UA Startup Genesence Takes Grand Prize and Wins $10,000 at the McGuire New Venture Competition

June 6, 2018

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Genesence, a new venture that is unlocking the power of pharmacogenetics, bested 21 other University of Arizona McGuire New Venture Development Program student startup teams to win the grand prize of $10,000 at the 2018 McGuire New Venture Competition on Friday, April 27.

This year’s event took place at a new venue, the Leo Rich Theater in downtown Tucson, where more than 250 people watched as 22 student startup teams presented their innovative new ventures in a rapid-fire rocket pitch competition and trade show. 

The student entrepreneurs are enrolled in the Eller College of Management's McGuire New Venture Development Program, where they have received nearly a year of intensive experiential education that engages them in the process of moving innovation from an early-stage idea to a sustainable launch-ready venture. The competitive-entry program is open to undergraduate and graduate students from across the University of Arizona. 

With more than $40,000 in cash and prizes on the line, the stakes were high as a panel of judges rated each team on market need, product-market fit, customer acquisition strategy, operating plan and financial viability. The judges were Base Horner, an executive board member and chairman of the screening panel for the Desert Angels, Katina Koller, a former chairwoman, CEO and owner, Christopher McGuire, vice-president of programs and the director of the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation, Adam Tank, director of Smart Cities for SUEZ, and Matt Williams, founder and CEO of Pro.com. 

The Genesence team, which developed a venture that offers DNA testing for genes related to medication and nutrition, empowering people to take informed steps to becoming healthier, is made up of individuals from diverse backgrounds. The team members are Juhyung Sun, a dual MBA/MPH student with prior background in healthcare delivery and policy; Grace Gainey, an undergraduate senior with a double major in business management and entrepreneurship; Joshua Uhlorn, a PhD student in physiological science with an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering; and Mok Oh, a PhD candidate in pharmacoeconomics with past experience as a pharmacist in Korea.

"Nearly two million people in the US are hospitalized every year for taking medications as prescribed. The Genesence team is offering a DNA report that has the promise of drastically reducing those numbers by identifying genetic mutations impacting the absorption of medication," says K Krasnow Waterman, McGuire Center lecturer and entrepreneur in residence who mentored the winning team.

A lot goes into the McGuire New Venture Competition but the effort couldn't be for a better cause: student innovation. McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship Director Remy Arteaga says, “One of our goals with this competition is to prepare our students to shine in front of industry experts and investors. We’re grateful to our generous sponsors who make this signature McGuire Center event possible. Additionally, we are proud of all of the teams that competed, and we encourage them to continue to work on their remarkable innovations.”


Header photo by Thomas Veneklasen Photography.