Thursday, July 30, 2015

von Liebig I-Corps Program Expands and Continues At Full Speed

Each quarter, the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center’s I-Corps program continues at full speed, connecting students with the Center’s business and technology mentors and helping teams get ready to launch their products into the marketplace. During the 2014-2015 academic school year, the program had over 60 applicants express interest. 31 teams completed Phase I, offered in the Fall and Winter, and 25 teams completed Phase II, offered in the Winter and Spring. After graduating the von Liebig I-Corps program, two teams from the 2014-2015 cohort were accepted into the National I-Corps Program in Washington D.C., while others demonstrated their skills by competing in campus-wide, statewide and national competitions and taking home cash prizes and awards.

The Center is excited to see the I-Corps program expand and very proud of their teams and all that they have accomplished. The von Liebig I-Corps program is modeled after the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps program, with two phases for teams to develop their business models. To offer flexibility and more mentoring to their students, the Center allows the accepted teams to decide whether they want to continue onto Phase II after completing Phase I of the program.

The von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center gladly welcomes UC San Diego students, staff and alums to apply to participate as a Phase I team in its the I-Corps program in the fall and join our network of mentors and entrepreneurs. While the hard work does not end here, we know it won’t be long until this cohort’s projects and ideas hit the market. Until then, we’ll let you take a peek at what many of our teams have been working on.

The Cocoon Cam team and mentor
Dennis Abremski completed the National
I-Corps Program in Washington, D.C.
Wearless Tech Inc., Intraocular Pressure Sensor, AMDepot, HeatSeq, Meego, Wastelights, Gyroscopic Ocean Wave Energy Converter (GOWEC), PlasmaCaps, 3D Organ on a Chip, EMERES: Cyber System for Structural Health Monitoring, Data Intelligence, Enzyme Diagnostics, MuDetect, Pressure Sensitive Touchscreen, Open Topography, SciCrunch and FRET Biosensors became experts at developing business models and are well-equipped with customer insight, mentor advice and industry connections to aid them in their next steps forward. These teams have completed the both phases of the program for a combined sixteen weeks of instruction and mentoring.

Team members Pavan Kumar Pavagada Nagaraja, Sivakumar Nattamai and Rubi Sanchez founded Wearless Tech Inc,. a company that further developed their project Cocoon Cam: Wearless Smart Baby Monitor in the I-Corps program with mentor Dennis Abremski, VP of SoCal EED, Inc. Cocoon Cam is a wearless (non-contact), network-connected baby monitor designed for parents looking for a simple, secure way to monitor their newborns. The device uses machine vision to measure heart and respiratory rate and infrared sensors to detect skin temperature. After completing the von Liebig I-Corps Program, the team went on to complete the National I-Corps Program in Washington, D.C.

Oculux team took 2nd place at this year's Entrepreneur Challenge,
AMDepot (not pictured) took home 4th place.
Mechanical Engineering graduate students Alex Phan, Yung Seo and Ben Suen of the Oculux (formerly Intraocular Pressure Sensor) team developed a novel implantable pressure sensor that allows continuous monitoring and enables physicians to personalize treatment plans for patients and better preserve their vision. The team explained that glaucoma is an incurable eye disease that affects 60 million people worldwide, and the lack of frequent eye pressure measurement prevents successful treatments and increase in total blindness. Oculux took home second prize at Entrepreneur Challenge this year and was also recently accepted into the Fall 2016 Cohort of the National I-Corps Program.

Mechanical engineer Wangzhong Sheng and nanoengineer Viet Anh Nguyen Huu of AMDepot developed a drug delivery vehicle that releases therapeutic amounts through a single injection of a depot that is activated by biologically benign flashes of light. AMDepot’s method reduces the frequency of injections needed, as well as allows noninvasively controlled dosing. AMDepot explained that the estimated global healthcare cost for eye-related diseases is well over $250 billion and that one of the most severe diseases, the wet-form of age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD) affects 2 million Americans and can lead to severe and sudden loss of vision. The current treatment for AMD requires monthly or bi-monthly injections of drugs into the eye, which can lead to complications with each injection. AMDepot also took home fourth prize at this year's Entrepreneur Challenge.

HeatSeq team members Dustin Fraley and Stephanie Fraley developed an integrative technology that allows for rapid, automated, and highly accurate DNA profiling from a single precious clinical sample. “We are developing this technology for use in personalized medicine, where there is a need for more comprehensive molecular analysis of DNA for profiling diseases and drug efficiency,” wrote the team members.

