ESTEEMer Qualifies for 2016 Cardinal Challenge Competition

Author: Rebecca Shute

As I begin my last semester at Notre Dame, it is amazing to think of the progress that the ESTEEM class has made over such a short period of time. Only a few months back, the discussions between students at Innovation Park buzzed with topics like understanding the business model canvas and “what did Hutch say was an Account Receivable again?” Now, the Greenhouse is filled with lively banter over the business models we’re developing for our thesis projects, as we have developed mastery of the technology, market opportunities and applications, intellectual property, and barriers to commercialization. Many of these plans, which are quickly materializing into real startups before our eyes, are the subject of upcoming competitions such as Notre Dame’s McCloskey Business Plan Competition in April.

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I, like many other ESTEEMers, am jumping on the business plan bandwagon. For my Capstone Thesis, I am working with the Bilgicer Laboratory in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering to commercialize a liposomal drug delivery platform for chemotherapeutics. Traditional chemotherapeutic drugs, which are small molecules, lack selectivity to cancer cells and cause adverse side effects because they can fit through the gaps in cells lining the bloodstream and attack cells in the body indiscriminately. Packaging chemotherapy drugs into liposomes, which are spherical particles self-assembled from a phospholipid bilayer, enables tumor targeting, increased drug efficacy, and improved patient outcomes.

My Capstone Thesis is the basis for Certus Therapeutics, Inc., a Notre Dame team that will enter multiple business competitions during the year. Advised by Gaylene Anderson, the Senior Innovations Officer for the Cleveland Clinic, the team is comprised of Charissa Quinlan, Ph.D. candidate and inventor, Sean Panchal, EMBA candidate, Dr. Brittany Butler, MSPL candidate, Kevin Schneider, MSA candidate, Michael Schneider, MSA candidate, and myself. Each member of this multidisciplinary team helps Certus work towards its launch as a real time startup. 

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After a semester of hard work developing the business plan, we have qualified for the 2016 Brown-Forman Cardinal Challenge. On February 12-13th, the team will travel down to the University of Louisville and present our commercialization plan to a panel of venture capitalists, investors, and entrepreneurs. Certus will compete against 11 other teams around the country for more than $100,000 in prizes. Last year, Gaylene’s team, Enlightened Diagnostics (including ESTEEM alumni Chris Cali), nabbed second place for their stellar plan and presentation. Let’s hope that we can, as David Murphy says, “Be Excellent,” and continue Notre Dame’s streak at the top!

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