Tulane students winners in breast cancer research competition

Two groups of Tulane University students are being given a chance to found a startup business to develop breast cancer-related inventions into products.

The two groups are among 10 winning student teams that competed in the Avon Foundation for Women’s first international Breast Cancer Startup Challenge, done in partnership with the National Institutes of Health and the Center for Advancing Innovation.

Each team gets an initial $5,000 prize to develop new breast cancer technologies into commercial products, negotiate licensing agreements and raise seed funding to further develop their inventions.

“We are looking forward to startups launching around these inventions to accelerate breast cancer research and break the mold of how research is funded,” said Marc Hurlbert, executive director of the Avon Foundation for Women.

The 10 inventions were developed at NCI and at an Avon Foundation-funded university lab. They include therapeutics, diagnostics, prognostics, one device, one vaccine, one delivery system and one health information technology invention.

One Tulane team will develop a technology for use in rebuilding healthy tissue and preventing tumor recurrence in breast cancer patients who are looking for reconstructive options. Up to 20 percent of patients with cancer-removal surgery experience tumor recurrences.

The other Tulane team will develop a diagnostic kit that can help predict whether commonly used taxane-based chemotherapy will succeed.

Determining whether it can succeed can help avoid subjecting patients who will not benefit from the drug to severe, unnecessary side effects and potentially prevent subjecting patients to multiple rounds of chemotherapy.

The first Tulane team is made up of Frank Glaser, a medical doctor and masters in business administration candidate from the Tulane School of Medicine and Columbia Business School; Brian Hasselfeld, a medical doctor candidate from the Tulane School of Medicine; and Parastoo Khoshakhlagh, a doctoral candidate from the Tulane School of Engineering.

The technology’s lead inventor was Clemson University’s Karen Burg.

The second team is made up of Ph.D. postdoctoral fellow Murali Anbalagan and medical doctor candidates Brian Yu and Richard Tang.

The lead inventor was Dr. Sherry Yang of NCI.

“NCI has always had a strong interest in fostering young investigators and the fact that this challenge pairs each student team with entrepreneur-mentors to assist in the development of the business plans is another example of how we can bring new ideas and energy to cancer research,” said Dr. Douglas Lowy, NCI deputy director.

The top student teams were selected based on the strength of their business plans to commercialize their technologies, a live pitch and a recorded speech. In total, 478 people participated in the competition.