Above: representing Noleus Technologies (from left-right) is Sydney Gibson, adviser and Houston surgeon Swarna Balasubramaniam, and Emily Evans.
Noleus Technologies, Inc., a privately held company in Houston, won the grand prize of $20,000 at the H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge (RLC) for their development of a medical device that accelerates patient recovery following abdominal surgery by decreasing the intestinal wall swelling that causes long patient stays.
The RLC, which is hosted by Rice’s Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Lilie), is named in honor of Al Napier, one of the founders of the globally recognized entrepreneurship program at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business. A professor emeritus of entrepreneurship and psychology, Napier retired in 2017.
The RLC is open to Rice undergraduate and graduate students and recent alumni. The challenge includes a stream of co-curricular workshops that run throughout the year and culminate in the new internal entrepreneurship competition in the spring. At this year’s event, startup ideas ranging from high-growth ventures to small-businesses competed for $60,000 in prize money.
Out of 50 applicants, 10 teams made it to the final round. Prior to the March event, teams were required to attend two mandatory training sessions on pitch scripts and pitch delivery. They presented their companies in 10-minute pitch and question-and-answer sessions with a panel of local entrepreneurship experts at the event emceed by John Reale, CEO of the startup hub Station Houston.
|Rice Business Plan Competition|
|Pictured from left: Rice executive M.B.A. candidate and Houston Methodist surgeon Robert Ochoa, and bioengineering graduate students Emily Evans and Sydney Gibson. In addition to winning the Rice Launch Challenge, Noleus Technologies advanced to the semifinals in the Rice Business Plan Competition.|
“Winning the challenge means that all of the hard work our team has put in has paid off,” Evans said. “Pitching is the fun part; developing the business plan takes time, energy, perseverance and passion — much like a Ph.D. Winning the challenge means that we were able to communicate effectively about the value of our company. It was extremely valuable for us to get this validation and to continue to build relationships that can help Noleus in the long term.”
Noleus Technologies also represented Rice at the Rice Business Plan Competition, the largest and richest student startup competition in the world. The Noleus team included Rice bioengineering graduate students Emily Evans and Sydney Gibson and Houston Methodist surgeon Robert Ochoa, who is also an executive MBA student at Rice. The inventor of the device and CEO of the company is surgeon Swarna Balasubramaniam, who advised the team for this competition.
Evans research in Professor Rebekah Drezek’s laboratory has involved delivering immunotherapies on gold nanoparticles with the aim to produce an in situ cancer vaccine response. She is also a predoctoral fellow of the UT MD Anderson/Rice University Translational Cancer Nanotechnology (T32) training program funded by the National Institutes of Health. Drezek is a professor of bioengineering and of electrical and computer engineering at Rice.
Gibson is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and a Fellow of the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, Inc. (GEM). Her research has involved the development of 3-D bench-top models of lung cancer to study metastasis in Mary Dickinson’s laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine. Dickinson is a professor of molecular physiology and biophysics and the Kyle and Josephine Morrow Endowed Chair.
Evans will graduate this May and continue with Noleus Technologies as chief operating officer. Gibson will graduate later in 2018. Both were significantly involved in graduate student life on the Rice campus.
The RLC was sponsored by Rice Business, Lilie and the Rice Entrepreneurs Organization. For more information about the challenge, go to