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UW Health Innovation Challenge: EpiForAll Grand Prize Winner

Photo credit: University of Washington 

On Wednesday, March 1, Director of Business Development Rich Roberge attended the University of Washington’s final event for the Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge to serve as a judge and panel expert.

The grand prize winner, EpiForAll, is an affordable EpiPen alternative for kids and families to combat the rising cost and accessibility of current market options. The team took home $15k to help them jump start turning their school project into a business startup.

Second place was an electricity-free anesthesia machine called BWB Anesthesia, while third place went to PlayGait, a device meant to help children walk.

You can take a peek at the top teams' one-page business plan summaries on the UW Entrepreneurship blog. 

This annual challenge gives university students across the state (not just those enrolled at UW) the chance to make connections and potentially, turn their ideas into a business.

In its second year, the event brought out 89 students (27 teams) who presented working demos of their devices and projects to more than 100 entrepreneurs, investors and life science professionals.

According to a Geekwire article, EpiForAll submitted an earlier prototype of their device in the inaugural event last year. While they got an honorary award, they did not win any money.

Mentoring the EpiForAll Team

Photo credit: Matt Hagen / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship

CTO, Scott Thielman, served as a mentor for the EpiForAll team during the course of the challenge.

“I was introduced to the team by Professor Jonathan Posner of the Mechanical Engineering Department. At Product Creation Studio, we have experience with the design of pharmaceutical auto-injectors so I was able to help the team with more realistic manufacturing numbers and make suggestions about product feature priorities,” Thielman explained about his connection to the team and the support he provided throughout the challenge.

“I met with them several times during their class and have seen them pitch a number of times as well. They put an enormous amount of time and effort into transforming their class project into a feasible product and business concept,” Thielman said.

An Amazing Group of Competitors

The 2017 Hollomon Health Challenge judging criteria included:

  • One-page business summary: Ability to describe in writing the problem, solution, market opportunity, the team and the potential for impact.
  • Pitch: Ability to pitch the problem, solution and market opportunity.
  • Prototype demonstration: Does the demo work? Has the team provided test results or validation? Is the solution efficient?
  • Potential for impact: Could this substantial impact the market or health care industry? People’s lives?

BWB Anesthesia, the second place winner, won $10k by creating an electricity free anesthesia machine to be used in low-resource areas. Millions of surgeries cannot be performed in developing countries like Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda each year because healthcare facilities are not properly equipped with the equipment that makes anesthesia possible. And no one wants surgery without anesthesia.

The third place winner was PlayGait, a device that allows children with walking disabilities to improve functional mobility. Other competitors on the market simply allow the child to walk, but do not have the therapeutic affect or ability to train the child to have balance or stamina. PlayGait took home a $5k prize to help them continue developing their idea.

 “The entire group of competitors did a phenomenal job of presenting their solutions. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of these groups moves their product idea all the way to manufacturing in the next year or two and ultimately, get acquired by a larger corporation,” Roberge added of the level of quality in the competition.

Last year’s second-place winner, Silene Biotech, has successfully developed their project into a startup, spurred by their $5k winnings. They recently launched their cell collection and storage service publicly.

The Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge is hosted by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at the UW’s Foster School of Business, developed by the center’s director, Connie Bourassa-Shaw.

For a Q&A from the three winners of the 2017 event and more details, check out the GeekWire highlights article.