Top left to right: Nelson Ndahiro and Brent Ifemembi Bottom left to right: Phoebe Dijour, Mitch Turley, Anders Sideris, and Shri Prabha Shivram

For the second year, two promising startups launched by Johns Hopkins University students will receive significant funding of $140,000 each from the university as winners of the President’s Venture Fellowship, support designed to allow these fledgling ventures to grow and thrive in Baltimore.

  • Drul (WSE): Building an automated hardware device to detect disease using saliva.
    Team: Brent Ifemembi and Nelson Ndahiro
  • Somnair (WSE): A novel neurostimulation oral appliance therapy for a highly prevalent, poorly treated form of obstructive sleep apnea.
    Team: Mitchell Turley, Anders Sideris, Shri Prabha Shivram and Phoebe Dijour

The President’s Venture Fellowship, the largest award for student entrepreneurship ever offered by the university, was launched last year to encourage startup creators to put down roots in Baltimore and become part of the city’s burgeoning innovation ecosystem. The fellowship, funded by the Office of the President along with generous philanthropic alumni support, is open to any full-time Johns Hopkins student who wants to pursue a business venture in Baltimore after graduation.

In addition to the financial support, fellows receive a partial scholarship to the Carey Business School and mentoring from university leaders and alumni who have launched successful business ventures. Teams will have access to co-working space at the university’s Pava Center student innovation hub.

The Drul team shared: “We are extremely honored to receive this award, which will accelerate our mission to identify the earliest signs of chronic diseases. We’ve been working closely with the Pava Center since the initial stages of our venture and they have been invaluable in providing us mentorship, funding, and a platform to accelerate our idea into a viable company, hopefully to ultimately serve millions of patients.”

Mitchell Turley, founder of Somnair, shared: “Our team is thrilled to receive the President’s Venture Fellowship to support our mission to revolutionize the way millions of patients with sleep apnea are treated. This award will enable us to jump-start our business; the Pava Center has already been instrumental to our success to date, and we are excited to continue our collaboration with the Johns Hopkins and Baltimore entrepreneurial ecosystems.”

Ten startups applied for the fellowship, including teams representing the Whiting School of Engineering, the school of medicine, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Carey Business School. Winners were selected by a panel of 10 judges, including Johns Hopkins University alumni and Baltimore-based entrepreneurs.

The Pava Center Innovation & Entrepreneurship Challenge brings together a variety of award opportunities into a single event, offering students a streamlined process to access funding to work on their ventures over the coming year.

  • Sixty-six teams submitted 136 applications this year.
  • Twenty-four alumni reviewers gave in-depth comments and feedback.
  • Twenty-two teams were invited to interview, and 10 were selected — winning a total of $130,000 in awards.

All awards include:

  • Direct support for next steps with the venture
  • Co-working space at the Pava Center
  • Access to mentors and advisers

These awards are made possible by the Thalheimer Foundation, Hu Foundation, Avirett family, Raider family, Karthik Seshan, and additional generous philanthropic support from our alumni and friends.


Occusound (WSE): “Glaucoma is a chronic eye disease that affects 80 million people worldwide and can cause total blindness if untreated due to elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) damaging the optic nerve. OccuSound empowers patients by enabling at-home IOP measurements with an intuitive, non-contact acoustic design.”
Team: Valerie Wong, Ashish Nalla, Benjamin Miller, Nancy Yan, HyunSeo “Emily” Lee, Maria Giannakopoulos, Elliott Leow and Ivan-Alexander Kroumov

The Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Award enables up to two Johns Hopkins undergraduate-led startups with grant funding of $10,000. The awards enable students to focus on building a successful company. Ideal applications will validate the business’ technical and revenue approaches and demonstrate success in securing other grants or investments. Winners of previous awards have typically already been incorporated (or became so shortly after winning).


  • Endoguard (WSE): Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms (AAA), affecting approximately 18 million Americans with 1.5 million new diagnoses each year, are characterized by an abnormal enlargement of the aorta. AAAs typically remain asymptomatic and undetected until incidental discovery or rupture, which results in a staggering 85% mortality rate. EndoGuard aims to shift the treatment paradigm for type II endoleaks by proposing a noninvasive method of collateral vessel occlusion.
    Team: Aryaman Shodhan, Gabriella Wong, Noah Lu and Azmina Karukappadath
  • Meloscene (Carey): Helps music creators connect and collaborate effortlessly from anywhere. Our virtual studios enable musicians to use real instruments and their favorite production tools to streamline workflows and grow together in real time, fostering a vibrant community of shared creativity.
    Team: Julie Gerber and Chad Gerber (nonaffiliate)
  • TheStemEquityProject (SOE): “We believe that learning doesn’t have to stop when the school day ends. We embrace out-of-school learning opportunities to inspire and empower underrepresented minority students to explore STEM pathways. Employing a hands-on, minds-on approach, we provide an affordable monthly subscription STEM box program for upper elementary students.”
    Team Lead: Leidy Luciani

The Thalheimer Graduate Student Award supports up to three Johns Hopkins graduate student ventures aiming to solve major challenges through entrepreneurship. This year, three $10,000 prizes were awarded. Ideal candidates are actively prototyping or close to a working MVP (minimum viable product).


