Advancing the Science

Mayo Clinic Medical Science Blog – an eclectic collection of research- and research education-related stories: feature stories, mini news bites, learning opportunities, profiles and more from Mayo Clinic.

December 5, 2018

Two minutes to win it

By Lynda De Widt

Alligator Tank award presented to winners: a copper coin in a 3-D printed holder.

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:

  • What is the problem?
  • What is the solution?
  • Why you?
  • Why now?
  • What is the business case?

The top three pitches advance to the next level of the competition, Walleye Tank, on Mayo’s Rochester campus December 7.


Mayo Clinic staff sat in the audience at Alligator Tank to cheer on their colleagues.

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:

  1. Forecast Deep Learning - A next generation of continuous glucose monitoring for Type 1 diabetes that employs deep learning to glean information about a patient’s metabolic nature and generates a predictive and preventative model of care. Adip Bhargav; Arjun Sadanand; Alex Choi; Cesar Garcia
  2. Debriefing…there’s an app for that - An app that can be loaded with scenarios from the simulation center and allows faculty to click on a corresponding action as the scenario unfolds, making use of time in the center more efficient. Heidi Felix, DHSc, MPAS; Kristin Rosenbush; Nell Robinson
  3. WINNER - Novel MRI Coil- A novel MRI coil that improves image quality and enables advanced MRI techniques.  Chen Lin, Ph.D.; Erik Middlebrooks, M.D.; Prasanna Vibhute, M.D.;Vivek Gupta, M.D.
  4. Kalita Cord Keeper- A device that clamps to the underside of a surgical stand with cord channels that allows medical personnel to neatly store cords and tubes without tangling during surgery.  Lori Kalita and Timothy Harshman
  5. Brazen - A novel approach of diagnosing sports-related concussions using unique algorithms to test a player’s eye movements and determine abnormal brain activity after a head injury. Jason Siegel, M.D.; Jeff Prussack; Xuewei Wang, Ph.D.
  6. Total Pocket - A device used in surgical cases that eliminates the need for adhesive to keep storage pockets in place on surgical drapes.  Timothy Harshman
  7. WINNER - Adjustable Fracture Nail  - A nail used in orthopedic surgery for tibia fractures that allows for guided adjustment for each patient, resulting in better long-term outcomes. Christine Mehner, M.D., and Marion (Toni) Turnbull, Ph.D.
  8. WINNER - QT Grid - A ring-shaped device that allows for 360 degree recording of cortical electrical activity in the brain during surgery with simultaneous surgical resection, for patients with epilepsy. Karim ReFaey, M.B., B.Ch.; Jake McKay, M.D.; William Tatum, D.O.; Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, M.D.
  9. Intra-earplug MR Microphone - A small microphone embedded inside protective headphones or ear plugs worn by patients during an MRI procedure, which continuously monitors the sound pressure level of their ears and triggers a warning when levels exceed safe margins. Chen Lin, Ph.D.; Prasanna Vibhute, M.D.; Robert Pooley, Ph.D.

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.

The three winning teams: QT Grid (left), Adjustable Fracture Nail (center), and Novel MRI Coil (right), posing with Amanda Andrews and Maarten Rotman, Ph.D.


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.

Tags: Center for Clinical and Translational Science, entrepreneurship, Events, News

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