Two teams from the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) advanced to the final round of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s 2020 New Venture Competition.
The 12th annual contest, the eighth largest collegiate competition in the country, offers GW competitors real-world experiences in entrepreneurship. Each year teams compete in one of three categories — Tech, New, and Social Ventures — with four teams facing off against each other in the final round. More than 150 judges from around the world helped narrow the entries from a field of 428 teams. Teams representing the SMHS MD Class of 2023 competed in the Tech Venture and Social Venture categories of the competition, with one earning top honors in two categories and both teams receiving finalist prizes.
First-year medical students, Shelly Mishra, Aditya Maddali, and Krithika Rao comprise the RestEasy team, which competed in the Tech Venture category for projects featuring new proprietary technology, discovery, or innovation at their core. Their product is a wearable pediatric asthma monitor that detects and alerts parents when their child is experiencing a nighttime asthma attack. The team took home the Viewer’s Choice Award, the Best Medical Tech Prize, and a Runner Up Prize totaling more than $22,000.
“We are very honored to have won [these categories] for our venture in this competition and to represent SMHS,” said Mishra. “Having the opportunity to advance through multiple rounds of the competition to the finals has been validating, and shows that RestEasy has a lot of potential for to those who are affected by asthma.”
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, there are more than 6.2 million children under the age of 18 living with asthma. The team’s product is a monitor linked to a mobile device app that alerts parents whose children are experiencing nocturnal asthma attacks. The device tracks three parameters — heart rate, respiratory rate, and pulse oximetry (a noninvasive measurement of blood oxygen levels). When the sensors detect measurements outside the normal range, signaling a possible attack, the app sends an alert to a parent’s phone. The data collected can also be sent to the child’s pediatrician.
“I think this competition gave us the unique opportunity to prove that we also have the business skills and acumen, in addition to the clinical skills we are taught in medical school, to be competitive in the entrepreneurial field,” said Mishra. She added that the success has left the team optimistic that its proposal is strong enough to lure potential investors with the capital necessary to turn their venture into a reality.
For the coming year, the RestEasy team plans to use its prize money to develop and refine the prototype, as well as submit a patent application and begin the process for FDA approval.
“Almost all of the individual parts of our technology exist separately, so we know that we do not have to re-invent the wheel with product development” Mishra explained. “We do have to do a bit of work to do in terms of creating the unique aspects of our product which will require time and experimentation.”
Another team from SMHS, Project REALM, also reached the finals of the competition and took home one of the $5,000 Runner Up Prizes. SMHS first-years Rushi Challa, Hoon Min, Jacob Shalkevich, and Nandan Srinivasa competed in the Social Venture category — looking to solve social or environmental problems using nonprofit, for-profit, or hybrid models — with a proposal to collect sterile and unused medical supplies from area hospitals for repackaging and redistribution to under-resourced local free clinics.