Bisciotti Foundation winners Sequoia Neurovitality co-founders Josh Blair (left) and Spencer Shumway

The following was written by Joseph Choy, FastForward U’s communications intern.

Last April, FastForward U awarded nearly $170,000 to student start-ups as part of the annual Innovation & Entrepreneurship (I&E) Challenge. The challenge provides a comprehensive pipeline for student entrepreneurs to simultaneously apply for multiple non-dilutive funding opportunities.  Award recipients receive funding, cooperative working space at FastForward U, and access to a network of mentors and advisors.

A year after receiving these awards, the 2022 cohort reflects on how the funding has propelled their ventures and enabled them to reach new milestones.

The Bisciotti Foundation Prize for Student Entrepreneurship, supported by the Stephen and Renee Bisciotti Foundation, creates a runway for entrepreneurs to scale early-stage start-ups into high-growth companies. Last year, prizes were awarded to Eyedea Medical, a MedTech social enterprise creating solutions to alleviate the disease burden of corneal blindness worldwide. Another award went to Eden Thereapeutics (formally Sequoia Neurovitality), a Center for Bioengineering Innovation & Design spinoff, aiming to slow cognitive decline in older adults with a deep sleep-enhancing smart headband.

“During the grant year, Eyedea Medical initiated the first sales of our corneal tissue preparation product, DescePrep, received a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award from the National Science Foundation. Our team is extremely thankful to Fast Forward U and the Bisicotti Foundation, as they enabled us to prioritize key milestones to propel the company forward, and ultimately to improve patient access and outcomes of corneal transplants.”
Eyedea Medical Founder and CEO Katie Solley

“The funds we received through the I&E Challenge were critical to the development of our technology. These funds were really just the beginning of FastForward U’s support for our team! We’ve been so fortunate to tap into FastForward U’s vast network of mentors, experts, and fellow entrepreneurs to gain insights, advice, and valuable connections. We continue to work to leverage these incredible resources. If I had one piece of advice for this cohort’s winners, it would be to connect with Fast Forward’s leadership and learn about everything else they have to offer. It’s overwhelming!”
Eden Thereapeutics Co-founder Spencer Shumway

Summer MedTech Awards highlights start-ups working on medical technology, and is made possible by a gift from Harry’s and Warby Parker founder Jeff Raider (KSAS ’03, SAIS ’04) and his wife, Laura (KSAS ’03), for the Summer Undergraduate Award was expanded from one recipient to three, with support from Johns Hopkins Federal Credit Union. A gift from Neuralert CEO Karthik Seshan (WSE ’10, ’11) for the Summer MedTech Award inspired two other donors to fund two additional awards: Kevin Keenahan (WSE ’13, ’14) of Tissue Analytics and the Hu Foundation, led by John Rongxiang Hu, father of Richard Hu (KSAS ’24). In 2022, awards were given to:

  • NurseTech: a venture creating devices to simplify the organization of medical cords and tubing.
  • Drūl: a company developing at-home saliva diagnostic devices to detect the early onset of oral diseases.
  • Visilant: a joint Center for Bioengineering Innovation & Design and Wilmer Eye Institute spinoff, creating a smartphone-based AI telemedicine platform to eliminate cataracts across the globe.

“We’ve been able to interview over 100 nurses, nurse managers, hospital administrators, and other experts to develop the NurseTech Cordflex clip. We’ll be finishing our patent and first product molds for plastic injection in the next 6 weeks. We’ve been able to recruit 7 other individuals to contribute to our team to develop our business plan and have been in talks with 3 major hospital systems for device integration. We look forward to selling our product for nurses’  this year. Without the I&E funding we received, we would never have been able to take the next steps forward with patenting and manufacturing for our product. The I&E program kept Nursetech and our medical device dreams alive.”
NurseTech Founder David Usevitch