Students from the University of Arkansas have invented a robotic process and container that will decrease the 60,000 yearly incorrect cancer diagnoses due to human error in pathology labs. Their business plan for BioBotic Solutions won the Grand Prize of $25,000 in TCU’s Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures® Business Plan Competition presented by the Neeley School of Business at TCU earlier this month.
Students from 27 universities across the U.S. and five other countries came to campus to present plans that demonstrate a societal or environmental need to be filled, as well as the profitability of the business.
The winning plan, BioBotic Solutions, is made up of two components: PathOne, a three-foot system of a conveyor belt, labeler, robotic arm and high-definition camera, and a patent-pending BioBox, a container with a biopsy bag inside.
Rachel Zweig, mathematics and chemistry major at the University of Arkansas, said the idea for BioBotic Solutions began when she met Dr. Shree Sharma, a medical researcher and pathologist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, who invented their solution after seeing problems caused by the manual tissue sampling process in pathology labs.
“Every time we pitch this I believe it more and more,” Michael Iseman, finance major, said of the concept that will decrease pathology lab errors from 1 percent to .005 percent. “I think that is why we do so well; we believe in this product. We’ve spoken with pathology recruiters about hiring a CEO, and we’re looking for someone with experience in fundraising and pathology. With the money [from the award] and the time we’ve spent here, I could not be more excited about the future.”
Aundria Eoff, biomedical engineering major, led the team that developed the BioBox prototype, but she said the preparation to come to the Values and Ventures® competition was “nerve-wracking. Our own judges gave us feedback, and we worked with our mentor, Jan (Norton). Then we got here and practiced, and encouraged each other, and ended up with this amazing final product.”
Second place and $15,000 went to Appalachian State University for MagnaGrips™ therapeutic, magnetized gloves, a simple, cost-effective way to help children with fine motor dysfunction.
Third place and $10,000 went to the University of Houston team for Energetik, a patent-pending solar battery that is stronger, lasts longer and is more environmentally friendly than current products. Energetik has already received funding from the Department of Energy for research development. University of Houston also won the $5,000 Quicksilver Resources Energy Independence special award.
Four Honorable Mentions of $2,500 each went to teams from Texas Christian University for The Chef Shelf, a website that sells products from local chefs while building awareness of hunger in their communities; Samford University for Work of Worth, recycling silk from saris to provide jobs for women in India to combat prostitution; George Washington University for KOTI, affordable, solar-powered temporary housing for disaster victims; and Monterrey Tech (Mexico) for Sentia gourmet water that subsidizes water purifiers to communities without potable water.
A special Founders Award of $5,000 went to the University of North Texas for VitAlgorithms, with a product called CADct, which pinpoints circulatory problems in very early stages more efficiently and quickly using existing CT scans.
All 27 teams also could designate one member to participate in an elevator pitch competition. The first place winner of $1,000 in the Elevator Pitch Competition went to the University of Strathclyde (Scotland) for Cyclops, a smartphone app that improves the safety of cyclists. Second place of $500 went to Ball State University for Fry Farms Beef Cattle Operation, raising livestock free of antibiotics, steroids and other unnatural growth substances. Third place and $250 went to SMU for BioLum, a low-cost diagnostic technology to detect asthma in young children.
Values and Ventures® Director Ann McDonald said that more than 50 business leaders served as judges and mentors, including business owners, CEOs, financiers, bankers and attorneys, to provide a solid base of knowledge about the viability of startup businesses.
The annual Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures® Business Plan Competition, held at TCU, encourages undergraduate business students to create for-profit ventures that have strong business viability, meaning for the organization, and/or significantly improve quality of life. The TCU competition was founded in 2010 with a generous commitment and endowment from successful Dallas business partners Nancy Tartaglino Richards and Lisa Barrentine of First Preston HT, who are known for their entrepreneurial success and philanthropy.
For the list of 2014 judges, sponsors, teams, rules, photos and more for the Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures® Business Plan Competition, visit www.neeley.tcu.edu/vandv.