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Washington University teams win $50,000 Arch Grants


By Beth Miller and Melody Walker

Four startup companies with ties to Washington University in St. Louis have received $50,000 each in the Arch Grants 2013 Global Startup Competition designed to stimulate and support the early stage entrepreneurial community in St. Louis.

The winning companies were Sparo Labs, a medical device company founded by two engineering undergraduate students; Lipospectrum LLC, a life science company that provides R&D labs with advanced biological lipid-analysis was co-founded by an Olin Business School Executive MBA alumnus; Juristat, a software company that targets litigators and was founded by three alumni; and MMBiosensing LLC, which has invented a new method of detecting the bio-markers of heart attack and is founded by a WUSTL postdoctoral research associate and three alumni.

The companies were among 20 companies chosen from among 40 finalists, trimmed from more than 700 entrants, vying for the $50,000 grants of unrestricted funds. The grants also come with networking and mentoring opportunities and other free services including legal, accounting, marketing, cloud computing and mentoring support. Recipients also get access to St. Louis’ angel investment network, the opportunity to be a part of the downtown St. Louis startup community and an opportunity for a $100,000 follow-on grant from Arch Grants.

The win is the latest in a string of awards for Sparo Labs, headed by Andrew Brimer, who graduates from the School of Engineering & Applied Science May 17 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, and Abigail Cohen, who graduates from the School of Engineering & Applied Science May 17 with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering. In April, the team won $25,000 in the School of Engineering & Applied Science’s inaugural Discovery Competition. In February, the team won $30,000 in the 2013 Olin Cup Competition sponsored by the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. Last summer, the team won first place in two national engineering competitions, resulting in $15,000 in prizes.

Cohen and Brimer have spent nearly two years developing the product and a prototype that empowers patients to quantitatively track and proactively manage asthma, cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and other respiratory diseases via seamless integration with smartphones, tablets and computers — ultimately implementing low-cost diagnostic and monitoring spirometry worldwide. Most spirometers cost between $1,000-$2,000, making them unaffordable for hospitals and clinics in the developing world. However, the Sparo Labs device costs about $8. The low cost could allow health-care providers in developing countries to purchase the spirometers, which are specially designed for accuracy and durability despite their price.

Sparo Labs has filed for a patent and is preparing the product for clinical trials and FDA approval.

Juristat collects electronic lawsuit case data from state and federal court databases. The company uses a proprietary system to index this data into a single dynamic searchable database. Its product can provide more than 150 unique pieces of litigation intelligence, such as the probability of success on motions and appeal or metrics of an attorney’s experience within a practice area or specific court. Users can then quickly search and produce predictive models allowing lawyers to design the best litigation and marketing strategies.

Juristat was co-founded by Drew Winship, a trial lawyer for the Brown & James law firm and an alumnus of Washington University School of Law; Robert Ward, a developer for Beck Automation; and Jordan Woerndle, an analyst for the Neuroinformatics Research Group at the School of Medicine and an alumnus of the School of Engineering & Applied Science. Kent Syverud, dean of Washington University School of Law, is on the advisory board for Juristat.

MMBiosensing, founded by Amos Danielli, a postdoctoral research associate in the lab of Lihong Wang, PhD, in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, has invented and patented a proprietary method of detecting the biomarkers of a heart attack with significantly higher sensitivity and greatly reduced testing time compared to competitors. The company is developing the technology into a point-of-care device that will greatly reduce emergency room wait times and costs to patients and providers, and improve patient outcomes. The company also won $50,000 in the 2013 Olin Cup competition.

The company’s leadership staff – Abu Abraham, Robbie Garrison, and F. Gabriel Santa Cruz – are all graduates of the Olin Business School.

Lipospectrum, LLC co-founder and CEO Milind Sant, with a doctorate in organic chemistry and an Executive MBA from Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, is employing patented technology developed at Washington University in this bioscience company. The technology called Multi Dimensional Mass Spectrometry Shotgun Lipidomics (MDMS-SL) provides enhanced, state-of-the-art lipid analysis from biological samples of all types, including plants, animals and humans. The fields that can benefit from detailed molecular level lipid analysis are: cardiovascular, diabetes, obesity, cancer, autoimmune and neurological diseases, nutrition, agriculture and bio-fuel (algae).


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Engineering students Abigail Cohen (left) and Andrew Brimer (right) won for their company, Sparo Labs, and alumnus Jordan Woerndle (not pictured) won for his company, Juristat.
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