Meego team members Delara Fadavi, Aditi Gupta, Ian McNair, Sammie Wang, Oscar Guerrero and Katya Grishna explain that stolen laptops, in the United States alone, account for $2.1 billion in losses annually and that most thefts occur in public places or during travel. The team aims to deter laptop theft through their small, mountable portable device that will sound an alarm when unanticipated motion is detected and notify owners via mobile alert if their Meego has been activated.

The Wastelights team took the hard reality that the world has an abundance of waste, but not enough electricity, and served up a solution. Team members Joyce Sunday and Nitya Timalsina developed their second prototype of a device that eliminates waste by converting it into electricity and biochar. Wastelights’ constructed prototype is able to reliably provide energy and eliminate waste without combustion at low cost and maintenance. During the program, Wastelights was able to generate transnational interest and conduct interviews from abroad.

Oscar Rios and Ardavan Amini of Gyroscopic Ocean Wave Energy Converter (GOWEC) address the need for clean and efficient power generation in a wide range of markets through the development of their wave energy converter that utilizes gyroscopic principles. The team explains: “the world currently uses approximately 15 trillion kWh of electricity per annum, representing just 0.02 percent of the energy contained throughout the world’s oceans.”

Graduate student Rajaram Narayanan and Prabhakar Bandaru, Ph.D. of the PlasmaCaps team designed a powerful energy technology that improves energy density capacitors. PlasmaCaps was accepted into the accelerated National I-Corps program in Washington D.C. and plans to continue improving their design. During the program, the team was mentored by Kai Wenk-Wolff, M.B.A., conducted customers interviews and incorporated feedback into their redesign.

The 3D Organ on a Chip team recognized that too many drugs pass cell based testing on to animal testing and that pharmaceutical companies spend $1-3 billion on each drug when bringing them to market. After conducting 23 customer interviews, team members Aereas Aung, Gaurav Agrawal, Ivneet Bhullar and Han Liang Lim identified a specific market niche and verified a need for their platform to reduce the time and cost of preclinical studies.

Structural Engineering Ph.D. candidate Hamed Ebrahimian presented EMERES: Cyber System for Structural Health Monitoring, his low cost system for rapid health monitoring and damage analysis of offshore platforms. Ebrahimian explained the need for their technology, noting that platform structures age, are expensive and often fail. His automated resident monitoring system would replace inspection process of platform structures, while its mechanic space model is trained to pinpoint damage, location and other detailed information that inspections cannot provide.

Siarhei Vishniakou, Cooper Levy and Conor Riley make up the Pressure Sensitive Touchscreen team who want to expand traditional touchscreens’ limited capabilities. “Most touchscreens can only detect location, and cannot sense how hard the user actually pressed” explained the team. Their product is a touchscreen that can determine the intensity of a user press for music, medical and gaming applications. During the program, the Pressure Sensitive Touchscreen team conducted over 20 customer interviews, saw a great fit in the market and found their biggest competitor.

Augusta Modestino, Ph.D. and Ph.D. candidate Elaine Skowronski make up the Enzyme Diagnostics team that hopes to fill the gap within in vitro diagnostics, so that data can translate from high-throughput volume labs to point of care systems. During their presentation, the team explained that diagnostics are the silent champion of healthcare and that there is a need for better result comparisons for in and out patients.

The Data Intelligence team from UC San Diego’s Math Department created a novel technique for data extraction, allowing users to merge databases and cross reference data for improved predictions. During the program, team members David Meyer, David Rideout, Asif Shakeel gained insight into how and where their product would fit best in the market.  

Matt Walsh and Aric Jonejah, Ph.D. of the MuDetect team created a simplified analysis system that only detects relevant mutations to reduce both cost and supply of clinics and labs. During the program, the team learned how to identify and target customer segments and define their value proposition.

OpenTopography team members Vishu Nandigam and Chris Crosby developed an improved high resolution dataset and software tool for processing data using a cloud hosted solution with web based software and an interactive map interface. Their workflow-based system provides a significantly more efficient solution for distribution and processing of massive datasets.

The SciCrunch wants to accelerate biomedical research by means of an open access “data ocean.” Team members Anita Bandrowski, Ph.D., Jeffrey Grethe, Ph.D., Maryann Martone, Ph.D. and Andrea de Souza, MBA want to develop a platform that makes data accessible easily findable, interoperable and reusable. Throughout the program, the team conducted customer interviews that helped them identify the market’s segments and customers and analyze its competitors.

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