UCSD “Entrepreneur Challenge” Awards Top Honors to DevaNano, GrollTex

Xconomy San Diego — 

A student-led startup with technology for encapsulating enzymatic drugs in nano-size wiffle balls won the top prize in the biotech and medical technology category, while a team with technology to produce enormous sheets of thin-film graphene conductive electrodes took the first-place technology prize in the 2013 UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge.

The first-place winners, selected from four finalists in each category, were each awarded $20,000 in cash, along with donated legal services, brand development services, tax consulting services, and a one-year membership to Connect, the San Diego nonprofit group that supports technology and entrepreneurship.

Over 300 students, investors, entrepreneurs, and others attended the two final rounds of competition, which were held recently at the UC San Diego Rady School of Management. The four finalists in biotech/medical and technology survived multiple rounds of judging since the seventh annual competition began late last year.

Winners in the Biotech/Medical category are:

DevaNano, first-place award for developing biomedical technology that uses hollow nanoparticle “cages” capable of carrying enzymatic drugs, such as the anti-cancer drug asparaginase. The therapy is intended to systemically deprive tumor cells of crucial amino acids they need to survive. The nanoparticles, which resemble wiffle balls (only smaller), encapsulate the enzymatic drugs, but they are porous enough to absorb amino acids circulating in the bloodstream. DevaNano’s approach enables the enzymatic “payload” to act as an extended-release drug without triggering an immune response.

Wolf Biosciences, second place, for pioneering a novel approach to soft tissue repair and augmentation by using an injectable material just beneath the skin to encourage new fat growth. The startup says it is the only product on the market capable of generating new fat tissue at the site of material injection.

ChemoTactics, runner-up, for a proprietary protein-engineering platform that makes difficult-to-produce proteins in high volume and at low cost.

Winners in the general Technology Innovation category are:

GrollTex, first-place award for developing a proprietary method of fabricating single-atom monolayer sheets of transparent graphene conductive electrodes at low cost and with no waste. The company plans to be a material supplier to two industries, touchscreen displays and thin-film photovoltaic manufacturers.

Lumawake, second-place award for developing a “smart dock” for the iPhone that uses hardware powered by the Lumawake app on the smartphone to track the user’s sleep patterns, and awaken the user at the optimal point in the sleep cycle for feeling refreshed.

OneLab, runner-up, has created a digital workspace for life sciences researchers that uses a social network and online authoring and collaboration tool to rapidly share scientific findings. The connection among researchers and industry is intended to accelerate scientific progress from discoveries in the life sciences.