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UC Davis Announces Business Plan Competition Results

May 20, 2004

A pharmaceutical company developing a safer, longer-lasting substitute for existing morphine-like narcotic painkillers -- the most widely abused prescription drugs in the nation -- has won $10,000 in an annual business plan competition organized by Master of Business Administration students at the University of California, Davis.

Mujisan Pharmaceuticals of Mountain View won first place in the fourth annual Big Bang! Business Plan Competition, designed by the students of the Graduate School of Management to promote entrepreneurship, innovation and hands-on learning.

Second place was awarded to Instant Effects of Santa Barbara, and Glycometrix of Davis won the People's Choice award.

First-place Mujisan has proprietary drug polymer technology to produce novel narcotic pain relievers that would provide continuous pain relief for up to 24 hours per dose, with substantial gains in safety and reduced potential for abuse.

Team members are Kevin Chee, who graduated from UC Davis in 2002 with a bachelor's degree in biological sciences; David Wang; Jane Lee; Valaiporn Rusmintratip; and Clifford Bryant.

A panel of five judges -- including professional venture capitalists and experienced managers from the Sacramento Valley and San Francisco Bay Area -- served as judges and selected the first- and second-place winners in the final round. Results were announced at the final event of the competition on campus Wednesday (May 19) evening.

"This is huge for us," said David Wang, a fourth-year medical student at Stanford University and a co-founder of Mujisan. "Just in the past few days we've been contacted by venture capitalists and investors who want to hear more about our technology and provide feedback. As a result, we'll come out with a better pitch and business plan. We want to take it to the next step and continue to do studies."

"The market potential of what Mujisan is doing is compelling," said competition judge Scott Lenet, managing partner of venture capital firm DFJ Frontier. "There is a very large market out there, and the technology can be applied to multiple types of pharmaceuticals. It's not a one hit wonder in its potential," he added. "They have a young and energetic team and a good plan on how to proceed."

"The MBA students who ran the competition this year did a great job of pulling together the different parts of the university," Lenet said. "Research projects at UC Davis got explored for commercial value, and venture capitalists are getting to see these as potential investment opportunities, which are goals of the competition. We saw three of the six finalists as venture-fundable ideas, which is a good hit rate."

Second place and $3,000 were awarded to Instant Effects of Santa Barbara. Team members are UC Davis MBA student Pejman Azarm, Don Brittain, Phil Miller, Phil Brock, Mike Wilson and Andrew Swart.

Instant Effects provides product and technology solutions that allow mainstream and business computer users to easily access rich media and advanced graphics techniques using familiar software. The startup's first product is OfficeFX, a plug-in for Microsoft PowerPoint that gives novice to professional users the ability to add customized, interactive 3-D scenes to any slide and create high-impact presentation themes that can be edited quickly without the help of a designer.

As the audience's favorite, Glycometrix of Davis won the People's Choice award and $2,000. The company is developing a highly accurate, non-invasive and cost-effective test to detect ovarian and other cancers based on the presence of particular sugars (glycans). Team members say the test is superior to current cancer screening methods.

Team members are Carlito Lebrilla, a UC Davis professor of chemistry and medicine; Suzanne Miyamoto, a researcher at the UC Davis Cancer Center; Paul Yu-Yang, a UC Davis student working toward an MBA and a doctorate in biomedical engineering; and Bill Grabert.

The other finalist teams were:

  • Arête Therapeutics of Davis, which seeks to commercialize a new class of therapeutic compounds to treat cardiovascular disease, inflammation and hypertension. The pharmaceutical company has developed therapeutic compounds with good properties for moving through the body and demonstrated their efficacy in treating hypertension and inflammation in animal models. The company's technology is based on a series of issued and pending patents of Bruce Hammock, a UC Davis professor of entomology and an expert in toxicology.

    Team members include Tod Stoltz and Jeff Doherty, both UC Davis MBA students.
  • In Situ Xpress of Davis is a biotechnology company that is designing custom probes and services for mapping the cellular location of genes. The company's goal is to provide the medical community with highly sensitive molecular diagnostic tests for the early detection of diseases.

    Team members, all with the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience, are research fellows Karl Murray and Shawn Hayes and associate research scientists Xiao-bo Liu and Margherita Molnar.
  • Inluminaire of Davis plans to sell fluorescent compounds found in blue green algae as optical probes. The compounds will allow clinicians to see pre-cancerous lung lesions with clarity and can be used in a wide variety of other applications, such as the rapid testing for toxins and bacteria in wastewater sampling. Research scientists at UC Berkeley and UC Davis recently created the method to purify and engineer the compounds.

    Team members are Craig Cummins and Lauren Fix, both working toward a Master of Science degree and MBA at UC Davis; and Jonathan Hughes, a project manager at the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies. The team's business advisers include Chris Soderquist, who graduated from UC Davis with an MBA in 1998.

Claire Kurmel, chair of the competition, said, "We were extremely pleased with the number and quality of plans this year. Our finalists represented the best-of-the-best in UC Davis research, cutting-edge innovation and business strategy."

After the competition's kickoff in early November, students from the management school organized a series of workshops to help competitors craft business plans based on marketable ideas.

A total of 21 teams submitted executive summaries of their business plans in mid-February, and nine qualifiers were asked to submit complete business plans in April. Following a review of the business plans, six teams were selected to make 15-minute presentations before judges Tuesday and before a public audience Wednesday.

Throughout the competition, judges were asked to evaluate the summaries, plans and presentations as they would for ventures funded by their firms. The final judging panel included Roger Akers of Akers Capital, Scott Lenet of DFJ Frontier and Roy Martinez of American River Ventures, all in Sacramento; Pete Bernardoni of Technology Funding in El Dorado Hills; and David Lowe of Skyline Ventures in Palo Alto.

About 50 volunteers from a variety of firms provided financial sponsorship, led workshops, mentored the teams or judged the competition.

Major sponsors include the Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich law firm and the UC Davis Medical Center. Other sponsors include Akers Capital, the Fenwick & West law firm; Kinko's, Sofinnova Ventures, Technology Funding, American River Ventures, DFJ Frontier, Degussa, Alight Software, the Associated Students of Management and Silicon Valley Bank.

Last year's winner was SialoGen Therapeutics Inc. of Davis, a biopharmaceutical company that is building a business around a patented technology that it hopes will stop the spread of cancer by shutting down the production of enzymes that make polysialic acid, a sugar polymer found on the surface of cancer cells. SialoGen's founders include professors in the UC Davis School of Medicine and organic chemistry department and a UC Davis MBA student.

SialoGen went on to become one of eight finalists in Fortune magazine's first MBA Showdown, which pitted against each other winners from business plan competitions at more than 45 top business schools. The company has since opened a lab and is now actively seeking seed funding.

About the UC Davis Graduate School of Management

Established in 1981, the UC Davis Graduate School of Management is consistently ranked among the top-tier business schools in the nation. The UC Davis MBA program ranked 14th among public institutions and 29th overall in the latest U.S. News & World Report survey, the ninth consecutive year the magazine has ranked the School among the top 50.

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