From Ivory (Gothic) Tower to Marketplace

It took two hours to give away $40,000 — 25 minutes of introductions, less than an hour for a dozen contestants to speak for three minutes each, and about 40 minutes for the judges (Shahram Hejzi, Ralph Taylor-Smith, Joyce Tsang, and Tom Uhlman) to make their decision. At Princeton University’s Innovation Forum held last night, a cancer therapy was deemed the most valuable tech transfer opportunity.

Stephanie Budijono, a chemical engineer in Robert Prud’homme’s group (pictured, with Dora Mitchell of Battelle Ventures), won the $25,000 grand prize from the Jumpstart New Jersey Angel Network for “Deep-penetrating Upconverting Nanoparticles for Photodynamic Cancer Therapy.” By using stealth pegylated particles and infrared activation, her therapy can improve light penetration and reach cancer cells that lie deep within the lungs.

Second prize for $10,000 went to Stephen So, working with Gerard Wysocki, for laser spectroscopy to detect trace gases in the air. The device, the size of a plastic bottle, works unattended and uses AA batteries. Bomb sniffing dogs can’t work 24/7, but this device can. It also has health applications (monitoring patients at home) and environmental monitoring potential.

Vivek Pai’s edge acceleration box for slow networks, called EdgeXL, won the $5k third prize.

Peter Reczek, who has been executive director of the New Jersey Commission on Science & Technology since last May, encouraged Oliver Graudejus, an electrical engineer who is working with Sigurd Wagner on a medical device, a tissue-like electronic interface. Medical devices represent the future of healthcare innovation, says Reczek, in terms of collaborations across many disciplines – biology, engineering, math, and physics — that can achieve commercial success.

The other nine entrants may not have won any prize money, but they got some good exposure — the denizens of Einstein’s Alley turned out in force, pretty much filling the large hall, Computer Science 104. And now their poster and three-minute pitch are ready for the next opportunity.

Bob Monsour, of the Keller Center, emceed the event, and said the judges had an easy time of it. I thought that might be a bit unfair, because there were some other great ideas, but perhaps they weren’t commercially viable.

Least likely to succeed in my opinion and in the opinion of an observer I can’t name, was a double MRI machine that could hold two people, useful for studying interpersonal communication. The inventors claimed that it would save money to do two MRIs at the same time.

Now who is going to sign up to snuggle up with a stranger to get their insides photographed? Nobody.

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