When young entrepreneurs from universities across Missouri and Illinois came together at Saint Louis University for the Missouri-Illinois Regional Idea to Product (I2P) competition last March they had no idea that one of them would take a top prize at the global competition in Sweden in November.
Matthew MacEwan, an M.D. and Ph.D. candidate in the Medical Scientist Training Program at Washington University School of Medicine, presented his idea for a new nanofiber surgical mesh, based on technology he developed at Washington University, winning first place and a cash prize at the SLU regionals.
MacEwan, who also is the founder and CEO of NanoMed, LLC, combined his biomedical engineering background, business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit to develop the new product which is easier for surgeons to work with, offers patients faster recovery times and reduced complications, and provides cost savings to health care providers.
Jerome Katz, Ph.D., Coleman Foundation Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship at SLU's John Cook School of Business, director of the Billiken Angels Network and the driving force behind the I2P project coming to SLU, points to the importance of such collaborative competitions to help young innovators take their products from the idea stage to reality.
"Idea To Product provides the perfect opportunity for students to test out their ideas and get expert feedback at an early stage," Katz said. "For Dr. MacEwan, I2P can make all the difference in getting a broader audience for the newest ideas. SLU's very glad that our competition's winner was recognized worldwide as the best new idea of 2011. It shows the great work being done in St. Louis area universities"
Ken Harrington, managing director at Washington University's Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, shares Katz's feelings about the value of competitions with strong feedback and mentoring.
"This sort of support helps strengthen ideas and develop entrepreneurs," Harrington said. "We really appreciate SLU taking the lead on I2P and feel it is this type of collaboration that makes St. Louis a more entrepreneurial region."
For MacEwan, each competition was a step in a journey that proved to be an amazing and rewarding experience.
"To be part of an international competition filled with novel and ground-breaking inventions and ventures was a true honor," MacEwan said. "We were able to meet with people from all over the globe who were interested in developing new technologies capable of dramatically improving health care."
About I2P: Idea To Product ® is an international competition with branches in Asia and Europe as well as campuses in the United States. The program is based at the University of Texas at Austin. It is a three-tiered idea competition beginning at the campus level, then the two-state level, and on to the global forum. This year will be SLU's fifth year hosting I2P for universities in Missouri and Illinois. Over the years, 12 universities and more than 400 students have participated in the Missouri/Illinois I2P competition. I2P is open to all graduate and undergraduate students, and multidisciplinary teams are encouraged.
Click here to learn more about the Idea To Product ® Competition