Five Local Biotech Student-Led Teams Advance to Walleye Tank

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 Allisa Song, Nanodropper.

Allisa Song, Nanodropper.

Last Thursday local student-led innovation stole the limelight at the Entrepreneurial Student Showcase + Walleye Tank Student Qualifying Round, a collaboration between Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, Collider Coworking, and the Mayo Clinic Office of Entrepreneurship. Seventeen different student teams from around the region competed in the event. Twelve of these teams pitched with the hope to enter Walleye Tank, a Minnesota-based biotech business pitch competition. From this student qualifying round, five teams were deemed ready to compete in Walleye Tank, which will take place tomorrow in Rochester. Advancing teams included Nanodropper, NeuroCog, Malleus, UVCanopy, and Intelligent Parking Solutions.

Nanodropper, presented by Mayo Clinic Medical Student Allisa Song, is addressing wasted eyedrop medications from unnecessary overflow during application of meds; the normal amount of liquid dispensed from eye drop bottles is five times that which can be absorbed by the human eye, according the Nanodropper team. In glaucoma treatment alone, excessive waste from eye drops can cost up to $500 per bottle. This waste is a large problem for low income patients or patients that run out of medication before their prescription can be refilled. To solve this problem, the Nanodropper team has developed a medical grade, single-use silicone eye drop adapter that reduces the size of dispensed eye drops to a volume that can be absorbed by the human eye to reduce medical eye drop waste. This adapter has a universal fit and is patent-pending. The team plans to deliver the product to customers through eye care clinics at a cost of $12.99, resulting in an 86% profit margin. By 2020, ~80M patients will be diagnosed with glaucoma, resulting in an estimated market size of $90M in revenue in the US market alone. Nanodropper qualified for the Mid-Level Reeler division of Walleye Tank.

 Logan Grado and Ian Kitchen, Malleus.

Logan Grado and Ian Kitchen, Malleus.

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities students Logan Grado and Ian Kitchen won first place in the Junior Angler Division with Malleus, a hearing aid technology startup. By 2020 an estimated 45M people will be diagnosed with mild to moderate hearing deficiencies, requiring the use of a hearing aid. However, hearing aids are normally tuned by audiologists in a controlled clinical setting, which can be non-functional in a real-world environment. Consequently, when patients need to have their hearing aid adjusted, they have to return to the audiologist, resulting in a costly and inefficient process. Malleus aims to pair artificial intelligence with Bluetooth capable devices to create more personalized, self-directed hearing fits for patients to reduce the need for excessive hearing aid tuning in a clinical setting.  

 James Perreault, UVCanopy.

James Perreault, UVCanopy.

Mayo Clinic Florida researcher and physician team of David Restrepo, Daniel Boczar, Toni Turnbull, and Karim ReFaey won second place in the Junior Angler division with their concept, NeuroCog. Brain surgery patients, the team explained, require frequent pre- and postoperative evaluations of cognitive function, which can be very time and resource consuming. To address this issue, they propose the development of a tablet-based application providing standardized, automatized cognitive testing to complement routine postoperative monitoring of neurosurgery patients. This app would incorporate artificial intelligence-based voice, facial, and text recognition to perform cognitive assessments, targeting the 13.8M neurosurgeries occurring globally each year. 

Also qualifying for the Junior Angler Division of Walleye Tank, and winning the Audience Favorite Award, was Saint Mary’s University Finance Student James Perreault with his concept UVCanopy. UVCanopy is addressing the lack of sanitation on items like wheel chairs and other hospital equipment, primarily targeting nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. The UVCanopy uses germicidal UV-C light to kill bacteria in a tunnel-shaped device. Medical equipment could be pushed through the tunnel for sterilization purposes, additionally eliminating human error involved in the sanitation process and reducing dependency on hazardous sterilization chemicals. UVCanopy proposes to make profits through subscription sales and purchases of replacement parts. The team is currently working with the Saint Mary’s University Science Department to test different light volatility in the disinfection process.  

 Sinibaldo Romero, Intelligent Parking Solutions.

Sinibaldo Romero, Intelligent Parking Solutions.

The final team to qualify for the Junior Angler Division of Walleye Tank was the Intelligent Parking Solutions concept, led by Mayo Clinic Post Baccalaureate Fellow Sinibaldo Romero. This concept aims to utilize data analytics to increase parking efficiencies in healthcare organizations. The team proposed using cameras in parking spaces to identify unused spots. The product would leverage machine learning to understand parking patterns for patients and staff to determine more efficient mechanisms for healthcare parking. Parking is a multi-million-dollar industry for healthcare institutions. Missed medical appointments due to lack of parking in the US is documented to cost $150B to healthcare institutions each year.

Student showcase teams were judged by Heather Holmes, Vice President of Marketing at Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc.; Chris Lukenbill, Founder at Fresh Edge; Sunny Prabhakar, Account Strategist at Corporate Web Services, Inc., Jon Ninas, Career Awareness Specialist at Mayo Clinic; Sam Gill, Workforce Development Manager at the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce; and Brady Olson, Human Resources Administrative Assistant at Mayo Clinic. The Walleye Tank Student Qualifying Round was judged by Chris Schad, Director of Business Development for Discovery Square; Joselyn Raymundo, Founder of Rochester Home Infusion; Xavier Frigola, Director of Entrepreneurship at Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc.; and Shuai Li, Lab Manager at Mayo Clinic.

Watch all the Walleye Tank student qualifying round pitches on the YouTube channel. Catch these teams live as they pitch in Walleye Tank tomorrow starting at noon in Rochester. Walleye Tank is a free event that is open to the public.