UAMS Startup Wins Top-Three Finish in Harvard Competition

By David Robinson

 UAMS’ Cassandra Quave (right) and Sahil Patel represented PhytoTEK, a UAMS BioVentures startup, at the Harvard competition.

June 22, 2011 | A University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) BioVentures startup, PhytoTEK, recently earned a top-three finish in a prestigious Harvard business plan competition.

At the final round of Harvard Business School’s Alumni New Venture Contest held April 25-26, PhytoTEK topped teams from the United States and around the globe, including Brazil, Germany, India, Shanghai, South Africa and United Arab Emirates.

PhytoTEK is investigating new plant-based biofilm inhibitors useful for preventing staph infection. Cassandra Quave, Ph.D., a UAMS postdoctoral fellow, is CEO and chief scientist for PhytoTEK.

Quave and PhytoTEK Chief Financial Officer Sahil Patel of Washington, D.C., represented the startup at the competition. To participate, teams had to include at least one member in a key leadership role who was a Harvard Business School graduate. Patel received his Master of Business Administration degree from Harvard.

PhytoTEK will have office and lab space at the UAMS BioVentures building. BioVentures helps UAMS researchers get their products into the marketplace through licensing to other companies, assisting with patents, and by providing business space. Companies created through BioVentures employ more than 400 people with annual payrolls totaling $21 million.

“PhytoTEK’s top-three finish is not only an honor, it’s significant because our startups rely heavily on private investments in order to grow,” said Michael Douglas, Ph.D., director of UAMS BioVentures. “This achievement means PhytoTEK now has the attention of the global Harvard Business School network of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and angel investors.”

Quave and Patel worked together to write PhytoTEK’s business plan for the contest. Patel concentrated on the business modeling and financial projections and Quave focused on the sections pertaining to the technology and market space. The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock College of Business also provided assistance with the development of their business plan.

“We were delighted to have the opportunity to participate in the Harvard Business School New Venture Contest global finals,” said Quave. “It gave PhytoTEK’s management team a chance to network with other promising entrepreneurs from around the globe and learn from leading business instructors. The experience was invaluable, and being selected for the semifinal round of the competition as one of the top three teams was quite an honor.”

More than 90 teams participated in the second annual Alumni New Venture Contest, which Harvard Business School patterned after its business plan contest for students. Harvard Business School faculty and alumni comprised the panel of judges for the finals.

The $25,000 top prize went to BioMine, a California company that uses technology from the mining industry to salvage discarded electronics containing valuable metals and rare materials. CardSwap of Toronto was the other semi-finalist.