The annual Business Plan Competition, organized by the UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge, is one of the largest events to celebrate and recognize the startup community on campus, with $100,000 in prizes. On May 20, the Life Sciences track featured pitches from four selected teams, resulting in a sweep of the awards by three startups with ties to the Rady School of Management.
Winning both first place and the audience award for a total of $31,000 in prizes was Clip Diagnostics (formerly ZymeKey), a team that offers whole blood coagulation testing that provides additive information to existing diagnostic and research assays for thrombosis and hemostasis conditions from a single drop of blood. Clip Diagnostics, an all-female team led by Elaine Skowronski (a NanoEngineering Ph.D. candidate) and Augusta Modestino, Ph.D., is a current team in the mystartupXX accelerator, a collaborative program of the Rady School of Management and the Jacobs School of Engineering that encourages diversity in startup teams with an emphasis on women in leadership positions.
“The impact that winning the E-Challenge will have in our company is huge, as it opens the doors to many other opportunities; other competitions, the possibility of getting in incubator spaces, it also gives us visibility, all very important in our aim to build Clip Diagnostics,” said Modestino. “It also brings a lot of motivation to our work both inside and outside the lab.”
“Being an all-female team, and winning the E-Challenge is particularly exciting,” said Skowronski. “We want to encourage other females to enter the STEM world, and push them to innovate, and venture into the startup community in technology and health science. We hope that we can continue to do great work and that it ultimately will help other women to venture into this world!”
Second place in the competition and prizes totaling $15,000 went to Locana, Inc., whose founders have used the DNA editing tool CRISPR to develop the only means to edit RNA utilizing the technology. The leadership team includes CEO Gene Yeo, Ph.D. (MBA ’08) and COO Richard Schneeberger, Ph.D. (MBA ’08). Finishing third in the competition with $6,000 in prizes was former StartR accelerator team Genrix, a company that has created tools to predict how patients will respond to drugs based on their DNA, led by CEO Andrew LeBlanc (MBA ’15).
“We are beyond thrilled with the success of the teams from the Rady School in the Entrepreneur Challenge,” says Lada Rasochova, Ph.D. (MBA ’08), Executive Director of the California Institute for Innovation and Development, under which the mystartupXX and StartR accelerators operate. “To have three teams in the finals is an accomplishment, but to have all three win prizes is amazing. It is particularly great to see the success of the teams that are out of our accelerator programs.”
The Innovations and Technology Track presentations of the Entrepreneur Challenge will take place Friday, May 27. Registration is available at https://echallengebpc2.eventbrite.com.
Karen Jensen is the Program Manager for the California Institute for Innovation and Development (CIID) at the Rady School of Management.