Armune BioScience Takes $500K Top Prize, U-M Students Get Award for Clean Energy System, and More Winners from Michigan’s Big Biz Plan Contest

Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor — 

[Updated—12/13/10 at 8:55 pm Eastern time. See editor’s notes.]  A major business plan competition has sent its winners home with cash and other prizes to help make their dreams become reality. The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, which its organizers call the largest business plan competition in the world, has named the companies and student groups that took home prizes at last week’s final event in Ann Arbor, MI. And the top two company-track winners are spinouts from the University of Michigan.

The first is Armune BioScience. The Kalamazoo, MI-based company, which is focused on early detection of cancer, grabbed the $500,000 cash grand prize in the company category of the contest. And ReGenerate, a firm led by students from the University of Michigan, took the $25,000 grand prize for the student side of the competition. The students have plans for a system that converts organic waste into electricity and compost, according to the competition’s organizers. [Editor’s note: the fist two paragraphs were updated to add that Armune BioScience and Arbor Photonics are spinouts of the University of Michigan.]

The competition, in its first year, narrowed down nearly 600 competitors to just 18 companies and student groups that won more than $1 million in cash, in-kind services, and software. Last week Xconomy of the contest’s main organizers, Ann Arbor SPARK CEO Mike Finney, told me in an e-mail that the competition is intended to “highlight Michigan as the destination for innovation.” In fact, companies from around the world were invited to submit business plans, making this a global competition. (Read on to see how much of the prize money is staying in the Great Lake State.)

Who knows—perhaps one or more of the companies that took home prizes in this year’s competition will become major drivers of economic growth for Michigan in the future. To help you keep these firms and students groups on your radar, here is a complete list of this year’s winners:

Company Prizes

Armune BioScience — $500,000 grand prize. Armune is developing a method of detecting the body’s immune response to cancer in a blood sample to enable early detection of prostate, lung, and breast tumors.

Arbor Photonics — $150,000 prize for first runner up. Arbor, based in Ann Arbor, is commercializing high-powered fiber lasers to increase productivity in manufacturing microelectronics, solar cells, and other advanced materials, according to its website.

Sproxil — $10,000 people’s choice award. Sproxil is a Somerville, MA-based firm focused on mobile technologies that are intended to help prevent consumers from buying counterfeit drugs.

Life Magnetics — $25,000 AARP Encore Award. The Ann Arbor startup is using a technology, called asynchronous magnetic bead rotation, to develop tests might be able to rapidly identify which antimicrobial treatment is most suitable to treat a patient’s bacterial infection.

CYJ Enterprises — $5,000 Tweet Award (for a business pitch submitted in a tweet via Twitter). The Detroit, MI-based firm has created a Web-based emergency management system that gives “immediate access to a person’s essential information needed in a crisis,” according to its website.

The Mackinac Technology Company — $25,000 advanced materials prize. The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company is developing energy-saving thermal insulation products. [Editor’s note: A description of this company’s technology was added after this story was initially published this afternoon.]

ENRG Power Systems — $25,000 advanced transportation prize. The company, based in Bloomfield Hills, MI, has developed an ignition system for engines that uses plasma energy for fuel combustion and can reduce fuel usage by up to 24 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by up to 55 percent, according to the firm.

Accio Energy — $25,000 alternative energy prize. Ann Arbor-based Accio is developing a wind-energy system that does not require any moving parts such as turbine blades. Read more about Accio and its potentially game-changing technology in my colleague Erin’s story from September.

Evigia Systems — $25,000 defense and homeland security prize. Evigia, an Ann Arbor-based maker of wireless sensing system for multiple industries, provides RFID products for defense customers that can enable the military to keep track of equipment and other key assets.

MatchRx — $25,000 information technology prize. The Troy, MI-based firm has an online marketplace for independent pharmacists to buy and sell overstocked prescription drugs and manage their inventories.

Innovative Surgical Solutions — $25,000 life sciences prize. The Royal Oak, MI-based firm has developed a system that uses neuro-stimulation to monitor nerves during surgery in order to avoid nerve damage.

Hygieia — $25,000 medical devices prize. The Ann Arbor-based company is commercializing a hand-held glucose meter that helps diabetics to monitor blood sugar levels and control glucose levels with proper doses of insulin.

CSquared Innovations — $25,000 next-generation manufacturing award. The company, based in Farmington Hills, MI, is focused on lowering the cost of manufacturing lithium-ion batteries.

IX Innovations — $25,000 products and services prize. The Ann Arbor firm makes a hand-held device called the PocketPico that is designed to provide accurate current measurements for lab work or in the field.

Student Winners

ReGenerate — $25,000 grand prize. The firm’s founding students from the University of Michigan are working on an alternative to costly solid waste disposal. Their “compact organic waste system” aims use banana peels, apples cores, and other organic waste to produce electricity and valuable compost. Here’s the group’s YouTube video that further explains their technology and business plan.

Reveal Design Automation — $15,000 first runner up prize. The startup, whose founders include a graduate student from the University of Michigan, is developing software designed for microchip makers to verify complex designs in an efficient way. Here’s their YouTube video.

MiEND — $10,000 second runner up prize. This student group from the University of Michigan has developed a system for screening compounds intended to treat neurodegenerative diseases. The system is designed to automate a method of observing neurological activity in worms known as c. elegans in order to identify potential treatments. It’s explained further in the group’s YouTube video.

June Energy — $10,000 people’s choice award. With team members hailing from parts of the world where many people live without electricity in their homes, this team from the University of Michigan is developing a portable device that uses solar energy to provide electricity for electronics. Here’s their very spirited YouTube video presentation.