On June 11, 2019, at the Eric P. Newman Education Center (EPNEC) at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the Skandalaris Center hosted the spring 2019 finals for the Leadership and Entrepreneurial Acceleration Program (LEAP). Twenty-two teams presented their ideas to a panel of judges for an opportunity to win funding to help progress their inventions towards commercialization.
The teams were divided into four distinct tracks defined by tech and risk profile – Cancer/ Other Therapeutics, Metabolism-related Therapeutics & Tools, Engineering & Low Reg Innovations, and Medical Devices: Imaging & Invasive. Each track had a distinct panel of judges representing both the business and science community.
One entrepreneur from each team presented aspects of their business plan to show the judges that their development plans were sound. Most presentations included the current landscape, potential clients, funding usage, markets, and other important information.
When asked the value of LEAP many participants shared the importance of feedback and the practice of putting together a pitch. Dr. Zachary Vesoulis (Assistant Professor of Pediatrics), who competed in his second round of LEAP this spring, shared that while the financial aspect and the fact that it is just the right kind of funding for specific projects is a major reason for participating in LEAP, the main benefit has been the feedback and advice he has received for thinking through IP, marketing, and research for a finished idea.
Tom Cohen, Entrepreneur Development Analyst at BioGenerator, described similar benefits from his time as both a past participant and current judge. He found value in the experience of putting together a pitch and getting business feedback. For him being a judge is fun and allows him to keep his pulse on what’s happening and innovations in the University.
The day of presentations ended with a networking reception for presenters, judges, and community members. At the reception Skandalaris Center Managing Director and Assistant Vice Provost for Innovation & Entrepreneurship II Luscri, the Assistant Director of LEAP and Research Innovation Tom Krenning, and Jennifer Lodge, Vice Chancellor for Research shared brief remarks thanking the participants. Dr. Lodge spoke about the University’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship.
Building on the momentum of a record-breaking Fall 2018 cycle, the following Spring 2019 teams were awarded a combined total of nearly half a million dollars:
- Implantable Bioresorbable Sensors – The first and only line of implantable wireless microelectronic sensors capable of monitoring vital signs both intra-operatively and post-operatively before completely and harmlessly evolving in the body. Presented by: Matthew MacEwan (Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery)
- NeoGuard: Lightweight EEG in low-resource settings – Transformative low-cost, lightweight EEG monitoring to enhance neuroprotection after brain injury in limited-resource settings. Presented by: Zachary Vesoulis (Assistant Professor of Pediatrics)
- Novel Catheter Design for Vena Cava Thrombectomy – Clot removal device designed to treat venous thrombo-embolism, by facilitating both mechanical and chemical clot fragmentation and suction out of the body. Presented by: Eric Leuthardt (Professor of Neurological Surgery)/ Mohamed Zayed (Assistant Professor of Surgery)
- Assure: On-chip solution for securing electronic assets – Presented by: Shantanu Chakrabartty (Professor of Electrical & Systems Engineering)
- AI-Based Machine-Detection of Regional Cardiac Contractile Injury in Heart Failure – Software to improve care in millions of heart failure patients by using AI-based machine-detection of regional cardiac injury to more accurately direct therapy. Presented by: Michael Pasque (Professor of Surgery – Cardio Surgery)
- Use of polybasic peptides and polymers as antimalarial agents – The new lead substance for the treatment of human malaria. Presented by: Sergej Djuranovic (Assistant Professor of Cell Biology/ Physiology)
- A Novel Precision Skincare Cosmetic to Seal the Skin and Treat Vitamin D Deficiency – Presented by: Cristina Strong (Assistant Professor of Medicine – Dermatology)
- Optimization of Novel Small Molecule Inhibitors for the Histone Demethylase KDM3A – Next generation epigenetic inhibitors targeting the histone demethylase KDM3A in hormone refractory cancers. Presented by: Kiran Mahajan (Assistant Professor of Surgery – Urologic Surgery)
- Identifying Genetic Risk Factors and Treating Adult-Onset Neurological Diseases – Presented by: Mark Sands (Professor of Medicine) / Bruno Benitez (Instructor in Psychiatry)
To learn more about LEAP visit https://skandalaris.wustl.edu/funding/leap/.