Purdue University Life Sciences Business Plan Competition

    Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana is unique among institutions that sponsor business plan competitions. Not only does its Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship host one competition – it sponsors three of them. The Life Sciences Business Plan Competition is aimed at finding commercially viable business plan entries for innovative products and services in the life sciences industry. This includes medical equipment and devices, pharmaceuticals and drugs, research services, and software.

    The judges for the competition come from a mix of specialties: some are more familiar with the business aspects of running a life sciences company and are skilled at examining the fundability and market potential of an idea, while others have a more technical background and can assess the scientific aspects of the plan and its chances for being successfully developed.

    Competition organizers only allow teams affiliated with a university or other teaching institution from the United States to enter. Additionally, each team must have at least one member with significant business experience. No ventures that already have agreements with third parties on patented intellectual property are permitted.

    Business plan writers are asked to categorize their own idea into one of six products or services: equipment, devices, drugs, software, research services, and manufacturing services. Each of these categories is further subdivided by application (diagnostic, therapeutic, or discovery/research) and by market (commercial or consumer.) After prospective competitors email a 30-page executive summary, judges narrow the list to 20 finalists who will make presentations at Purdue during the competition.

    During these presentations, judges act as they would in a venture capitalist situation. Put simply, the winning presentation is the one that convinces the judges to invest their money in that company, whether that means a PowerPoint presentation or a dramatic prototype. The first-place team takes home $50,000 in funding; second, $20,000; third, $12,000; fourth, $7,000; fifth, $5,000; sixth, $3,000; seventh and eighth, $1,500 each.

    There is a very large amount of money at stake in this competition, but starting a successful bio-tech company takes a great deal more capital than setting up a t-shirt shop at the local mall. In total, the Life Sciences Business Plan Competition itself awards $134,000 to its winners, plus thousands more in services from its legal and financial partners. Additionally, the top team based in the state of Indiana gets $10,000 more from BioCrossroads. Organizers say they know these amounts won’t fully start up a company, but they anticipate the money will go toward making the plan more professional, building a refined prototype, finding more capital, and starting the patent application process.

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