FluidScreen, a venture started by three Yale graduate students in 2013, has won $25,000 in this year’s Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize competition.
FluidScreen seeks to distribute biotechnology that can detect bacteria in liquids within a period of 30 minutes. It grew out of the electrical engineering doctoral thesis of Monika Weber GRD ’15, who is the chief executive officer of the company. Weber invented a chip-size device that can detect contaminants in liquids, such as blood or water, much faster than any existing technology, she said, adding that current devices can take up to 24 hours to produce the same results.
FluidScreen claimed the Sabin Prize last Wednesday. The prize — which is administered by the Center for Business and the Environment at Yale and funded by the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation — is awarded in an annual competition to a team of Yale faculty or students with the business idea that has the potential to create the most environmental and economic returns.
Sixteen teams submitted applications for this year’s Sabin Prize, and four finalists presented their business pitches to a panel of five judges, who selected the final winner. The winning group’s success may be attributed to the interdisciplinary nature of the team members and the size of the technology’s potential market, said Stuart DeCew, CBEY program director.
The idea of turning the FluidScreen technology into a business began to materialize last October, when Weber took a School of Management class on entrepreneurial business planning with Seyla Azoz GRD ’15 and Anthony Lynn SOM ’14, who study chemical engineering and business management, respectively. Azoz is now FluidScreen’s vice president of finance and operations, and Lynn is vice president of marketing and business development. All three team members interviewed said the diversity of their team likely contributed to their success at the competition.
“To start with, we are two ladies from engineering, which is always very impressive. In the competitors, we saw many male-dominant groups,” Azoz said. “We also have a very strong business team, and we are trying to bridge the gap between the business and technology side. I feel like we can address all the specific points in a business model.”
The technology of the venture itself is unique as well, Azoz said, because it is able to efficiently address the widespread problem of water contamination.
She said her research on bacteria mapping has shown that there is not a single area of the world that has not had a significant bacterial outbreak in the last four years.
“Our goals are pretty much to take over the world,” she said. “We see huge potential for our business in health care, and [in helping] anyone have a better life. This technology can affect food, beverages, the water we swim in.”
FluidScreen is entering two more entrepreneurial competitions this week in an effort to build up the organization’s seed funds, Lynn said. He added that the winnings will go toward research, production and marketing costs, such as building prototypes to distribute to customers.
The company is also beginning to contact potential customers, Lynn said, especially labs that work with water purification. Those labs affect industries ranging from utilities to pharmaceuticals to public beaches and swimming pools, he said.
“In the long term, I’d like to see this very flexible and affordable technology being applied to make an impact in developing countries where about four billion people have very restricted access to medical diagnostics, and many health problems are related to bacterial diseases,” Weber said. “I hope that this technology will help save human lives.”
The Sabin Prize was established in 2009.