A team of Washington University students on the Medical Campus recently won top honors in the Neuro Startup Challenge, a biotech startup competition designed to commercialize promising brain-related discoveries of scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The team developed a business plan to commercialize a test for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), a nervous system disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. The test detects whether patients with MS are carriers of a virus that could interact negatively with drugs known to alleviate symptoms of the disease.
“Because there currently isn’t a very effective way to identify carriers of the virus, doctors don’t have a great way of knowing whether their patients will suffer adverse reactions when given monoclonal antibody therapies,” said Washington University team leader Michelle Faits. “Therefore, although these types of therapies are highly effective at treating MS, they aren’t very widely used.”
More than 70 teams competed in the challenge earlier this year and developed business plans to commercialize 13 NIH technologies. The Washington University team was made up of medical student Paul Gamble, and Dana Watt and Faits, who are PhD students in the Division of Biology & Biomedical Sciences. James Sorrell, a technology project coordinator at the Skandalaris Center, also participated on the team.