AUM Cardiovascular Wins MN Cup Competition

The company-whose noninvasive device can identify lethal coronary blockages in less than 20 seconds-beat out more than 1,000 participants before being named this year's grand-prize winner.

AUM Cardiovascular won the 2011 Minnesota Cup competition, beating out more than 1,000 participants with its noninvasive device that aims to eliminate sudden cardiac death.

The competition is a statewide contest that seeks out the newest and most innovative business ideas. This year's winning team is led by AUM President and CEO Marie Johnson, whose husband died of a heart attack in 2002 at age 41. At the time, she was a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota and was working with 3M scientists to develop an automated diagnostic system for detecting heart murmurs. Her husband's death moved her to apply the principles of the heart murmur detection system to create an acoustic device that can identify symptoms of coronary artery disease.

Northfield-based AUM's device identifies lethal coronary blockages in less than 20 seconds and is hoped to detect coronary artery disease sooner and change the way that the health-care industry screens for it.

The grand-prize award event took place Thursday at the University of Minnesota's McNamara Alumni Center and featured prominent speakers including Governor Mark Dayton, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, and Carlson Chairwoman and former CEO Marilyn Carlson Nelson-all of whom spoke about the importance of the Minnesota Cup competition, now in its seventh year.

Carlson Nelson pointed out that approximately 70 percent of new jobs come from small and medium-sized businesses.

That's why “this competition deserves not only to be successful, but to grow,” she told attendees.

Johnson, in her 60-second elevator pitch at the event, said that her company is “poised to aggressively save lives” and talked about the importance of taking care of your heart.

She has a doctorate degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Minnesota and spent 12 years at General Motors Corporation, where she worked in a variety of manufacturing and research development positions. Johnson has patents and patents pending in the United States, Europe, and Taiwan to analyze and diagnose heart sounds.

To test and prepare her device for market, Johnson must next conduct clinical trials-which is estimated to cost about $3 million.

The Minnesota Cup is a statewide contest that seeks out the state's newest and most innovative business ideas. Participants competed in one of six divisions-biosciences, clean technology and renewable energy, general, high tech, social entrepreneur, and student.

AUM competed in and won the biosciences division before securing the grand prize. Each division winner received $25,000 in seed capital (with the exception of the social entrepreneur division winning team, which received $20,000 and the student division winning team, which received $10,000). AUM received an additional $25,000 after being named the contest's overall winner.

Since its inception in 2005, more than 6,000 participants from across the state have entered the Minnesota Cup competition, which awarded $185,000 in prize money this year. Those who were named finalists in 2009 and 2010 have gone on to collectively secure more than $32 million in capital and broker numerous business partnerships and distribution agreements.

“We were thrilled with the quality of the final presentations. We had several very strong contenders for the grand prize,” Minnesota Cup cofounder Scott Litman said in a statement. “At the end of the day, considering the potential not just for economic return, but to make a huge impact on the world, we were won over by AUM Cardiovascular.