UC Davis students develop diagnostic method for stroke patients

UC Davis students develop diagnostic method for stroke patients

Photo Credits: Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Medical illustration of a brain with stroke symptoms

Big Bang! Business Competition encourages intersection of innovation, entrepreneurship  

Despite unprecedented circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship virtually hosted their Big Bang! Business Competition this year, celebrating its 20th anniversary. StartBio, a group of UC Davis students, took home first prize with their innovation of a diagnostic method to identify ischemic stroke patients.

“For stroke patients, every minute is critical,” said Teri Slack, a UC Davis alumna and current MBA candidate at the Graduate School of Management, via email. “That’s what turned our attention to investigating the detection of specific stroke biomarkers in blood.”

Diedra Shorty, a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the chemistry department, first heard of the competition from a fellow lab mate, who helped her see that understanding how to communicate her science to others was important. All three team members of the StartBio group have a strong science background and expertise in disease diagnostics and therapeutics. In turn, they identified the need for a fast way to diagnose ischemic stroke patients, according to Slack. The technology to make a tool addressing this need was available so the team was able to create what they call the Rapid Homogenous Point-of-Care Evaluation (HoPE). 

HoPE addresses the severe lack of options to reduce patient treatment time, as there is no current method to quickly identify and differentiate stroke types, according to Shorty. 

“My desire is and has always been to help people,” Shorty said via email. “The HoPE diagnostic tool has the potential to greatly improve patient outcomes and I want to see that happen.”

Through the challenges and non-linear progress, Shorty was motivated to continue on with the support of her teammates. She encourages people to surround themselves with others who inspire and motivate them for when times get hard. 

The creation of the Big Bang! Business Competition was motivated by the frustrations of a few UC Davis MBA students who wanted to push back against the dismissal of UC Davis as just an agricultural school, according to Karen Harding, the program coordinator for the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and leader of the Big Bang! Business Competition. 

“The Big Bang! is really an educational journey,” Harding said. “It’s not just a competition where you show up, you do your pitch, and then maybe win and then you leave. Since we are at UC Davis and it’s a university, we’re more about education and actually teaching the entrepreneurial mindset.”

The competition opens every year with a launch event in October, followed by a series of workshops throughout November until the end of April. The workshops offer support to participants at each step of the competition, such as helping participants develop a two-page executive summary of their idea, which is required for the first round of judging. Those who are cleared past the first round advance to give presentations on their ideas and conduct customer calls where they receive feedback from experts in their field about their ideas. Finally, the top 15 to 16 teams pitch their ideas in person at the Graduate School of Management. First place winners receive $20,000 while the People’s Choice award grants $10,000.

Harding highlighted that a large part of the competition is facilitating growth and network-building for the teams, as participants can then use the skills they learned during the competition and apply them to job interviews and future careers. As there are no qualifications or restrictions to who can apply, Harding encourages people from all fields to participate in the competition. She also hopes the Big Bang! will inspire people to not simply attend their classes, but also seek out and take advantage of the opportunities the university has to offer. 

“I just encourage everyone to get involved because you don’t have to have limiting beliefs about it,” Harding said. “Once you talk to me or talk to one of us at the Institute and you hear about it, you’re like I can do that. And it’s true. You really can.”

Written by: Michelle Wong — science@theaggie.org