Two student startup companies, U-Screen DX and Biome, were awarded grants June 18 at Founder.org’s annual World Founder Forum in Paris. The companies were recognized alongside those representing schools nationwide and internationally.
Biome, which won a $10,000 award, was founded by senior custom-designed major Collin Cavote with the intention to create biowalls that use nature’s own processes to fight imminent climate change.
“We’re looking to purify air by creating products that use nature and nature’s processes to clean air,” Cavote said. “Our appliance hangs like a painting, and it sits there and quietly cleans the air.”
His design is unlike a typical air filtration system due to Cavote’s unique approach of using nature as inspiration, which was facilitated by his ability to design his own coursework.
“[My] major’s called biomimicry, which basically means looking at nature for inspiration,” Cavote explained. “So that’s kind of the lens that I used for Biome.”
A biotechnology startup, U-Screen DX, was also awarded $10,000 to develop early cancer screening tests.
“We look for markers in the urine to develop a noninvasive cancer screening test to detect liver and colon cancer,” Selena Lin, a graduate student studying microbiology and immunology in the Drexel University College of Medicine, and founder and president of U-Screen, wrote in an email. “When the patient has liver or colon cancer, we are able to detect those cancers with cancer-unique biomarkers in their urine.”
As the companies are small startups managed by full-time students, this prize money will be instrumental in their growth, and both Cavote and Lin have a clear idea of how their businesses will benefit from the award. For U-Screen, it means covering costs that will help get certifications needed to market the product.
“It will help cover the startup costs you don’t really think about,” Lin wrote, indicating that they plan on applying to the National Institute of Health’s National Cancer Institute.
Cavote plans on using the prize money for the direct development of his product.
“It allows us to prototype a lot more,” Cavote said. “So, the next few months I’ll be working with the product design department, the mechanical engineering department and some others to help speed up our prototyping time so that we can collect data off of the prototype and use it for a larger grant.”
In addition to the monetary awards, recipients of the grants are assigned an industry-specific mentor and have access to Founder.org classes.
“For the next year, we have to go through their courses, their tests and all of this is designed to help us grow our company in a really strategic way,” Cavote said. “They assign us a personal mentor from our own industry, and the whole goal is to get the company out of startup mode and more into a full-fledged company.”
Cavote, who is currently working with Biome full time for his co-op as a part of the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship’s co-op opportunity, sees a long-term future for his company with the imminent threat of climate change.
“My process a few years ago was, ‘How would nature solve climate change?’” Cavote said. “I haven’t thought about my future without Biome yet, so it will probably be at least five years. I think, I hope, it turns into a career.”
Founder.org is a company that consists of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who are focused around the idea of the advancement of student startups. They recognize an annual class of 50 student companies and award grants of up to $100,000 along with the 8D Company Building Program in order to help student entrepreneurs achieve and surpass their goals.