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Peking University Wins First Sustainable Technology Award At Carnegie Mellon’s McGinnis Venture Competition


PITTSBURGH—A team from China won the inaugural Sustainable Technology Award at the prestigious international McGinnis Venture Competition, hosted by the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. The team’s business, Dr. Seed LLC, aims to help impoverished farmers in China with a technology that improves seeds by increasing crop yield, improving resistance to drought and reducing the incidence of seed-borne diseases.

“We really wanted to develop an idea that would have a maximum impact on improving the quality of life for Chinese farmers,” said Jonathan Chin, the sole representative of the nine-member team to make the journey from Beijing to Pittsburgh for the March 15–17 competition.

The seed-improvement technology works by exposing seeds to a blast of light from a plasma-quartz bulb, Chin said. The technology has been lab- and field-tested, and the Chinese MBA team is working toward a broader deployment, he added. Initially, Dr. Seed will be used to improve soybean production, but the technology will work with corn, wheat and other grains, Chin said.

Other members of Dr. Seed are team leaders Vincent Wen and Christopher Chang, Michael Wu, Grace Liu, Elisa Jiang, Michael Cheung, Dell Hyun, and Sunjai Tutakorn. Chin said he was in regular contact with his team during the three-day competition and relied on their support to present the winning plan. Dr. Seed received $15,000 in cash and $20,000 in business services.

The Sustainable Technology Award, funded by Tepper School alum Sarosh Kumana (MSIA, 1977), joined the technology and life sciences tracks in the fourth annual McGinnis Venture Competition.

The University of Texas at Austin won the technology track with a business called Evapt Inc., which is developing a product to improve the performance of Web-based software. Team members are Divakar Jandhyala and Ranjit Nayak. They won $25,000 cash and $20,000 in business services.

The $5,000 second-place award in the technology track went to the University of Michigan’s Savium Technologies LLC, a broadband-phased array antenna system that is low-cost, lightweight and an efficient power user. Team members are Anuj Agarwal and Lora Schulwitz. Third place went to a team from the National University of Singapore with a business called TMN Biofuels Inc. Kishan Karunakaran represented the team.

First in the life sciences track went to Universidad de los Andes in Columbia with Trocamera, a business to improve laparoscopy for treating abdominal pain in Latin America. Team members included Marcela Cardenas, Rafael Arango, Jaime Gonzalez and Marcela Cardenas. They won $25,000 in cash and $20,000 in business services.

A team from the Tepper School at Carnegie Mellon placed second in life sciences with NeuroBank, a business to isolate, remove and store adult neural stem cells for use in treating certain neurological diseases and injuries. Team members included Hassan Sultan and Raymond Sekula, a neurologist at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH). Sekula is the second AGH neurologist and Tepper School MBA candidate to place in the McGinnis Venture Competition. Last year, a team that included Dr. Ernest Braxton Jr. won with NeuroLife, a company that creates a product to measure brain pressure noninvasively.

Third place in life sciences went to a team from the University of Oregon with its plan for Armozyme, a business to develop enzymes for improved treatment of diabetes. Team members included Enis Iplikci, Rathiya Jinn Issarachaikul, Deborah Marshall and Corey Bowers. Lastly, Savium Technologies from the University of Michigan won the Elevator Pitch competition.

All winners will also be automatically entered in the Moot Corp® Competition and given special access to Pittsburgh-area early stage investors for up to an additional $100,000 in additional investment opportunities.

The annual McGinnis Venture Competition is made possible by an endowment from Gerald E. McGinnis, a successful entrepreneur and founder of Respironics Inc.

The keynote speaker at the 2007 McGinnis Venture Competition was Dennis Yablonsky, secretary of Community and Economic Development for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.


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