A Madison company developing a new way to mark breast cancer tumors for surgery won the top prize in the 2014 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan contest.
Elucent Medical beat 291 other entries submitted by entrepreneurs in 87 Wisconsin communities and evaluated by 88 judges.
“Elucent will build on a tradition and a strength of Wisconsin: Improving and disrupting the health care sector,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, which organizes the contest.
Elucent’s system involves inserting a tiny, wireless tag into the tumor; a surgeon can find it using a wand reader. It is meant to replace the current standard procedure of sticking a protruding wire into the breast to mark a tumor site.
“The primitive hook-wire procedure strikes many of us as being almost barbaric,” said UW-Madison engineering professor Dan van der Weide, Elucent co-founder.
He said winning the competition is “recognition of how awkward, even painful the current procedure is.”
The company claims its technology will reduce the cost of each breast cancer surgery by $2,500 and streamline the process.
Elucent hopes to file for U.S. Food & Drug Administration approval in early 2015, said chief executive Laura King.
This is the second company for King, van der Weide and UW radiology professor Fred Lee. They also founded NeuWave Medical in 2008 after developing an ablation device used to treat cancer by sending microwave energy into tumors.
Winners of the Business Plan contest were announced Wednesday at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference luncheon. They will share in more than $100,000 worth of cash and services such as office space, legal advice and accounting assistance.
Elucent also won first prize in the life sciences category.
Other first-place winners were: MobCraft Beer, Madison, crowdsourced specialty beer production; Find My Spot, Milwaukee, a rental housing database to help professionals relocate; Organic Research Corp., Oak Creek, techniques to help diagnose liver disease.
In the Wisconsin YES! (Youth Entrepreneurs in Science) contest for students, Jonah Thompson, a New Glarus eighth-grader, was the winner with his company, T Boys Honey.
In a presentation to the luncheon crowd, Thompson said he started beekeeping when he was 9 years old and now has five hives and four pollination contracts. His “buzziness plan” includes expanding to 10 hives, selling honey at farmers’ markets, and capturing more contracts to pollinate farm crops.
Thompson said the Pollinator software he devised can measure a farm field’s output “with my girls and without my girls.” He drew warm laughter from the audience when he said that when he is 16, he plans to buy a government surplus vehicle so he doesn’t have to drive his bees around “in my mom’s Subaru.”
Thompson is expected to get a $2,500 prize.
Dave Lambert, president and CEO of the Internet2 networking consortium, was the keynote speaker at the awards luncheon.
The not-for-profit consortium, made up primarily of universities, provides “a collaborative environment to solve common technology challenges” and is “the largest and fastest coast-to-coast network supporting advanced research and education,” Lambert said.
Lambert gave high praise to Larry Landweber, the John P. Morgridge professor emeritus of computer science at UW-Madison, for developing early forms of the Internet in the 1980s. Landweber “helped bring the Internet about, as we know it,” Lambert said.
He said Wisconsin should build a statue or find some other way to pay tribute to Landweber, who was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2012.
The two-day Entrepreneur’s Conference wrapped up on Wednesday. About 520 people registered for the event, which was held at the Alliant Energy Center’s Exhibition Hall.