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Chris Scotti, Daniel Powell, and Bala Haridas
Spark Medical was the winner of the 2019 Texas A&M New Ventures Competition. From left: Chris Scotti, chair of the Texas A&M New Ventures Competition; Daniel Powell, CEO of Spark Medical; and Dr. Balakrishna Haridas, TEES director for technology commercialization and entrepreneurship. | Image: Dr. Joya Mannan

A Texas A&M University former student’s startup, Spark Biomedical, was awarded $50,000 as the winner of the 2019 Texas A&M New Ventures Competition (TNVC) hosted by the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES). Daniel Powell is CEO of the medical device company, which is developing noninvasive neurostimulation solutions for opioid withdrawal and addiction.  

“I’m very humbled and grateful,” said Powell, CEO of Spark and a 1996 graduate of Texas A&M’s Mays Business School. “This award means a lot because Texas A&M is my alma mater. Being back here is fantastic, and this win is a testament to the work we’re doing and our dedication to making a difference with this product.”

Also in the finals was Teysha Technologies, which was commercialized out of Texas A&M College of Science laboratories. Teysha has developed new solutions for the worldwide plastics pollution problem by developing a natural polycarbonate platform that will degrade after the end of their useful lifetime.

Teysha’s CEO and inventor of the technology, Dr. Karen L. Wooley, has joint appointments in the departments of chemistry, chemical engineering, and materials science and engineering. Dr. Ashlee Jahnke is head of research and development for the company as well as an assistant research scientist at Texas A&M.

The competition featured a new award this year, the Engineering Vice Chancellor’s Innovation Prize. Two $15,000 (in-kind support) prizes were awarded to Sun Co. Tracking and Ictero Medical. Sun Co. Tracking is developing shape memory alloy actuators for solar panels, and Ictero Medical is developing a catheter-based therapy for treating and preventing gallstone disease.  

“This unique prize is intended to help the awardees access the world-class engineering capabilities at Texas A&M to obtain technical assistance toward solving their most challenging technical problems in product design, manufacturing or testing,” said Dr. Balakrishna Haridas, TEES director for technology commercialization and entrepreneurship. “These collaborations between the prize winners and Texas A&M Engineering will generate technical data to support on Small Business Innovation Research/grant proposal funding or private capital investments to the company.”

At more than $500,000 in cash and in-kind services, the prize pool for this year’s competition was the largest yet. Since 2015, the TNVC has awarded more than $1.5 million in prizes to Texas-based startups.

The 2019 TNVC was made possible by TEES; McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship; Texas A&M University School of Innovation; 80/20 Foundation; Southwest National Pediatric Device Consortium; ExxonMobil; Texas Engineering Extension Service-Product Development Center; Ark Pharmacies, Inc.; Amerra; Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation; Biotex; Paragon Innovations, Inc.; Schwegman, Lundberg and Woessner; Thomas Horstemeyer;  Hollinden | marketers + strategists; TEES Clean Energy Incubator; Ramey & Schwaller Law Firm; Texas A&M College of Science; TMC Innovation; Aggie Angel Network; GOOSE Society of Texas; Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; Chevron Technology Ventures; Fannin Innovation Studio; Winstead PC; Texas A&M Health Science Center; Texas A&M Transportation Institute; Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies; Texas A&M Division of Research; and Tumey LLP.

Full list of winners: (visit here for more information on these companies.)

1st – $50,000 – Spark Biomedical
2nd – $35,000 – SurfEllent
3rd – $25,000 – Intelligent Implants
4th – $15,000 – Teysha Technologies
5th – $10,000 – VenoStent
6th – $5,000 –  GaitIQ

Elevator pitch competition:
1st - $5,000 – PolyVascular
2nd - $4,000 – Saber
3rd - $3,000 – Novothelium
4th - $2,000 – Immosis
5th - $1,000 – EM Device Lab

Additional prizes:
Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation Launch Prize – Saber
Southwest National Pediatric Devices Consortium Prizes – Spark Biomedical and EM Device Lab
Ark Pharmacies, Inc. Regional Prize – GaitIQ
Paragon Engineering Services Prize – Toggle Health
Biotex Investment Prize – PolyVascular
Amerra Visualization Services Prize – PolyVascular
Thomas | Horstemeyer IP Legal Services Prize – Ictero Medical and Teysha Technologies
TMC Investment Prize – GaitIQ
TMC Accelerator Admission Prize – Ictero Medical
Ramey & Schwaller IP Legal Services Prize – VenoStent
Aggie Angel Network Investment Prize – Spark Biomedical
Hollinden Marketing and Strategists Services Prize – GaitIQ 
Schwegman Lundberg and Woessner IP Legal Services Prize – GaitIQ
TEES Clean Energy Incubator Prize – CarbonWire Technology
GOOSE Society Investment Prize – PolyVascular
Engineering Vice Chancellor Innovation Prize – Sun Co. Tracking and Ictero Medical
TEEX Product Development Center Prize – SurfEllent