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UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering

Cancer Diagnostics Startup from UC San Diego Bioengineering Win Entrepreneurship Competition

San Diego, CA, June 2, 2009 -- A team of bioengineering graduate students from the Jacobs School of Engineering won first place at the UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge for the business plan they built around their new early cancer diagnostic technology. The bioengineering students have already formed a startup company, Biological Dynamics, and they are currently seeking funding from investors.

The winning team took home $15,000 in legal services and $27,000 in cash, which they plan to use to secure the intellectual property for their company.

2009 Entrepreneurship Challenge winners
Raj Krishnan holds the $40,000 check above his head after his team, Biological Dynamics, won first place in the UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge.
“We’ll use the winnings to pay patent fees, attorney fees, licensing fees. This money will help us get completely in the black. It’s beautiful,” said Raj Krishnan, the Jacobs School bioengineering graduate student leader of both the team and the company with the name Biological Dynamics.

“Once you secure the intellectual property, VCs look at you a lot more seriously. The money is going to be instrumental in helping us get investors,” said Krishnan.

The technology behind the winning business plan offers a better way to identify and separate secondary cancer biomarkers directly from blood, such as cell-free circulating high molecular weight DNA. For this research, Krishnan won the top prize at the 2009 Jacobs School Research Expo. Read more about the technology and Krishnan’s winning streak here.

 Along with Krishnan, the team includes two more bioengineering PhD students from UC San Diego, David Charlot and Roy Lefkowitz. Maya Agarwal, an MBA student from the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego is also on the team.

Krishnan says they could not have done it without guidance from Steve Flaim and Hal DeLong from UC San Diego’s von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement.

“Early on, Stephen Flaim and Hal DeLong from von Liebig showed us how to pitch our company to business people. Initially, we were way too heavy on the data,” said Krishnan. “The von Liebig Center also connected us with many potential investors,” said Krishnan.

Second Place went to Tritonics, a team that includes five UC San Diego bioengineering graduate students: Saleh Amirriazi, Jun Shin, Veronica Neiman, Katie Olson and Jayant Menon. 

Menon is also a neurosurgeon at the UC San Diego Medical Center. This was the first time in the competition’s short history that the UC San Diego Medical Center and Department of Surgery were represented.

“Tritonics is a great cross campus success that pulled together members of the school of engineering, the school of business, and surgeons from UCSD to create a team truly capable of solving serious healthcare problems,” Menon wrote in an email message to the Jacobs School.

Third Place went to RADIOFAST, which includes Mehmet Parlak, an electrical engineering graduate student at the Jacobs School. RADIOFAST took home $10,000 in legal services and $9,500 in cash, which they plan to use to secure more intellectual property for their company.

Earlier this year, RADIOFAST (draft website) won the UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge’s Winter Executive Summary Competition. RADIOFAST enables “superman vision” in mobile devices. Based on the technology and patent-pending semiconductor intellectual property recently developed at the Jacobs School of Engineering, RADIOFAST integrates proprietary terahertz-band silicon microchips into wireless high performance, low cost imaging sensors for next generation healthcare diagnostics and security applications.

Parlak and the rest of the RADIOFAST team worked extensively with the von Liebig Center’s executive director Rosibel Ochoa as well as von Liebig advisor Tim Rueth. In addition, Parlak took all four of the von Liebig graduate Entrepreneurial courses and obtained the von Liebig/UCSD Extension Certificate in Technology Business Creation.

Also on the RADIOFAST team is Michael Alston. He earned his electrical engineering Ph.D. from the Jacobs School in 1993 and is now a second year MBA student at the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego.

Xconomy and San Diego Metropolitan Magazine both wrote stories this week about the business plan competition.

UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge

The mission of the UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge is to foster community involvement and technological innovation by bringing multi-disciplinary teams of engineers, scientists, and business-minded students together with local area entrepreneurs and professionals.

According to this student-run organization, there are four primary goals of the competition:

  • Developing networks of people with technical, financial, marketing, and management backgrounds with the common interest in creating new enterprises
  • Fostering the generation of marketable ideas and their development into value generating enterprises
  • Encouraging awareness of cutting edge technology in the business community and awareness of business realities in the technological/scientific community
  • Ultimately securing the future health of San Diego’s economy by promoting development of new industries and enterprises

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