With its patented new therapy to fight antibiotic resistance, a team from Boston University took top honors at the 26th annual Global Moot Corp, considered one of the world's largest business-plan competitions.
Novophage Theraputics placed first at the event, which was held May 6-9 at the University of Texas in Austin and brought together 40 teams from MBA programs around the world. Tears for Life, a team developing a breast cancer tear kit that analyzes a patient's tears, came in second; followed by neoPlastics, a plastic recycling technology firm; and Tetra One Source, which has patented a process for reducing soil toxicity.
The winning start-up is a joint effort by Boston University and MIT PhD students Michael Koeris, Timothy Lu, and Tanguy Chau, who worked together to develop the technology, along with MBA student Ann DeWitt, who works on business development.
Despite the acclaim they received at Moot Corp, the founders said it wasn't until relatively recently that they realized they had a patentable technology they could build a business on.
"We never really put two and two together, but about half a year ago we started thinking this would be a great idea, put a business plan together, and wound up invited to Moot Corp," Koeris said.
Right now, the company consists of just the three technologists and DeWitt, but the founders say they have ambitious plans. Koeris said he finds the transition from the lab to the business world exhilerating.
"It's more what I've always wanted to do," Koeris said.
But Koeris credited Novophage's technology for the win, and acknowledged that the start-up still has a number of business hurdles to clear. "The business side isn't as strong as our technology, because we're not as well-versed in the business world," he said. "But we do recognize we need to recruit good leadership with a solid track record."
Novophage has a long road to bring its therapy to market, which will take at least eight years, according to Koeris. The company will also need a lot more funding, due to the high costs of developing biomedical therapies. But the win at Moot Corp, Koeris said, reassures his team that there is a market for the technology, which could lead to future financing.
In placing first, Novophage received $25,000 in cash, an Austin Technology Incubtor Launch package, consulting from UT's McCombs School of Business entrepreneurship faculty, and a full page ad in Inc., which served as this year's media sponsor.
"The win, like the other positive feedback we've gotten, is a validation that our technology is appreciated," Koeris said.