UM Student Startups Excel At Rice Biz Plan Event

ANN ARBOR — Two University of Michigan student-run startups were awarded large prizes in the Rice University Business Plan Competition, the world’s largest and richest graduate-level business plan event.

Neurable and PreDXion Bio, the two winning teams, both started their successful business plan competition seasons at the Michigan Business Challenge, a business plan competition run by UM’s Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. Together, they took home $430,000 in cash and investments from the Rice event, held in Houston, Texas over the weekend.

Beating out more than 400 original business plan submissions and 40 competing teams, Neurable took second place in the competition, earning the $50,000 second place prize, as well as the Owl Investment Prize of up to $280,000.

Co-founded by Ramses Alcaide (PhD Neuroscience ’16) and Michael Thompson (MBA ’17), Neurable has created the first non-invasive brain-computer interface that allows for real-time control of software and physical objects using only the mind. Neurable’s fully functional prototype incorporates proprietary, patent-protected technology developed at the University of Michigan’s Direct Brain Interface Lab. Neurable’s technology has already allowed people to control wheelchairs, robots and even a full-sized car in real time with no training and at a significantly lower cost than existing technologies.

PreDXion Bio took home the $100,000 TiE Boston Angel Investment Prize. Co-founded by Walker McHugh (MSE Biomedical/Medical Engineering ’17) and Caroline Landau (MBA ’16) PreDxion Bio is a medical diagnostics company with a product called MicroKine, a patent-pending near-bedside diagnostic device that measures proteins in the blood of critically ill patients. MicroKine delivers this information in less than 30 minutes — 10 times faster than that of any existing technology on the market — from a single drop of blood, allowing medical staff to tailor treatments precisely to each patient’s individual immune response.

“The Rice competition is one of the largest and toughest competitions in the nation,” said Stewart Thornhill, the Zell Lurie Institute’s executive director. “Having two Michigan teams rise to the top of this very competitive field validates the notable talent and innovative technology coming out of our university. The funding they’ve received from this competition, in addition to the feedback they’ve gathered and the network connections they’ve made, will significantly help both teams advance their ventures.”

Student teams from across the university receive in-depth training and support from the faculty and staff at the Zell Lurie Institute, including business development, refinement and presentation sessions. This guidance ensures students from multiple disciplines have the solid business foundation necessary to commercialize a great idea.

“The recognition and funding from a competition the scale of Rice is an amazing achievement for our team and for the growth of Neurable,” said Alcaide. “Everyone at the Zell Lurie Institute and the Office of Technology Transfer has provided invaluable support and expertise since day one, coaching and guiding us to a place where the judges and potential investors could fully recognize the promise of our technology. The additional mentorship and support from TechArb and the Center for Entrepreneurship set us up for success.”

Added McHugh: “The entire PreDXion Bio team is overwhelmed by the show of support we received at Rice. The $100,000 we are taking home will be allocated to funding manufacturing devices that will revolutionize the way we treat and manage critically ill patients. Our time at RBPC has shown us what an incredible place the University of Michigan is to start a student-run venture. The support we have received from the Zell Lurie Institute, Fast Forward Medical Innovations/MTRAC, the UM Coulter Program, the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Law School Entrepreneurship clinic has been exceptional and a definite driver of our success.”

Neurable and PreDXion Bio are among the many successes for University of Michigan teams on this year’s business plan competition circuit. Earlier this year, PreDXion Bio took home the Pryor-Hale Award for best business for $25,000 and the Williamson Award for $5,000 for the most outstanding business and engineering team at the Michigan Business Challenge, and Neurable was a finalist in both the Michigan Business Challenge and the Startup Competition at the University of Michigan.

Student teams have also competed at the Thought for Food Global Summit in Zurich, the Venture Capital Investment Competition at the University of Colorado Boulder, the Undergraduate Venture Capital Investment Competition Global Finals at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the Cardinal Challenge at the University of Louisville and the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. The RBPC ends the season for intercollegiate competitions.

For more information on the Michigan Business Challenge or related entrepreneurial student competitions, visit

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