Cognionics, Wireless Sensor Startup, Wins UCSD Entrepreneur Challenge

Xconomy San Diego — 

He got the beat. Yu “Mike” Chi, a graduate student in electrical engineering at UC San Diego, put a quarter-sized wireless sensor over his suit jacket and displayed the resulting electrocardiogram to win the UCSD Entrepreneur Challenge.

The live demonstration on June 2 of technology that Chi had developed for his research thesis (and the business plan for commercializing it) won the top prize—$25,000 in startup funding and $15,000 in legal services—for Cognionics. The team, which included graduate engineering and MBA students at UCSD and Ph.D students from UC San Diego, the Salk Institute, and The Scripps Research Institute. Of 75 student teams that began the competition last fall, five made it to the finals of the 4th annual student-organized competition, which is held at UCSD under the auspices of multiple academic departments and research institutes. Cognionics also won the audience choice award for its demo and “executive summary presentation” in the finals, which was worth an additional $1,000, and best entry in the high-tech track, worth another $2,000.

Cognionics Sensor (Courtesy UCSD)

Cognionics Sensor (Courtesy UCSD)

Cognionics uses a wireless sensor to detect “biopotentials,” tiny voltage signals that emanate from electrically active cells, such as neurons and cardiac cells, that propagate to the skin through the conductive media of the human body. The device also uses wireless networks to transmit the cardiac data to computers for review.

The panel of judges awarded second prize to Halo Imaging, a student startup team led by Rady School student Byron Myers. Halo presented a plan for commercializing technology that makes it possible to conduct a CT scans in emergency vehicles, which could save vital time for traumatic head injury cases in transit. Halo won $10,000 in startup funding and $10,000 in legal services, after winning $2,500 in cash and $5,000 in legal services for best business summary in a previous round of the competition. The also won $2,000 for having the best business plan in the life sciences category.

Third place went to Moki Health, led by recent UCSD Medical School graduate Brian Lichtenstein, for a mobile platform that organizes patients’ medical information for easy access by any medical provider. Moki got $5,000 in cash and $5,000 in legal services. The technology uses proprietary software to integrate electronic health records. Interra Energy, a team led by Rady student Thomas Del Monte, won in the category of clean technology. Intera’s technology converts biomass to energy and sequesters carbon in soil to improve soil quality. The winner in the social/consumer product category was Shopparel, which combines social networking with a shopping website that allows a user to see what your friends buy.

The UCSD Entrepreneur Challenge awarded a total of $80,000 in prizes this year to student-led teams. The challenge, described as a “mini-MBA” program of free seminars, workshops, and networking events, encourages UCSD students to form multi-disciplinary teams of engineers, scientists, and business-minded students, to develop their business and technology commercialization plans.

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