Stem cell-based research and drug screening company StemoniX won the 12th annual Minnesota Cup competition on Thursday evening.
The Eden Prairie-based company will take home a $50,000 grand prize on top of the $30,000 it received for being one of nine competitors to reach the final stage.
“Winning the MN Cup has been a long-held dream—we can’t quite believe it came true tonight,” StemoniX CEO Ping Yeh said in a blog post
StemoniX, which Yeh founded in 2014, was awarded top honors for its potential to revolutionize the production, growth and manufacturing of human heart and brain cells for toxicity and efficacy testing. The University of Minnesota—the organizer of the competition—noted the company could create “a new era of drug discovery and personalized medicine.”
The application of StemoniX’s technology could be used toward the treatment of many diseases, including autism, Zika, and, in particular, cancer, which was the inspiration for the company’s founding.
“We have the opportunity for so much good to emerge from my own cancer experience,” said Yeh, who was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2012.
As a cancer survivor, Yeh became concerned about the impact a maximum toxicity treatment could have on a person’s body. Upon receiving his own maximum toxicity treatment, he learned the only time a test for heart damage could be conducted was after the treatment, never before. Challenges like this, Yeh said, are what inspired him to use his knowledge of nanotechnology and start StemoniX.
“Through our patented technology, we can minimize the toxicity risks to patients and maximize their life after treatment,” he said. “We will work to accelerate the customization of individual cancer therapies and drug treatments for the world—and we hope, play a part in this cure of diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s.”
MN Cup is the largest statewide new venture competition in the country. This year, a record-breaking 1,500 entrepreneurs participated—38 percent of who were women-led teams. Additionally, University of Minnesota students and alumni led 34 percent of the teams, and 8 percent were led by a military service member.
“Over the past 12 years, more than 11,000 aspiring entrepreneurs like StemoniX have participated in this competition, and our participants have gone on to raise more than $225 million to foster innovation and job creation in Minnesota,” said MN Cup executive director Melissa Kjolsing. “We’re so pleased to connect the entrepreneurial vision and ingenuity of stellar Minnesota-based entrepreneurs with the resources and connections to help their businesses flourish through MN Cup.”
A full list of the competition’s finalists can be found here