Launched by PCI in 2015 with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Penn I-Corps program works with Penn faculty, staff, post-docs, and students to help further test and validate their startup ideas. Participants learn valuable skills that can help them connect better with key customers by asking the right product positioning questions, and techniques on how to find the right partners to help get their startup ideas off the ground. Plus, qualifying teams will be recommended to apply for the National I-Corps Program.
In Fall 2022, ten teams participated in the Penn I-Corps Program, representing the Schools of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, and Business. Upon completion, the teams showcased their findings at UPENN’s Celebration of Innovation event on December 6th. Here is a summary of their learning trajectories.
Adrenocortical: use of Stem-Cell therapy for adrenal hyperplasia. They interviewed endocrinologists, patients and their families, and scientists developing cell therapy. They refined their customer segment from all congenital adrenal hyperplasia patients to pediatric patients.
OsteoA: use of a cartilage-penetrating nanoparticle-based therapy to slow the progression of osteoarthritis. They refined their focus to treatment at the early stages of the disease; initially, they thought to focus on the later stages, when the disease is more severe.
DuoLux: The team entered I-Corps with a platform technology: a small molecule fluorescent tag that can be attached to biomolecules. They now focus on a solution for Pharma drug development by providing reliable antibody internalization assays to reduce the ambiguity of antibody efficacy before clinical trials.
Metacrystal Prints: The team entered I-Corps with a platform technology for printing patterning nanostructures that reduce chemical consumption during manufacturing. Through their interviews, they gained in-depth knowledge of the ecosystem related to a precise application they now have in mind.
Scratch-AID: Their initial customer segment was all dermatology researchers. Combining robotics, graphics, and machine learning, their tool automates quantifying mouse scratching behavior. By the program’s end, their customer segment became researchers that hire undergraduates for that task.
Blossom: Through their interviews, they refined their focus from stroke patients in general to uninsured patients or patients who ran out of OT/PT visits and need tools for self-improvement but can’t afford them. Their product is a gamified origami-based artifact that promotes healing through exercise.
HealthChart: Is developing an intuitive visual interface for Electronic Medical Records systems (EMR) that reduces physician burnout caused by the heavy load of current solutions. The interviews led them to target the reduction of operational overhead for IT departments at medical facilities.
Percussion: A percussion-based therapy to treat sinusitis. Their interviews guided them to refine their target market from “individuals with severe Sinusitis” to, more specifically, young adults, who expressed a higher need and are interested in alternatives to antibiotics.
WireWatcher: Reducing the misplacement of guidewires in vascular procedures, which happens when a guidewire is accidentally left within the patient’s body. Their main customer segment shifted from Medical Facilities in general to Training Hospitals, where the problem is more prevalent.
InvenTABLE: A workstation for 8-12-year-old kids to make anything out of cardboard. Through interviews, they realized that the need resides not in parents invested in STEM education but in school staff with a need for reducing supervision when students use maker tools.