AU’s OcuMedic takes grand prize at 2007 Launchpad competition

AUBURN – Auburn University’s OcuMedic team took home the grand prize and $100,000 in the finals of the 2007 Alabama Launchpad business plan competition held on the AU campus May 21-22. The statewide annual event is a joint effort of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, representing 68 of the state’s leading companies, and six Alabama universities.

OcuMedic is a drug delivery company led by Mark Byrne, a faculty member in AU’s Department of Chemical Engineering, with proprietary, patent-pending technology developed within Byrne’s lab that creates therapeutic contact lenses to deliver medications more effectively to the eye.

“It is quite an honor to have been selected as the grand prize winner from such a strong field,” said Byrne, who will be a founder and the chief technology officer of OcuMedic. “I was impressed by the strength of the plans and presentations as well as the variety and depth of the technologies showcased in this competition.

“This award gives us the needed boost to form OcuMedic, along with my team member Paul Byrne, who will be founder and CEO,” he said. “It is the result of the hard work and dedication of a number of graduate and undergraduate students who performed research in the development of these novel therapeutic lenses. They are as excited as I am to see our work move closer to helping people.”

The team was one of eight finalists in a field of 61. A second Auburn team, Distributed Carpet Nylon Recycling led by Paul Swamidass, professor of management in the AU College of Business, also made it to the finals. The company has developed a patented chemical process for recovery and recycling of nylon from waste carpet.

Alabama Launchpad was founded in 2006 to provide seed financing to high growth businesses on an annual basis; to create a statewide event that brings together various regional and technology-based interests; and to market and promote the economic opportunities for technology development in Alabama. Alabama Launchpad is open to any high-growth venture as long as one member of the team is affiliated with one of the five founding universities.

“This competition is a showcase of some of the best research being done in Alabama,” said Glenn Kinstler, director of Alabama Launchpad. “The range of ideas is remarkable. Not only are we seeing impressive science and ideas, but also impressive business acumen.”

This year’s business proposals included novel biotechnology applications, innovative electronic devices and ideas for new information technology companies and news services organizations. The top three teams receive seed financing as well as cash prizes. The grand prize was $100,000; the prize for first runner-up was $50,000; and the prize for second runner-up, $25,000. The grand prize winners also received six months of rent to start their business, as well as other operational support.

“This was a great opportunity for participants to present their business ideas to venture capitalists and chief executives,” said Byrne. “There were also opportunities to establish working relationships with members of the business, academic and investment capital communities.”

Runners up included two teams from the University of Alabama at Huntsville. Halo Research, in second place, developed a wearable health monitoring system that uses wireless technology to monitor the health and lifestyle of the elderly. In third place was IntelCell, developer of a compact, precision cell-culture system that provides greater experimental control and reduces human error and costs.

The founding partner universities, Alabama A&M University, Auburn University, the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Alabama in Huntsville, were recently joined by Auburn University at Montgomery. To learn more log on to www.alabamalaunchpad.com.

Contact: Cheryl Cobb, (334) 844-2220 (cobbche@auburn.edu), or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)