ESTEEM student Christopher Cali is part of a team that will compete in the Global Venture Labs Investment Competition in Austin in May. The group, Enlightened Diagnostics, Inc (EnDx), qualified at a regional competition in February at the University of Louisville’s Brown-Forman Cardinal Challenge. EnDx is developing a 3-dimensional molecular imaging device to provide abundant data for breast cancer diagnosis and research, with potential application to colon, prostate, and other cancers.
“It takes tissues and, without deconstructing them, can render that tissue on a molecular level in three dimensions,” Cali says. “It would offer clinicians much more data than they currently have to make more precise and accurate diagnoses.”
The enterprise is based on the research of three Notre Dame faculty members – Dr. Siyuan Zhang, an M.D./Ph.D. specializing in breast cancer pathology at the Harper Cancer Research Institute, and Jeremiah Zartman and David Hoelzle of the College of Engineering, who focus more on development of the device.
In addition to Cali, the EnDx team includes Megan Usovsky, a student in the Master of Science in Patent Law; Scott Manwaring, an MBA student; Victoria Zellmer, a Ph.D. candidate in Biological Sciences; and Colin O’Toole, a Master of Science in Accountancy candidate. Gaylene Anderson of Notre Dame’s Office of Technology Transfer and Senior Innovations Officer at Cleveland Clinic Innovations, is their faculty advisor.
Cali, who has been developing the business plan since August, has broad knowledge of the project including technology review, competitive landscape analysis, potential markets, and other issues helpful for the competition format that includes a 15-minute presentation and 15 minutes of questions and answers.
“I have a pretty solid grasp of all the different aspects of the commercialization plan,” he says. “Coupled with the fact that we have a strong, diverse team that specializes in the essential fields, there is hardly question that we cannot answer thoughtfully and thoroughly.”
Cali, a 2014 Notre Dame graduate who majored in science-business, decided to join ESTEEM last spring, after ESTEEM Director David Murphy spoke to one of his classes, rather than pursuing medical school or other opportunities. “I felt like this was a calling that would lead to opportunities to impact the world in positive ways; that is what Notre Dame prepares us to do” he says.
Business plan competitions are comprehensive experiences as competitors face the rigors of professional investors who demand detailed evidence about such topics as marketplace validation, partnerships, and delivery channels provides valuable preparation for the consulting position that Cali will take at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. after graduation, he says.
“It’s both fun and encouraging to see investors and scientists getting excited about this project,” says Cali, who expects that his team’s project will spin off into a company that will be providing diagnostic services to improve the lives of breast cancer patients within the next few years.