feasible was rewarding and challenging. After this experience I feel more equipped to accurately assess a product’s potential and create a company that has a competitive advantage,” said team leader Emily Winters.

Both teams presented their companies’ cooperate structure, market research, financial statements, intellectual property, commercialization plan, and ultimate exit strategy. They then faced a panel of analysts for questioning.

The remaining 16 groups are set to present throughout the rest of the semester.

Many students appreciate the opportunity to experience the aspects of founding, growing, and pitching their own biotech companies, and at least one current student intends to develop his group’s project into a real company.

This assignment helps foster an entrepreneurial spirit, which is at the heart of blending science and business.

Note: More presentations will be given on Tuesdays and Wednesday (4/19/17) from 1:00 – 3:30 pm, in the New Research auditorium.

Written by Elaine Shults (Biotech Class of 2017)