  • Biolinco (WSE): Developing a best-in-class high-throughput cell screening platform to reduce up to half the costs of biomanufacturing. Biolinco is developing the only technology able to track productivity over time, enabling drug makers to base decisions on a cell line’s manufacturing performance at scale and select the optimal cell line for every biologic therapy. Together, we can usher in the next generation of cell line development and reduce the manufacturing costs of lifesaving medicines.
    Team: Kent Rapp, Junneng Wen and Eduardo Martinez-Montes
  • Fetal Therapy Technologies (WSE): “We are developing a novel port system for fetal therapy procedures, aiming to address the current challenges and lack of innovation in the field. Fetal therapy is a surgical procedure performed on a pregnant mother where the goal is to operate on her fetus to repair a life-threatening birth defect.”
    Team: Selena Shirkin, Eric McAlexander, Mariah Snelson, Ayeeshi Poosarla, Gloria Kalnitskaya and Alice Yu

The Summer MedTech Awards support up to two Johns Hopkins University student-led startups working on medical technology to help make significant progress on their venture. This year, two $10,000 prizes were awarded. The awards are coupled with mentorship from experienced MedTech entrepreneurs, who can offer guidance for the next steps to market.


  • Hypermelt (WSE): Aims to reduce cancer mortality by enabling early detection of disease by developing a low-cost platform to detect extremely rare cancer-specific DNA within noninvasive samples to facilitate routine screening.
    Team: Christine O’Keefe, Yang Zhao, Jamie Cheng and Allyson Chiu

O’Keefe shared, “The support has been pivotal for initiating the translation of Hypermelt’s technology from academia to industry. I am extremely grateful for the mentorship and expertise of the Pava Center team that is always so generous with their time. We look forward to utilizing this award to continue development of our first distributable prototype to support other research teams in early cancer diagnostics.”

  • NovvaCup (SOM): “NovvaCup is a femtech company that provides human-centric period care products and reimagined period health for those experiencing regular menstruation. Our flagship product is a multiphasic menstrual cup for easy and comfortable use without the stress and mess. By addressing major pain points in current models, we have designed a device that improves user experience for each stage of menstrual cup use.”
    Team: Danielle Nicklas and Clarissa Ren

Nicklas shared, “Opportunities such as JHTV’s Commercialization Academy and the many informative seminars and contacts allowed me to translate my scientific training with the Pathobiology PhD program into emerging marketspaces. The Pava Center has been NovvaCup’s first and earliest supporters with impactful funding and mentoring that guided our growth from an untested idea into a viable femtech company.”

The Bisciotti Foundation Prizes for Student Entrepreneurship are nondilutive grants designed to help student startups scale their businesses as they graduate from student entrepreneurship programs on campus. They create a runway for our most promising student entrepreneurs and recent alums, providing them with valuable funding to transform their early-stage startups into high-growth companies, especially those considering staying in Baltimore. Ideal applicants will be pre-Series A, but have received significant grants, venture funding or revenue. This year, two prizes totaling $50,000 were awarded.


  • Flave (Carey): “We’re a startup at the intersection of gamification and restaurant discoverability, changing the way foodies dine out. On our app, diners capture and upload culinary delights at local restaurants, earning points that are redeemable for exclusive rewards. We also have a cloud SaaS platform that integrates with restaurants, empowering them to amplify their marketing by leveraging the user-generated content, harnessing feedback and promoting rewards. Restaurants also utilize our analytics to understand dining habits, enhance promotions and drive loyalty. Flave transforms the way people share their dining adventures while fostering an ecosystem that benefits both patrons and restaurants.”
    Team: Derek Battle and Jal Irani
  • Wellcheq (SOE): “We’re a web-based app that enables students to share how they are feeling with adults in school. The platform gives educators invaluable insight into the needs of their learners, so they can intervene before larger challenges arise. WellCheq makes it easier for young people to ask for support and helps facilitate stronger student-teacher relationships.”
    Team Lead: Jodi Miller

This award supports up to two ventures founded and run by a Johns Hopkins alum who has graduated in the last five years (2019–2023), who currently resides in or is committed to relocating to Baltimore, and is growing their business in the local ecosystem. This year, two $15,000 prizes were awarded.