Johns Hopkins Students
Biomedical Engineering Scholars Will Go to London
To Represent U.S. and Canada
By preparing a business plan for an imaginary company that could help doctors detect eye diseases before they cause blindness, four biomedical engineering doctoral students from The Johns Hopkins University have won the North American arm of a prominent biotechnology competition based in the United Kingdom.
The students competed against three other finalist teams from universities in the United States and Canada in the Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme, an academic business plan contest designed to raise awareness among postgraduate students and postdoctoral scientists about how to commercialize ideas from the biosciences.
For the event, the students invented a company called Innovative Clinician Unlimited, which would market a medical technology that may become practical in the near future. The team outlined how use of an automated device to image the retina could allow primary care physicians to diagnose potentially blinding diseases before patients lose their sight.
The team recently traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland, to present its business plan to a panel of judges. During the event, the students also attended workshops led by leading figures in the British biotechnology industry. Their plan was judged against those of teams from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Toronto and the University of California, San Francisco.
As winners of the competition, the Johns Hopkins students took home $1,000 in prize money from the British Council USA, which sponsored and administered the North American initiative. In addition, the students will receive an all-expense-paid trip to London in December to be showcased alongside the final eight competing British teams. The Johns Hopkins students will present their business plan and will be eligible for additional prizes.
Entering the contest proved to be a great learning experience, said David Noren, the Johns Hopkins team captain. "If you're involved in technology-related research, it's often beneficial to consider commercialization, but none of us had any experience in developing a business," Noren said. "During our preparation for this contest, we talked to people at Johns Hopkins who'd had experience in commercializing their research. That was a big help in developing our plan."
Noren, who is from Warwick, R.I., graduated from the University of Rochester before entering the biomedical engineering doctoral program at Johns Hopkins. The other team members were Blanka Sharma of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, a graduate of the University of Waterloo in Ontario; Raymond Cheong, of Columbia, Md., a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, and now a student in the Johns Hopkins M.D.-Ph.D. program; and Saurabh Paliwal, of Mumbai, India, a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras.
The team formed in the summer after hearing about the competition. All four graduate students are conducting their research at the university's Homewood campus in labs supervised by Andre Levchenko and Jennifer Elisseeff, assistant professors in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.
Individual and group photos of the students available; contact Phil Sneiderman.
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