CLEMSON — A Clemson University team made of bioengineering and business administration students were named finalists in a challenge to accelerate commercialization and spur entrepreneurship. The team created a business plan for a  invention that provides a new approach to tissue regeneration following breast cancer surgery that may one day change the way doctors treat the disease.

The Avon Foundation, National Cancer Institute (NCI) and The Center for Advancing Innovation partnered to create the first Breast Cancer Start-up Challenge, a global competition that aims to advance biomedical inventions.

The challenge featured a set of 10 unlicensed breast cancer inventions that have commercial viability and the potential to improve public health. The primary goal is to stimulate the creation of startup businesses based on these inventions. Teams were made up of students, led by established entrepreneurs, from the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, India and the Netherlands.

Funded by the Avon Foundation for Women, Clemson bioengineer Karen Burg, breast cancer cell biologist Brian Booth, bioengineer Chih-Chao Yang and their research team at the Clemson University Institute for Biological Interfaces of Engineering (IBIOE) developed and patented an engineered tissue with anti-cancer properties that can be used to test breast cancer therapies or can be used as “injectable tissue” to replace breast tissue removed during cancer surgery.

The invention was one of the 10 technologies that the business competition was centered around and the only university technology that was selected for the competition. Four teams, from the University of North Carolina/Duke University, Wake Forest University, Tulane University and Clemson, competed by developing business plans for this technology.

As a finalist, the Clemson business team is given an opportunity to launch a startup company, negotiate licensing agreements and raise seed funding to further develop these National Cancer Institute and Avon Foundation grantee inventions.

Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering and Science at Clemson, said this competition takes a holistic approach to economic development and innovation.

“The Breast Cancer Start-up Challenge ties engineering and science with economic development,” he said. “Clemson researchers are helping place the university and South Carolina at the forefront of bioengineering and breast cancer research. More importantly, these entrepreneurial skills are expected of the next generation of engineers and scientists to create new companies.”

Members of the Clemson business team include Michael Gara, technology director at The Clemson University Biomedical Engineering Innovation Campus; bioengineering graduate students James Chow and Breanne Przestrzelski; business administration students Joseph Holland and Alison Lamb; Brian McKinley, surgical oncologist at Greenville Health System; and Clemson graduate David Orr, co-founder of KIYATEC.


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