The winner of this year's prestigious Massacusetts Institute of Technology $50K Entrepreneurship Competition was SmartCells, whose business plan combines biology and white-hot science nanotechnology. The venture is working on a product called SmartInsulin, a daily injection of insulin that would automatically regulate the blood-glucose level in diabetics -- a huge leap forward from the multiple injections diabetics require today. Todd Zion, a chemical engineering PhD candidate at MIT, has developed the system.

Even with the $50,000 prize, however, SmartInsulin is nowhere near taking over the $6.2 billion insulin market. The company is searching for between $2 million and $4 million in funding, and hoping that pre-clinical trials prove that SmartInsulin is safe and effective in animals. After that, the company will begin the lengthy and arduous process of winning Food and Drug Administration approval, which can sometimes take eight years or more.

Still, team member John Hebert, a second-year MBA at MIT'S Sloan School of Business, is confident. "This product is a true innovation. It will let diabetics forget about injections and get on with their lives."

Published on: Sep 1, 2003