U of A Sweeps Graduate Places at Tri-State Business Plan Competition
VivImmune team members Corey Coston (far left) and Sean Smith (far right) are congratulated on their win by Rush Deacon, chief executive officer of the Arkansas Capital Corp.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The University of Arkansas swept the top two places in the graduate division Thursday night at the Donald W. Reynolds Tri-State Collegiate Business Plan Competition in Las Vegas.
VivImmune, a start-up biotechnology company that specializes in immunotherapy for bladder cancer, won the graduate division and a $30,000 cash prize. VivImmune, which grew out of U of A biomedical engineering research, also won $2,000 for winning the graduate division elevator pitch competition. VivImmune won a total of $83,700 this spring at graduate business plan competitions.
The VivImmune team includes Corey Coston and Andrew McKinnon, executive M.B.A. students in the Sam M. Walton College of Business, and Sean Smith, a doctoral student of biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering.
Actio Systems, which developed a patient reminder and intelligent rescheduling smartphone app for medical clinics and their patients, placed second and won $20,000. Actio Systems won a total of $40,000 this spring at graduate business plan competitions.
The Actio Systems team includes four recent graduates of the executive M.B.A. program in Walton College: MJ Orellano, Amy Hardwick, Matt Gow and Brett Thoms.
The ninth annual Donald W. Reynolds Tri-State Award Competition featured first- and second-place winners of the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup in Arkansas, Nevada and Oklahoma competing for a total cash prize pool of $118,000.
The top two finishes for the U of A teams brought a total of $7,000 for team advisers Carol Reeves and Cynthia Sides.
VivImmune and Actio Systems formed last fall in the New Venture Development graduate course taught by Reeves, associate vice provost for entrepreneurship at the U of A and holder of the Cecil and Gwendolyn Cupp Applied Professorship in Entrepreneurship in the Sam M. Walton College of Business.
Under the guidance of Reeves, U of A’s competitive graduate student teams have won $2.5 million in cash at state, regional, national and international business plan competitions since 2002.
This is the fifth time that a team from the U of A won the graduate division at the Tri-State competition. Previous winners were MerchantEyes LLC (2008), Tears of Life (2009), InnerVision LLC (2010) and Kordate Solutions Inc. (2015).
About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.
Chris Branam, research communications writer/editor
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