LARAMIE — A doctoral candidate at the University of Wyoming led his team to first place in the John P. Ellbogen $30K Entrepreneurship Competition at the University of Wyoming College of Business. Levi Lowder, a doctoral candidate in molecular biology, led the winning team — one of 31 teams to enter the competition this year — as head bioengineer.
The company, which established its business plan over the past several months as part of the proceedings for the competition, will provide services for the fledgling algal biomass industry, which uses algae for nutraceutical purposes or biofuel. Their company, PlanktOMICS, will provide services to help domesticate wild strains of algae for better production results. Since companies seek to reduce cost while increasing production, some genetic engineering will be required in the young industry.
"These algae strains need to be domesticated," said John Dick, assistant director at Wyoming Technology Business Center (WTBC) who served as mentor for the PlanktOMICS team. "There are so few people in the world that have this expertise."
And as such, the company should be able to start making money immediately. They won the $12,500 prize to develop their business while also securing a year's free rent in the WTBC to host the new company and mentor it in its incubation stage. The rent and mentoring is worth a minimum of $12,000, according to Jeff Lowe, assistant director at WTBC.
"I chose to pursue graduate education for one reason: to work on advanced biofuels," wrote Lowder for the University of Wyoming website.
Second place in the entrepreneurship competition went to Vertikle Enterprises for its work involving using saliva from leeches as a purifier. They have already shown they can remove impurities to reach a level 100 times beyond that of those found in current market drugs. Their initial work went into investigating a "novel separation technique to safely purify specific proteins for people affected by blood disease." The treatment makes a purer, more potent powder so patients can take lower doses.
"The proposed technique will have a profound effect on the future pharmaceutical industry, setting a new standard for human safety," the developers said. They won $5,000 and a free year of rent.
For a complete list of winners: http://www.uwyo.edu/business/ellbogen-30k/
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