Health-Related Startups Dominate at 2017 Rice Business Plan Contest

Houston—Student competitors at this year’s Rice Business Plan Competition got a glimpse of this event’s impact: seeing a previous winner publicly feted on the announcement of being acquired.

Adhesys Medical, which won the prestigious Rice contest in 2014, announced Saturday that it had been purchased by The Grünenthal Group, a German pharmaceutical firm. Terms were not disclosed. Adhesys, which makes surgical sealants, formed a partnership with Grünenthal last year.

“We never knew the business plan competition would have such a big impact on our trajectory,” says Alexander Schueller, Adhesys’ founder and president. “Ever since, it allowed us to sustain ourselves in getting funding, access to mentors and [investors] helping us getting the deal on the tracks and finally closing the deal.”

Schueller says that he plans to stay with Grünenthal in the short-term, making sure the transition is smooth and helping the company get CE approval for its topical adhesive product.

Saturday’s gala dinner capped off the three-day competition which brought in 42 student teams from around the US and the globe. This year, a majority of the finalists were medical-related startups.

The top prizes Saturday went to a student-led medical device company from Carnegie-Mellon University. Forest Devices is developing a stroke-detection device that can be used by first-responders and speed up treatment time.

Forest won about $700,000 in cash and prizes, including $300,000 from the Goose Society of Texas, $200,000 from the Owl Society, and $125,000 from the Halo Fund. The medical device company also received $25,000 from the Texas Medical Center, as long as it joins the TMCx accelerator.

Mito Material Solutions from Oklahoma State University won second place and more than $90,000 in prizes. The company makes a nano-additive solution infused in epoxy that it says increases material toughness by 100 percent. Third places was taken by Medical Magnesium from RWTH Aachen University in Germany—Adhesys’ alma mater—with $700,000 in total prizes. Medical Magnesium is developing bioabsorbable magnesium implants that can turn into bone instead of being removed.

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