Nasseo, a medical device startup with new technology for dental and orthopedic implants, won the sixth annual UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge, a competition for seed-stage startups.
The challenge has been drawing broader interest among students and young scientists training in labs throughout Torrey Pines Mesa, where many of San Diego’s elite biomedical research institutes are based, according to Kenan Azam, who coordinated this year’s challenge. The 53 business plans submitted this year was about a dozen more than last year, Azam said, and the quality of the entries led organizers to extend the number of finalists from five to seven teams. Teams presented business plans they had developed around technologies that included garbage compactors, automated portfolio management technology, cancer therapies, and sensor-assisted orthopedic surgery.
Under the rules, each team must include at least one full-time student, post-doctoral trainee, or recent graduate from UCSD, the Salk Institute, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, The Scripps Research Institute, or UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The rules also preclude startups that already have raised $250,000 or more.
Nasseo, which claimed the top award of $57,000 in cash and professional services, was founded by CEO Garrett Cale Smith, a UCSD doctoral candidate in bioengineering, and COO Kayvon Pourmirzaie, a UCSD bioengineering graduate with a degree from the University of San Diego School of Law School. The Nasseo team also includes Gary Johnston, a UCSD doctoral candidate in materials science, Handan Yildiran, a masters of science candidate in medicine and technology at the Technical University of Denmark, and Sean Madanipour, an MBA candidate at UCSD’s Rady School of Business.
Nasseo says its first product is a dental implant that uses proprietary surface bonding technology developed in the lab of Sungho Jin, chairman of UCSD’s materials science program. The startup describes dental implants as one of the fastest-growing, multi-billion dollar markets in the U.S. healthcare system. The company says its technology provides implant-to-bone bonding that is nine times stronger than conventional bonds.
Judges awarded second place, which includes $28,000 in cash and services, to Sonrgy, a cancer drug delivery company that has developed proprietary drug nanocarriers and uses focused ultrasound technology to localize the effects of chemotherapy.
Third place, which consists of $15,500 in cash and services, went to Uroboros Technologies, which has developed technology for “DNA nanoparticles,” which the company says act like tiny octopi trained to grab onto and kill cancer cells but not nearby healthy cells.
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