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UW Student-led Team Captures Top Honors in $30K Entrepreneurship Competition


April 6, 2012 — A business plan that targets the emerging algal biomass industry recently was judged the top proposal in the John P. Ellbogen $30K Entrepreneurship Competition at the University of Wyoming College of Business.

Levi Lowder, a molecular biology doctoral candidate from Durango, Colo., and his PlanktOMICS team won $12,500 and one year of free rent to further develop the company at the Wyoming Technology Business Center (WTBC).

The WTBC offers a technology business incubator and an outreach program focused on early-stage, high-growth companies. The 30,000-square-foot facility, which opened in 2006, offers laboratory, office and shared-conference room space for client companies as well as a state-of-the-art data center.

Lowder, team leader and head bioengineer, says PlanktOMICS seeks to be an innovative leader in providing biotechnological services and products for an emerging algal biomass industry. The company provides advanced phenotype analysis and screening services, custom algal vector design and construction, algal transformation and gene-expression analysis.

His partners are Stephen Herbert, algal phenotyping specialist and senior adviser; Jacob Miller, laboratory service and business specialist; and staff consultant Min-Hyung Ryu, a genetic engineering and molecular biology consultant and a molecular biology doctoral candidate.

The John P. Ellbogen $30K Entrepreneurship Competition is designed to encourage students in the UW community to act on their talents, ideas and energy to produce tomorrow's leading businesses. The $30K competition awards cash prizes to outstanding teams of student entrepreneurs who submit their business plans for new ventures showing significant business potential.

Second place in the latest competition went to Vertikle Enterprises. The company has developed a project that investigates a novel separation technique to safely purify specific proteins for people affected by blood disease. "The proposed technique will have a profound effect on the future pharmaceutical industry, setting a new standard for human safety," the developers say.

Team leader is Walter Wilson, a physics senior from Cheyenne. Also developing the company are Sharlee Mahoney, chemical engineering; Qihang Sun, a chemical engineering doctoral candidate; Zhuoyan Sun, an environmental separation techniques doctoral candidate; Douglas Wilson, a clinical practitioner from Cheyenne; Brendan Bryant, a recent UW political science graduate; and team adviser and consultant David Thayer, a UW Department of Physics and Astronomy lecturer.

The group will share $5,000 and one year of free rent in the WTBC to further develop the company.

7200 Ft. Productions, offering online video marketing services to business clients, placed third in the competition. Team members are Emily Robinson, a marketing major with minors in psychology and sustainable business practices; and Daniel Adams, a management major with minors in entrepreneurship and finance. Both are seniors from Cheyenne.

The 7200 team won $2,500 and an additional $1,000 for the most creative business plan.

Hot Power Yoga had the best presentation. The company offers a fitness-based form of yoga in a high-temperature studio. Team members are sister and brother Mallory and Cheyenne Wortham of Lyman. Mallory graduated from UW in 2008 with a finance degree and minor in accounting, and also received her MBA in 2009. Cheyenne is a senior studying marketing and economics.

They also received $1,000 for their presentation.

For more information about the competition, visit the website at http://www.uwyo.edu/business/ellbogen-30k/ or contact Rachel Stevens in the College of Business Management and Marketing Department, at (307) 766-3124 or e-mail rstevens@uwyo.edu.

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