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WashU Patent Challenge awards $10,000 to Interdisciplinary Teams

April 6, 2017
WahsU Patent Challenge

This year, in partnership with the Office of Technology Management, the Skandalaris Center launched the WashU Patent Challenge, an opportunity for interdisciplinary student teams—each representing a minimum of three Washington University schools—to create a commercialization plan for a Washington University invention of their choosing. Students from each of the seven colleges at Washington University participated, and $10,000 in cash awards was given to the teams.

There were two phases to the competition:

Phase 1

In the Fall semester, we welcomed the community to watch the teams present complex WashU science in simple, easy-to-understand ways using rich media. After an audience vote, one team walked away with $1,000 cash at the end of the night.

Inventions ranging from cancer diagnostics to solar panels were explained using animation and video. The team who won the $1,000 prize worked on a patent titled, “Metamaterials with enhanced nonlinearity” by WashU principal investigators Jung-Tsung Shen and Daniel Ironside. The patent title is the perfect example of why Phase 1 of the WashU Patent Challenge was so important: this title means nothing to the average person. A simpler description of this patent, as provided by the winning team, is a “design of super materials, which can change light and do computation.”

Phase 2

The next phase wrapped up this Spring and required the teams to draft a commercialization plan for their chosen technologies, which they translated in Phase 1. This means that teams created viable business plans using the technology of the Washington University inventions.

Esteemed investors, entrepreneurs, and researchers were brought in as judges to watch the teams pitch their commercialization plans. They selected one 1st place winner to receive $2,500, and the remaining teams each received $1,500, plus one team won a $500 Audience Choice Award.

View the winning teams below:


1st Place — $2,500

1st Place goes to Team RestTest! Left to Right: James Sorrell (Venture Analyst at the Skandalaris Center), Ronnie Fowle-Grider, Fuad Naser, and Emre Toker (Managing Director at the Skandalaris Center)

A way to objectively detect sleepiness to improve quality of life and prevent accidents:

  • Fuad Naser, Arts & Sciences
  • Ronald Fowle-Grider, School of Medicine

Runner-Ups — $1,500 each

Team Marvelon: Phase 1 Audience Choice Winner and Phase 2 Runner Up

Marvelon (also Phase 1 Audience Choice Winner – $1,000)
A design for a nano-engineered supermaterial, also known as metamaterials, that can manipulate light and be used in computers for faster and more efficient processing of big data:

  • Nitish Bhat, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
  • Sonali Gupta, School of Law
  • Sri Harsha Kondapalli, School of Engineering & Applied Science
  • S Kumar Mallavarapu, Arts & Sciences
  • Darshit Mehta, School of Engineering & Applied Science

Team Incellab: Phase 2 Audience Choice Award Winner and Runner Up

Incellab (also Phase 2 Audience Choice Winner – $500)
Safely identifying and treating cancer using Y-shaped molecules known as antibodies:

  • Daniel de Cordoba, School of Engineering & Applied Science
  • Nick Kasperie, School of Engineering & Applied Science
  • Chad Littrell, Olin Business School
  • Anshul Signal, Olin Business School
  • Max Suiter, Olin Business School & Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts

Team Crypto Co.: Runner Up

Crypto Co
A vaccination against Cryptococcus for immunity-compromised patients:

  • Lucy Dai-He, Arts & Sciences
  • Jack Lin, School of Engineering & Applied Science
  • Daniel Tamasi, Olin Business School

Team Neurosteroid Anesthetic: Runner Up

Neurosteroid Anesthetic
By altering how nerve cells (aka, neurons) in the brain communicate, neurosteroids can treat brain diseases. For example, in epilepsy, they calm over-excited neurons:

  • Kathryn Achuck, Arts & Sciences
  • Chaso Antonacci, Arts & Sciences
  • Morgan Crena, Olin Business School
  • Keara Geckeler, Arts & Sciences
  • Yuan Tao, School of Law