UT Dominates Knox County’s Startup Business Plan Competition

 

KNOXVILLE—Two businesses with ties to University of Tennessee, Knoxville, are the reigning champions in Knox County’s startup business plan competition.

Researcher-led 490 BioTech took the top spot, and student-developed MyUdaily, a news and entertainment website for university communities, won second place in the 2011 Startup Business Plan Competition held this week and sponsored by the Fairview Technology Center (FTC), which is owned by Knox County and managed by the Development Corporation of Knox County.

First- and second-place prizes are valued at more than $23,000 and $8,000, respectively, and include free rent at the incubator, a lengthy listing of complimentary business consulting services, and cash reimbursements for startup costs.

490 Biotech’s product seeks to make drug development faster, cheaper, and easier by improving the biomedical imaging process. Four researchers—Gary Sayler, distinguished professor of microbiology and director of the Center for Environmental Biotechnology; Stacey Patterson, director of UT Research Partnerships; Dan Close, post-doctoral research associate with the Joint Institute for Biological Sciences; and Steven Ripp, research associate professor with the Center for Environmental Biotechnology— genetically modified cell lines, which can glow inside target areas such as tumors for an extended period of time without a chemical substrate. The luminescent glow is central to biomedical imaging because it allows researchers to observe the presence or activation of specific biological events when testing drugs. Currently, the cells must be injected with a chemical and be injected multiple times during the process, which is costly, time-consuming, and inexact. This new technology is less expensive, more accurate, more reliable, and less complex and, therefore, capable of significantly reducing the cost, duration, and risk of predicting new drug safety and efficacy.

MyUdaily helps student news make the leap from static, printed papers to socially interactive, online media that is popular with younger demographics.

“College students are more connected to the Internet than ever before, and this trend is only increasing,” said Karl Hughes, company founder and a senior in mechanical engineering. “Despite this, schools spend millions of dollars printing newspapers every year, only to have students pick them up, work the Sudoku puzzle, and throw them away. MyUdaily seeks to help school newspapers avoid this problem by making their format more relevant to a generation of readers who are more socially and digitally connected than ever before.”

The victory already has helped Hughes jumpstart his business.

“This contest has allowed us to start making connections that we never would have had before,” he said. “I’ve already been called by a few of the judges and audience members who want to help us out. It also grants us access to many resources that would have been expensive and difficult to obtain on our own.”

East Tennessee’s Tech 2020 Center for Entrepreneurial Growth program contributes major resources to FTC tenants by providing companies with business counseling and management coaching.

For more information about the FTC competition, visit www.knoxdevelopment.org.

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