Medical device wins top prize at Biz Plan Competition

Xenia Kachur

Xenia Kachur co-presented the winning business plan for Pathostat, which has a patent-pending medical device that improves the analysis of cancer tissue.

For more than 250,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer each year, lumpectomy surgery offers a less disfiguring, less traumatic alternative to mastectomy, but breast-conserving procedures have traditionally been less effective than mastectomies due to the difficulty of precisely excising and analyzing the cancer tissue.

Pathostat, a startup company based at the University of Arizona, hopes to change that with a new medical device technology that makes the analysis of tumors faster and more accurate, and for that innovation, the company earned the grand prize of $50,000 at this year’s Tulane Business Plan Competition.

In winning the competition, Pathostat edged out Drop the Chalk, a software development company targeting charter school teachers, and OsComp Systems, developer of a patent-pending natural gas compression technology.

The competition, an annual presentation of the Tulane Entrepreneurs Association, took place on April 8 at the Freeman School with the winner announced at an awards ceremony later that evening at the Audubon Tea Room. The three finalists, which were chosen from more than 70 entries, presented their plans in Goldring/Woldenberg Hall II before a live audience and a distinguished panel of judges.

Pathostat earned high marks from judges for developing a kit that pathologists can use to accurately analyze breast tissue while the patient is still on the operating table. The tissue is suspended in a quick-hardening gel that enables the pathologist to make thin, accurate slices to determine if all the cancer cells have been removed or if the surgeon must remove additional tissue. The device has the potential to greatly improve the success rate of lumpectomies, thus reducing the need for additional surgeries, and the developers say the technology can be adapted for use in other types of cancer surgery as well.

“We felt as though Pathostat was addressing an unmet need in a very large market where there’s a lot of emphasis and a lot of potential for interest from investors down the road,” said competition judge Michael LeBourgeois (MBA ’00), principal with the private equity firm NGP Energy Technology Partners. “They are attacking an important area with a good, practical approach, and there was a lot of passion and drive on the part of the entrepreneurs. I think that resonated with the judges.”

Tulane Business Plan Competition

Jen Schnidman Medbery, left, and Eric Gallagher (MBA ’12) of Drop the Chalk, which won first place in the inaugural Domain Cos. New Orleans Entrepreneur Challenge.

Thanks to a gift from real estate development firm the Domain Companies, this year’s event included a second competition open solely to New Orleans-based entrepreneurial ventures. The Domain Companies New Orleans Entrepreneur Challenge awarded a prize of $20,000 to the business or business idea judged to have the greatest potential economic impact on New Orleans.

Drop the Chalk, a finalist in the Tulane Business Plan Competition, won first place in the challenge, edging out Rebirth Financial, a microfinance company specializing in peer-tobusiness lending, and Surround Sound Accompaniment, a digital download service that provides classical musicians with recorded selections to practice with.

Drop the Chalk is no stranger to the competition circuit. The company won last year’s NewDay Challenge, a business plan competition sponsored by Tulane’s Social Entrepreneurship Initiatives, and earned second place in the 2010 Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition thanks in no small part to the help of Freeman School MBA interns. This year was no exception. Drop the Chalk’s plan was co-presented by Eric Gallagher (MBA ’12), who currently serves as the company’s business development manager.

“For me, having Tulane here has been an indispensable help in really getting the company off the ground,” said Jen Schnidman Medbery, Drop the Chalk’s founder and CEO. “I have had a steady stream of really talented interns from almost day one, and I think having the university as a partner in entrepreneurship in the city creates a really unique pipeline.”

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