David Hardwicke, ESTEEM '17 and Ireland native, has been kept busy since graduating, turning his thesis project into a company, Structured Immunity. Hardwicke’s ESTEEM capstone thesis project was with Brian Baker and Tim Riley, two ND scientists who have created a technology that helps pharmaceutical companies increase T-cell therapy potency and reduce the risk of side-effects that come with these processes used for cancer treatment.
Hardwicke has depended on multiple advisors throughout his experience. One of the first was Gaylene Anderson, who was an incredible source in helping Hardwicke tailor the message of this technology for business competitions. One of these competitions was the Cardinal Challenge in Kentucky, where Structured Immunity was able to receive some funding, but most importantly a lot of feedback from the judges on the pitch and business model. Hardwicke was able to use this feedback to perfect his pitch and business model, which he feels was a crucial step in eventually winning the grand prize at the McCloskey business plan competition at Notre Dame. Winning the McCloskey competition was a big moment for the Structured Immunity team, and helped them realize that not only is the technology great, but they also have a sustainable business model.
Early on into his thesis project, Hardwicke recognized the value of the technology and the impact that it could make on the lives of cancer patients. He spent the next months validating if this technology was needed in the market, and if so, how to create it into a sustainable business. Through this validation, Hardwicke realized the promise that the technology had to become a sustainable business.
The positive feedback from judges and customer validation in addition to the excitement of the investors and their confidence in the technology gave Hardwicke a green light on turning his thesis project into a company, post-graduation from ESTEEM. Hardwicke was connected with the IDEA Center at Notre Dame, whose goal is to bring Notre Dame technologies to market. Being affiliated with the IDEA Center has allowed Hardwicke to focus on aligning the business model to customer needs, instead of having to worry about the usual financial stresses of an early-stage company.
Hardwicke’s next steps will be taken in Chicago, where he will partner with Matter, a healthcare incubator, to continue the launch of this company and gain its first customers. With a legal structure, licensing, and board of directors already set up, the next big steps will be fundraising a C round in the next few months and hiring more people.
As Hardwicke reflects on his time at ESTEEM, he feels that there was a clear common trend among the courses and people, a focus on customer needs. This customer focused approach is now at the core of Structured Immunity’s business model. To Structured Immunity, every customer is unique, resulting in having a flexible service in order to provide maximum value to each customer. Since ESTEEM, being an entrepreneur has given Hardwicke a lot of soft skills that he values, including the ability to have difficult conversations with people and being empathetic towards team members.