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Monday, January 18, 2021

Values and Ventures: Cancer diagnosis product takes grand prize at TCU competition

Robert Francis

A robotic process that could decrease the number of incorrect cancer diagnoses took home the grand prize at TCU’s Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures Business Plan Competition on April 12. The business plan for BioBotic Solutions from the University of Arkansas received $25,000. The school was one of 27 universities from across the United States and five other countries that came to Texas Christian University April 11-12 as part of the annual competition.

The annual business plan competition, presented by TCU’s Neeley School of Business, encourages undergraduate business students to create for-profit ventures that have strong business viability, have meaning for the organization, and/or significantly improve quality of life. BioBotic Solutions won for a business plan built around a container and robot that automates tissue handling, one of the few areas in a pathology lab not already automated. The concept, which is based on existing technology, would decrease pathology lab errors from 1 percent to 0.005 percent, according to the students’ presentation. The TCU honor is not the group’s only recognition. Just a few days before the TCU competition,, BioBotic Solutions won $22,000 at the 2014 Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition, including the $15,000 second-place prize in the undergraduate division.

Members of the team were Michael Iseman, Kelley Coakley, Aundria Eoff and Rachel Zweig. Second place and $15,000 went to Appalachian State University for MagnaGrips therapeutic, magnetized gloves. The gloves are a simple, cost-effective way to help children with fine-motor dysfunction, according to the students. The patent-pending idea was the invention of Bailey Williams, industrial design major at Appalachian. Mary Oshana, education major, used her resources in child development to test the product on children. “You can see it on their faces, like ‘I didn’t even know this was possible.’ It intrigues their curiosity,” she said. Third place and $10,000 went to the University of Houston team for Energetik, a patent-pending solar battery that is said to be stronger and last longer than current products, as well as being more environmentally friendly. Energetik has already received funding from the Department of Energy for research development. Students from the UH Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship made up the team: Noy Shemer, Jonathan Brown, Jonathan Cohen-Kurzrock, Rowbin Hickman and Brenda Rojo. The University of Houston also won the $5,000 Quicksilver Resources Energy Independence special award. Four honorable mentions of $2,500 each went to teams from TCU for The Chef Shelf, a website that sells products from local chefs while building awareness of hunger in their communities; Samford University for Work of Worth, recycling silk from saris to provide jobs for women in India to combat prostitution; George Washington University for KOTI, affordable, solar-powered temporary housing for disaster victims; and Monterrey Tech (Mexico) for Sentia gourmet water that subsidizes water purifiers to communities without potable water.

A special Founders Award of $5,000 went to the University of North Texas for VitAlgorithms, with a product called CADct, which pinpoints circulatory problems in very early stages more efficiently and quickly using existing CT scans. All 27 teams also could designate one member to participate in an elevator pitch competition. The first place winner of $1,000 was the University of Strathclyde, Scotland, for Cyclops, a smartphone app that improves the safety of cyclists. Second place of $500 went to Ball State University for Fry Farms Beef Cattle Operation, raising livestock free of antibiotics, steroids and other unnatural growth substances. Third place and $250 went to Southern Methodist University for BioLum, a low-cost diagnostic technology to detect asthma in young children. Values and Ventures Director Ann McDonald said that more than 50 business leaders served as judges and mentors, including business owners, CEOs, financiers, bankers and attorneys.  

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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