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September 17, 2009

ACTiVATE® Graduate Wins Business Plan Competition

Another Graduate Among the Finalists

September 17, 2009

Deborah Shapiro
Marketing Manager

Jodi Cook, a 2008 graduate of UMBC’s ACTiVATE® program, was named the winner of the annual StartRight! Business Plan Competition. The competition, run by Rockville Economic Development, Inc. (REDI), is in its sixth year and recognizes top business plans from women entrepreneurs. Cook founded Thesia Medical LLC after she completed ACTiVATE®, which trains women to start companies based on technologies developed at area universities and research institutions.

Thesia Medical is developing a device to monitor patients receiving regional anesthesia. Cook, an audiologist who previously worked at the Mayo Clinic, is in negotiations with Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory to license the technology on which the device will be based. Before entering the ACTiVATE® program, Cook was involved with two different start-ups with previous colleagues. Yearning to start her own company, Cook enrolled in ACTiVATE® to acquire the skills she would need to create her own business and develop her business plan. Cook’s hospital background gave her familiarity with the FDA approval process and she looked for a medical device technology that she could build a business around.

StartRight! is the second business plan competition Cook entered and her first victory. The first place prize of $10,000 will allow her to begin building the prototype of her device once the licensing process is complete; when the prototype is built, Cook will be able to obtain funding from investors more easily. Cook noted that she also gained a great deal from the competition experience. “Having presentation experience helps when going out to investors,” she said.

Carol Covin, a member of ACTiVATE®’s Class of 2007, was named a finalist in the competition, one of eight finalists out of 40 entrants. Her company, Sky Blue Pharmaceuticals LLC, is developing a small molecule drug that is based on a natural ingredient protocol to treat solid tumor cancers. Covin was inspired to start her company after a friend with inoperable stomach cancer found success with a combination of natural ingredients used in a cancer drug developed in the early 1980s that never made it to market. After meeting an oncologist who had developed a process for bringing obscure drugs to market, Covin, a computer science engineer who had dabbled in several entrepreneurial ventures, set about compiling data on the drug’s use.

Through her research, she discovered 10 people who had used it to treat their cancers, apparently successfully. With the help of a consultant, Covin is compiling the data necessary to submit an Investigational New Drug (IND) application to the FDA for permission to conduct a clinical trial. Using the knowledge and connections gained through ACTiVATE®, Covin developed a business plan and is now seeking investors, focusing primarily on foundations and individual investors. She affirmed that the StartRight! competition was a valuable experience as she moves her company forward. “I got good feedback about my business plan and good experience presenting.” She also noted that the continued guidance from ACTiVATE® instructors has also been invaluable.

StartRight! judging criteria are overall financial viability, the company’s management plan, the quality of an entrant’s market research and its marketing plan, and the degree of innovation and differentiation in the business model.

“The ACTiVATE® program gives its graduates the tools to develop solid business plans and present those plans to potential partners and investors. Jodi and Carol exemplify the spirit and expertise of our graduates and we congratulate them on this latest success,” said David Fink, ACTiVATE® program director.

Posted by dshapiro at September 17, 2009 12:19 PM