Nine teams of Mayo Clinic employees pitched their ideas for health care innovations at the second annual Alligator Tank competition at the Mayo Clinic Florida campus on November 14, 2018. Each team was given 120 seconds to explain their solution to a problem in the medical field before a live audience and a panel of expert judges -- or "alligators."
The evening event was moderated by Charles Bruce, M.D., chief innovation officer for Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus and medical director for the campus Life Sciences Incubator, who emphasized the criteria by which the judges would evaluate pitches. Teams had to answer the following questions:
The top three pitches advance to the next level of the competition, Walleye Tank, on Mayo’s Rochester campus December 7.
Inspiring the next generation of life science entrepreneurs
The Alligator Tank is presented by the Mayo Clinic Office of Entrepreneurship and is designed to promote the entrepreneurial community at Mayo. “The goal is to inspire innovation across all disciplines on campus, whether you are a researcher, a clinician, or an allied health employee,” says Maarten Rotman, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic Office of Entrepreneurship. “We’ve seen great collaboration among different groups of employees. It’s about bringing together the best minds to solve problems for patients and medical staff.”
Nine teams jumped into the Alligator Tank, three emerged victorious
The nine teams and their projects included:
The teams had only two minutes to pitch their biomedical solutions to the panel of judges, which included: Magdalena Cichon, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic Ventures; Vic Nole, director, Life Sciences Incubator on Mayo’s Florida campus; Michelle Freeman, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, Critical Care; and K.L. Venkatachalam, M.D., associate professor of medicine, Cardiovascular Diseases. The judges left the room to deliberate and make their final picks. They returned ten minutes later, when Dr. Bruce announced the top three pitches.
What it takes to survive the Alligator Tank
The judges knew what they were looking for in the winning teams. “I was guided by how much of an impact the proposal could make on patient care,” says Cichon. “I am always looking for significance of the problem and novelty of the solution,” says Nole.
“The Alligator Tank provides an opportunity for any of our employees to express their creativity in advancing health care,” says Tushar Patel, M.B., Ch.B., dean for research on Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus. “We are seeking to promote an entrepreneurial community and spirit of invention on our campus, as part of our long-term goal of establishing Northeast Florida as a biotechnology hub, with a health care focus anchored by Mayo Clinic.”
Each of the winning teams received an American Wildlife Series copper coin featuring an alligator, presented in a holder printed on a 3D printer from research facilities on Mayo’s Florida’s campus. They also received $1,500 in travel money to Mayo’s Rochester campus for the Walleye Tank pitch competition. Teams with winning proposals at that event compete for recognition and seed funding to continue advancement of their innovations.