High-Tech Shark Tank

May 11, 2015

As part of the University of Cincinnati's Research Week, a friendly little "Shark Tank" competition brought out the brilliant and innovative scientists from UC and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

The contestants:

  1. Vincent Martin, MD, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
  2. Lee Grimes, PhD, Cincinnati Children's
  3. Punam Malik, MD, Cincinnati Children's
  4. Rupak Banerjee, PhD, University of Cincinnati

The judges:

  1. Jack Kraeutler, CEO of Meridian Bioscience
  2. John Rice, co-founder and managing partner of Triathlon Medical Ventures
  3. John McIlwraith, co-founder and managing director of Allos Ventures
  4. Mark Collar-former president, Global Pharmaceuticals & Personal Health for Procter & Gamble

The pitches:

Dr. Vincent Martin went first. The UC's College of Medicine professor is using weather data to help predict hospital readmission data.

He says, "Hospital readmission rates are a huge issue with hospitals. They're penalized by Medicare. But one of the biggest things in the personalized digital health arena, people are going to be fed back information on wrist watches about their blood pressure and their temperature and weather is going to be a component of that." Martin says there are certain days were certain diseases are going to be more or less likely based on meteorological data. He is working with Mercy Health to develop risk models.

Lee Grimes already has a private company interested in his idea. He’s a leukemia biologist at Cincinnati Children’s. Grimes is developing small molecule therapeutics to target a protein, Stat 5, associated with cancer.

Rupak Banerjee  has degrees in mechanical engineering and biological sciences. He is using an implantable device to deliver medicine into the eye for back-of-the-eye diseases. Instead of multiple injections, the implant would slowly release the drug over two months. Banerjee is in ongoing discussions with the Cincinnati Eye Institute and three other companies.

Dr. Punam Malik (POO-nam MAL-ick) of Cincinnati Children’s is hoping to convert sickle cell anemia into a very curable disease by using the patient’s own bone marrow stem cells and genetically correcting them to have anti-sickling effects. She says it’s difficult to put genes into cells so they go into a virus.

The patient would need  just one treatment and it would cost $80-100-thousand per patient, less than a bone marrow transplant. According to the journal Nature, sickle cell affects more than 100 million people worldwide. In the United States there are 100-thousand patients and we spend $1.2- billion to treat them.

The winner:

Dr. Malik