Tufts Business Plan Winners Tackle Major Medical Problems

$100,000 Business Plan Competitions yield novel treatment for Parkinson’s and a new way to diagnose Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis
April 29, 2013

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Alexander Reid

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MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. – A therapy to rehabilitate facial muscles in people with Parkinson's disease and a tool to diagnose drug-resistant tuberculosis have earned top honors in Tufts University's ninth annual business plan competition. Prizes included $100,000 in cash and in-kind sponsor contributions.

The two projects were among 13 finalists in the competition that fielded proposals from more than 100 teams. Seven finalists competed in the Classic Venture Business Plan Competition and six competed in Social Entrepreneurship. Coordinated through the entrepreneurial leadership center at Tufts University's Gordon Institute, the business plan competition includes students and faculty from schools across the university and alumni.

Corporate sponsors for the competitions include: Allied Minds, Auster Capital Partners, Burns & Levinson LLP, The Capital Network (TCN), Cooley LLP, Cummings Properties, Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp., Loupe Consulting, Lowenstein Sandler Attorneys at Law, MassChallenge, and Savoir Media LLC.

Cinzia Metallo, a graduate student in Tufts Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Science, represented the team that won the Classic Venture Business Plan Competition with Myoelectra, a rehabilitation treatment in which thin, flexible wireless electrodes are implanted into the facial skin of people suffering from Parkinson’s.

Muscle rigidity in the limbs and face is a common symptom of Parkinson's. Currently, the primary surgical treatment for rigidity is deep brain stimulation (DBS), in which electrodes implanted in the brain block the abnormal nerve signals that cause the symptoms. Myoelectra is designed to target facial and throat muscles, allowing those with Parkinson's to swallow and speak more normally. Metallo and her team received $12,500 in cash and $36,000 in in-kind services from The Capital Network (TCN), Cooley LLP, Cummings Properties, Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp., and Loupe Consulting.

Edx presents ETB won the Social Entrepreneurship Competition with a tool that will help health care personnel diagnose cases of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Globally, only 60,000 of the estimated 310,000 new cases of MDR-TB are diagnosed, according to the team.

Existing diagnostic methods are expensive and require sophisticated laboratory equipment and trained medical staff. Also, they can take weeks or months to confirm drug-resistant cases, during which time the air-borne disease spreads to others.

Using the Edx device, even minimally trained personnel in remote settings will be able test mucous cultures from tuberculosis patients and detect whether they are resistant to anti-TB drugs. The capacity of the device to yield accurate diagnoses faster than conventional methods could to improve MDR-TB diagnosis and treatment in rural clinical settings, said Eileen Guo, a 2012 graduate of Tufts School of Arts and Sciences and member of Edx presents ETB.

The team received $12,500 in cash and $36,000 in in-kind services from Burns & Levinson LLP, The Capital Network (TCN), Cummings Properties, Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp, and Loupe Consulting.

For a complete listing of all the 2013 competition winners go to: http://gordon.tufts.edu/entLeader/competition/2013winners.asp

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Tufts University, located on three Massachusetts campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville, and Grafton, and in Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of innovative teaching and research initiatives span all Tufts campuses, and collaboration among the faculty and students in the undergraduate, graduate and professional programs across the university's eight schools is widely encouraged.