According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antimicrobial resistance is one our most serious health threats, with infections from resistant bacteria becoming far too common. Part of the problem is over-prescription of antibiotics.
Nanopore Diagnostics hopes to change that.
Founded by Washington University in St. Louis post-doctoral research scholar Tom Cohen and PhD/MBA student Benjamin Borgo, the company won this year’s Olin Cup prize and $50,000 in seed investment during a ceremony highlighted by remarks from David Karandish (BS ’05), CEO of Answers Corp.
Borgo also was awarded the $5,000 cash student prize. The team’s third partner is Christoph Bausch.
Nanopore is developing a test to fight the spread of antibiotic resistance. The test, which takes 20 minutes to read, will identify whether the patient can benefit from antibiotics, and if so, which one to prescribe.
“It feels pretty exciting to have won,” Cohen said. “I was actually a competitor last year and made it to the finals. Through this entire process, the Olin Cup competition has provided a lot to us. It’s not only the feedback you get from the judges, but also the way the Olin Cup links you with mentors throughout the process. Much of the network we’ve been able to build and utilize to gain traction in St. Louis has come through those connections.”
In his keynote address, Karandish spoke of his attempts to start seven different businesses before graduating from WUSTL. He said all of the attempts were failures, and he and his business partner and classmate Chris Sims did not have jobs when they graduated. He spoke of the seven years of “fasting” before founding AFCV Holdings, now known as Answers, and the seven years of “feasting” since then.
He concluded by saying the experience taught him and Sims the important entrepreneurial skills of building key partnerships, picking the right business model, capital structure and product distribution.
“The skills you learn as you try and fail are the building blocks of your ultimate success,” Karandish said. “Keep at it, and the skills will drive you toward success.”
The event also included remarks from Mark Pydynowski (BSBA ’04), who won the 2005 Olin Cup. Mark returned on behalf of all Olin Cup past participants to express his thanks and appreciation to Ken Harrington, managing director of the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, who plans to leave the university in August.
In announcing the Olin Cup winners, Harrington thanked Pydynowski and commented on the growth of the entrepreneurial community in St. Louis.
“The Skandalaris Center supports entrepreneurs at the idea stage and helps smart people run into each other so good things happen,” Harrington said. “As more entrepreneurs try, the community gets smarter, and more people will be successful like David and Chris, who in turn provide financial and mentoring support to startups. Our Olin Cup companies are getting better every year.”
In addition to Nanopore, two finalist teams received $20,000 each in seed funding:
Genetix Fusion, a company developing the next generation of transfection kits for biomedical researchers, and SynerZ Medical, which is developing an outpatient device for treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Olin Business School is the Skandalaris Center’s partner in the Olin Cup, with additional sponsorship from the law firm Polsinelli, accounting firm RubinBrown, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, and Lopata, Flegel & Co.