by Greg St. Martin
Biotech entrepreneurship took center stage at Northeastern on Friday, when four teams of graduate students pitched their startups to a panel of judges at a competition that wrapped up an eight- week entrepreneurship boot camp.
The Biotech Entrepreneurs, a graduate student group that formed last year, hosted its inaugural Science and Engineering Entrepreneurship Design Competition in the Raytheon Amphitheater. Leading up to the competition, the four startups participated in the student group’s Biotech Bootcamp, which consisted of several “crash courses” over the past eight weeks on topics such as developing a business plan, fundraising, protecting intellectual property, and creating an effective pitch.
After the startups pitched their businesses and held Q&As with the judges, the judging panel selected two winners it felt were the most viable and closest to market: Bion and 3D Fortify, which will share the $1,000 grand prize.
Meet the four startups
Bion stems from a project led by team member and doctoral student Garima Bhadwaj, PhD’17, in professor Thomas Webster’s lab, and is focused on developing a coating for medical implantable devices that would repel bacteria and decrease infections. 3D Fortify, which is a spinout of Northeastern professor Randall Erb’s lab, focuses on using 3- D magnetic printing to create customized, composite prosthetics for patients. The startup currently has two prototype 3- D printers.
The other two groups in the competition were Boston Materials and Therapeutic Innovations. Boston Materials, also a spinout of Erb’s lab, aims to increase the performance and efficiency of currently manufactured advanced ceramic composites used in lithium- ion battery electrodes, capacitive deionization electrodes, alumina- based armor paneling, and ceramic membrane filters.
Therapeutic Innovations is focused on bringing low- cost healthcare solutions—specifically, pediatric medial devices—to developing countries. The startup is currently in the prototyping phase of creating a low- cost respirator for newborns.
Daniel Ventre, PhD’18, Therapeutic Innovations’ chief operating officer, said Northeastern’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has played a critical role in the startup’s growth—from mentorship to gap funding from IDEA to industry experts’ feedback throughout the Biotech Bootcamp process.
“Realizing early on what you don’t know and finding the best ways to address that have been the most critical things in terms of our own personal growth,” said Ventre, who is pursuing a doctorate in tissue engineering. “The feedback we’ve received has been huge.”
Meet the Biotech Entrepreneurs
Karlo Delos Reyes, PhD’18, is a doctoral student in chemical engineering and a co- founder of 3D Fortify. He’s also the president and co- founder of the Biotech Entrepreneurs. The group is focused on encouraging graduate students with novel solutions to unmet medical needs to pursue their own startups. In the past year, the group has organized networking events and hosted local entrepreneurs for seminar discussions in addition to launching its first SEED Competition.
The Biotech Entrepreneurs student organization counts about 70 members and is a part of Northeastern’s Mosaic network. Delos Reyes said engaging with students from a range of disciplines and majors was a key focus in the group’s first year. “We wanted to make our group very interdisciplinary,” he said. “That’s where great ideas, innovation, and creativity happen.”