From left to right: Terence Bentley, Kerstin Holm, Brandy Leighton, Charles McBee, David Talbert, Fitzgerald Budhoo, Patricia "Pat" Glass, Desrene Higgins, Brian Alldread, Rony Goldstein, Keith Hoffman, Richard Krigel

From left to right: Terence Bentley, Kerstin Holm, Brandy Leighton, Charles McBee, David Talbert, Fitzgerald Budhoo, Patricia “Pat” Glass, Desrene Higgins, Brian Alldread, Rony Goldstein, Keith Hoffman, Richard Krigel

Teams representing technologies from Ranu Jung, BME professor and chair, and Anuradha Godavarty, BME associate professor, finished first and second place at the annual StartUp Quest Pitch Day.

Established at the University of Florida and funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, StartUp Quest is a nationally recognized entrepreneurship training program. Although highly qualified, participants in the StartUp Quest program are underemployed or unemployed professionals. The program is aimed at helping to further develop their skills in entrepreneurship with the hope that these professionals will become self-employed or gain employment with a start-up company.

StartUp Quest uses technologies from the different state universities in multiple disciplines ranging from software engineering to bioscience. At this year’s Broward Pitch Day, FIU sponsored three teams. Each team is paired with two mentors who are CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business people from various backgrounds. The mentors have extensive experience in bringing technology to market and provide support to team members throughout the 10-week preparation process.

The 10-week process is intense. Participants are introduced to the technology and are then create investor pitches and business plans, all within a limited time period. FIU BME professors, Ranu Jung and Anuradha Godavarty, both spent time meeting with the teams and helping them to understand the complex science behind their research.

“For people from varied backgrounds to come together in only 10 weeks, to learn the technology, to execute and win is remarkable,” said Anuradha Godavarty, whose research was presented by the second place winners, team LightScan Health Systems.

The winning pitch was presented by team Hercules MedSystems. Their technology was taken from the Adaptive Neural Systems (ANS) laboratory which created an advanced prosthetic system to restore sensation to an upper-extremity amputee. The system has sensors embedded into the prosthetic hand that help provide the amputee with the sensations of fingertip force and hand opening. The system development received federal support from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and the National Institute of Child Health Development.

Pitch day presenter and team Hercules’ VP of Marketing, Brandy Leighton, described her experience working with the technology from FIU’s ANS laboratory. “The neural enabled prosthetic limb technology created by Dr. Jung and the Adaptive Neural Systems (ANS) Laboratory is ingenious and impressive.  I believe this is a breakthrough innovation that has the potential to send shockwaves of awe through the prosthetic limb community, as it provides the science to create a true bionic arm that is thought controlled with an authentic sense of touch.  This technology could also lead the way to tremendous advances in the treatment of orthopedic injuries and neurodegenerative diseases in the future.”

The second place winners, team LightScan Health Systems, worked with Anuradha Godavarty and her research on a hand-held breast cancer pre-screening device. Team LightScan created a business plan and an investor pitch that focused on the affordability and non-invasive nature of the device. It has the potential to provide widespread pre-screening to breast cancer patients throughout the world. This technology received federal support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

This marked consecutive years that teams presenting technology from FIU took first and second prize.

“It was great to see the three FIU teams in the StartUp Quest program do so well.  I would like to thank the professors involved with the FIU technologies that were part of the program for taking the time to assist the teams with their preparations.  This is another way FIU technologies are helping our communities”, said FIU’s Director of the Office of Technology Management and Commercialization, Peter Hernandez.

Special thanks to Patricia Glass, VP of Corporate Development & Strategy, Team Hercules MedSystems for her contributions to this article.

Photo provided by Alberto Velasquez