MN Cup 2020: Women-Led U of M Startup Earns Top Prize
MN Cup co-founder Scott Litman stands with BlueCube Bio CEO Karen Dodson. MN Cup

MN Cup 2020: Women-Led U of M Startup Earns Top Prize

BlueCube Bio, founded by U of M engineering professor Allison Hubel, will take home a $50,000 prize.

A U of M mechanical engineering professor’s startup is the winner of this year’s MN Cup competition.

The startup, known as BlueCube Bio, builds products that help preserve specialized cells used to fight cancer and other diseases. Allison Hubel, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Biopreservation Core Resource at the University of Minnesota, began thinking about launching the company seven years ago.

Her inspiration came while gazing out at snow-covered trees outside her office window. She wondered how the trees survived year after year in brutal Minnesota winters.

Per a news release from the U of M’s College of Science and Engineering, Hubel and her research team “found that trees use combinations of sugars, sugar alcohols, and amino acids to stabilize their cells during winter—and, [the team] used this same combination of molecules to develop a new way to preserve cells used for medical therapies.”

As MN Cup’s 2020 grand prize winner, BlueCube Bio will take home $50,000. The startup is an all-women team.

“Women innovators are typically underrepresented in innovation,” Hubel said in the U of M’s release. “Everywhere from the patent process on forward.”

MN Cup on Tuesday revealed the winners at a live-streamed ceremony at the U of M’s McNamara Alumni Center.

CounterFlow Technologies, led by a University of Minnesota-Duluth engineering professor, took home the $20,000 runner-up prize in the MN Cup competition. The company, which specializes in spraying and mixing technologies used for various chemicals, also earned an additional $30,000 cash prize for taking first place in the energy/clean tech/water division.

Finalists in each of the competition’s nine divisions took home a $30,000 cash prize. The other eight division winners were:

Food/Ag/Beverage: Perennial Foods

General: Busy Baby

High Tech:Pikup

Impact Ventures: Vonzella

Life Science/Health IT: BlueCube Bio

Student: Proper Pack

Education and Training: Pivot Interactives

Youth: BioBev

“The ideas were so varied and impressive, it was a struggle for our Grand Prize Review Board to determine just who was deserving of the title,” said MN Cup co-founder Scott Litman in a statement. “Our final votes came down to the slimmest of margins for our prize winners. While it was challenging for us as judges, it’s a very positive reflection on the caliber of businesses this season.”

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