MELBOURNE, FLA. — A device designed by Florida Tech students for the early detection and dynamic monitoring of breast cancer was awarded the top prize of $10,000 in seed funding at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s annual Launch Your Venture business competition this month.
EarlyByrd, from the team of Bindi Nagda, a third-year Ph.D. applied mathematics major, Nashaita Patrawalla, a first-year Ph.D. biomedical engineering major, Harold Raghunandan, a senior software engineering major, and Lilah Henderson, a second-year master’s student in chemical engineering, competed against five other startups in a 10-minute pitch competition, followed by a question-and-answer session, before a panel of judges.
Second place and its $5,000 award went to Guardian Structural Health from Embry-Riddle student Maricarin Minnock. Her company aims to manufacture fiber-optic sensing systems that track the structural health of bridges with the goal of identifying bridges in need of repair before catastrophic collapses have the chance to occur.
Third place and its $3,000 award went to Medusa Filtration System from Embry-Riddle student Nicholas Heath. His company is seeking funding to build a large prototype of a regenerative water-filtration device.
“The purpose of this competition is to recognize and award university-led startups that have revolutionary ideas that will change the future of engineering, aviation and aerospace industries,” said Stephanie Miller, Ph.D., executive director of technology transfer and Research Park initiatives, who oversees Launch Your Venture.
This is not the first recognition for EarlyByrd. It won first place in the Electrical/Computer Science Track at the Biomedical Engineering Society-Medtronic Design Competition at the 2021 BMES Annual Meeting.
The project has been ongoing for over a year and came about when Nagda, a native of Kenya, was inspired to find a way to help the underserved citizens in her country.
“Despite the advent of medical technology and exponential growth of technology, a lot of under-resourced communities have still been left behind or are still struggling to have access to these resources, so we’re trying to develop this product so that it’s accessible, low cost and is something that, regardless of someone’s socioeconomic background, they have access to,” Nagda told Florida Tech previously. “Growing up in Kenya I definitely saw how technology has been something that has helped the underserved but they’re not having enough access to it, so this is really our motivating factor why we want this product out there.”
The patent-pending machine would scan breast tissue and use machine learning to create an image that would indicate the presence of tumors in the tissue, if there were any. Patients can use the mobile app to connect with the device and view their medical scans via the app. The app is also used as a way for patients to connect with doctors who can review their medical data and suggest next steps.