• Ancora Pharmaceuticals won the MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition. Left to right: team members Professor Peter Seeberger of chemistry, Carmichael Roberts (M.B.A. 2000), Obadiah Plante (Ph.D. 2001) and Sloan graduate student Jeremy Bender bask in the glory of their win.

    Photo / Justin Allardyce Knight

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Ancora Pharmaceuticals takes top prize in $50K business plan contest

Ancora Pharmaceuticals, whose technology could break open the field of complex carbohydrate drug discovery, won the Robert P. Goldberg Grand Prize in the MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition. Runners-up in the competition were FishLogic and Greenfuel.

The MIT competition, called the "granddaddy of business plan competitions" by the San Francisco Chronicle, is the world leader among business plan competitions. It has launched more than 75 companies, including Akamai Technologies and other companies acquired by the likes of Microsoft, Motorola and Broadcom.

Ancora Pharmaceuticals will receive $30,000; the runners-up will each receive $10,000. Winners were announced at a May 15 final awards ceremony in Kresge Auditorium.

The technology developed by Ancora Pharmaceuticals could speed drug development by orders of magnitude. Few carbohydrate-based drugs exist today because of the slow process of synthesizing carbohydrates. Ancora is targeting endocrine disease, coagulation disorders, infectious diseases and cancer.

"This is a reward for a lot of hard work by our team, and a recognition that this is a really big opportunity," said Ancora's Jeremy Bender, a graduate student at the Sloan School of Management.

Runner-up FishLogic is developing chips that deliver new signal processing capabilities for a wide range of electronic devices. By processing data in an analog format instead of a digital format, they achieve significant improvement in power efficiency, speed and cost.

Greenfuel, the other runner-up, develops bioreactor technology that uses algae to remove pollutants from the output of electric power generation and then uses the biomass byproduct as a fuel. The result is dramatic cost savings in reducing emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2). This technology grew out of bioreactor research done for NASA's space station.

"These companies have potential for huge impact in their fields," said Michael Feinstein, a competition judge and senior principal at Atlas Venture.

The seven finalists were chosen from 114 entrants. Judges, including noted venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, selected the winning teams based on their potential of becoming "tomorrow's leading firms." The final judging was so tough this year that one judge, Rich Kivel, CEO of Molecularware, said, "We were kicked out of the room because we were taking too long."

Each finalist team presented its plan to an audience of venture capitalists, business leaders, students and other interested parties at the final awards ceremony. The event reached a global audience through a live Internet broadcast. Along with the winners, many of the finalists and other entrants are planning to launch businesses. "Even in this economy, some of the entrants have already turned down job offers to pursue their plans," said Feinstein.

The ceremony's keynote speaker was Patrick McGovern Jr. (S.B. 1960), founder and chairman of the International Data Group, the world's leading technology publishing, research and event management company. The Patrick McGovern Jr. Entrepreneurship Award this week honored the MIT $50K for significant contributions to entrepreneurship at the Institute.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 22, 2002.

Topics: Business and management, Entrepreneurship, Contests and academic competitions


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