The NCI/Avon Breast Cancer Startup Challenge at Fuqua, an Introduction

If you had asked me what was my favorite Duke MBA Health Sector Management (HSM) experience thus far, this would be it. Since the Fall 1 term started in September, a strong student and an advisory team was formed and we were one of the 46 national teams that was accepted into the NCI/Avon Breast Cancer Startup Challenge. This is part 1 of a 2-part series on the challenge.

Who are the sponsors?

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and is one of the leading cancer research centers in the world. Each year, it gets about $5 billion in funding as part of the NIH budget. All of this research has led to many inventions and early this year the NCI and the Center For Advancing Innovation has partnered to run the inaugural Breast Cancer Startup Challenge

What's the goal?

The goal of the challenge is to recruit student teams to develop business plans for each invention with the hopes of founding a startup, raising seed funding, negotiating a license with the NIH and take the asset down the path of commercialization. 

How is it organized?

There are 10 inventions in total and each invention can have a maximum of 10 student teams competing. There are two phases of the competition: 1) The business plan phase. In February, teams will be evaluated based on the business plans they create and the winner for each technology will win $5,000. 2) The startup phase. The winner of the business plan phase, as well as 2 follow-up teams, will incorporate the company, negotiate with the NIH and raise seed funding to implement the business strategy. The winner of the startup phase will gain access to seed funding secured by the competition organizers, and other good stuff.  

What's the value?

The opportunity for students is clear: the competition provides a structured way of gaining hands on strategy and entrepreneurial experience in a risk-free academic environment. The organizers are looking at all the factors of a successful startup when evaluating business plans: the team, financial modeling, the scientific, payer and regulatory strategy, etc. Finally, the startup will enter real negotiations with the NIH and seed investors. 

For scientists it's a great way to gain real-world business experience. For business school students, it is a great opportunity to practice the theory that we learn in class and immerse ourselves in health care.

Read Part 1 of the Startup Challenge here.
Read my experience participating in the challenge here.

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