On Oct. 29, industry expert judges and attendees picked the four winners of the Oregon Bioscience Association’s 2019 Research Fast Pitch and Company Pitch Fest competition. Entrants competed for more than $15,000 worth of cash and prizes, designed to further their study and commercialization potential. The presentations and voting happened at the Oregon Bio 2019: Innovating and Scaling for our Region’s Growth conference.

The winner was Sparrow Pharmaceuticals and its President, David Katz, Ph.D. Dr. Katz presented Sparrow’s emerging success with its novel products that combine an HSD-1 inhibitor with a corticosteroid, stating it will become the first effective, safe, convenient, and cost-effective treatments for patients with autoimmune and other diseases to eliminate and reduce side effects of long-term steroid use.

Said Dr. Katz, “Sparrow Pharma’s mission is to provide next generation therapies for patients and physicians who manage autoimmune diseases and other disorders – new drugs that combine efficacy, safety, convenience, and cost-effectiveness.” He adds steroid drugs such as prednisone are widely prescribed to control autoimmune diseases, blood cancers, and transplanted organ rejection. “But their utility and utilization are limited by a range of serious side effects. Sparrow Pharma aims to provide patients and physicians next generation products with the same potency as today’s steroids and with many fewer side effects.”

Judges noted Sparrow has a “clear plan for clinical development and in-licensing. Its technology has a distinct advantage in having been through human safety trials and having human proof of concept for its small molecule enzyme inhibitors designed to reduce side effects of important steroid drugs. Sparrow has a strong patent position.”

Katz adds, “Oregon BIO 2019 showcased the great potential of our state’s biotechnology startups. I look forward to collaborate with the Oregon Bioscience Association team to strengthen Oregon’s life sciences entrepreneurial ecosystem.” For its win, Sparrow receives $5,000 cash,  BioPro course(s) admission and $4,000 of value in legal counsel. Sparrow is headquartered in Portland, Oregon.

The winning Research Fast Pitch project was presented by Xinyue “Lucy” Lu, a graduate student researcher at Clemson University, who is developing a novel bio-adhesive mesh system for hernias. Lu proposes this new point-of-care technology to combine hydrogel adhesive and polymer surface modification, which will be part of a $3 billion industry. Lu, who resides in Beaverton, receives $1,000 in cash, BioPro courses, free admission to an upcoming Oregon Bio event and legal counsel.

Lu competed against seven other researchers, including Ph.D. candidates. The judges noted Lu’s presentation showed her proposal had the “most promise in being a platform technology/research project.  She also focused on her research solution. Lucy had the right balance of addressing the problem, her solution, next steps, and potential impact.”

Lu said, “It was my first time joining Oregon Bio and it was such a great experience. I learned a lot from this event and also met a lot of awesome friends from Oregon bio science community. I’m looking forward to more collaboration with you experts.”

The audience voted to name a People’s Choice winners in both categories.  The People’s Choice in the Company Pitch Fest Category was Curadite.  Jody McNannay, co-founder of Curadite, a startup working to deploy a novel medication management platform said, “Winning the People’s Choice Award confirms the broad impact medication adherence has on so many people. Given the breadth of the audience at Oregon Bio 2019—from life science leaders and entrepreneurs to students and researchers—this win was truly inspiring for the entire Curadite team.”

For the researchers, the People’s Choice was Lael Wentland, a graduate student at Oregon State University, who presented a home-use testing diagnostic to determine levels of phenylalanine that is an indicator for the genetic disorder Phenylketonuria.

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