Two GCU students in finals for $100,000 award
By Mark Heller
GCU News Bureau
An ounce or two of copper could be worth thousands toward illness prevention and better health.
Grand Canyon University students Michael Garcia and Vaugn Devera are on the cusp of turning one of Arizona’s abundant natural resources into an antimicrobial or anti-bacteria agent — and could earn up to $100,000 of future funding in the process.
Their patent is called “HandleTech.” The idea earned Garcia, a senior Health Care Administration major, and Devera, a recent GCU Biology and pre-med graduate, a spot in the finals of the BioAccel Solutions Challenge.
The Challenge is an annual competition designed to combine market need and innovation to stimulate further development of medical technology through entrepreneurism.
Based on research, Garcia and Devera said copper is considered antimicrobial and an element found in large quantities throughout Arizona. The HandleTech concept is a spray or liquid that contains small amounts (traces) of copper, which is expensive but recyclable.
This liquid or spray would be applied to door handles, hospital beds, knobs, blow dryers and other commonly shared objects around hospitals, medical facilities, schools or possibly homes; any high-bacteria “traffic” area.
“Treatment is much more expensive than prevention,” Devera said.
Finalists present their innovation and business plans Dec. 1 before a panel of prospective investors. The goal is to find an investor willing to donate $50,000 in private funding, a figure that BioAccel will match in additional financial support. The $100,000 in proof-of-concept dollars is used to advance the technology that addresses the health care challenge.
“The best part is it’s such a simple and basic thing, but millions of people are unaware of what and who was there first,” Devera said. “It could help people avoid illness and germs, which could help companies save money in sick time or employee absences.”
The duo has received ample support from (among others) lead faculty Pascale Lee in the College of Nursing and Healthcare Professions, assistant professor Tim Kelley in the Colangelo College of Business, peers such as Storage Together co-creator Luke Amargo, and other faculty from several colleges at GCU.
“Why wouldn’t you want to build something that can save people, prevent illness and uses natural resources?” Garcia said.
After barely beating the deadline to enter into the BioAccel Solutions Challenge, the duo raced against time again to put together a business model and plan for presentation.
Despite frenzied, last-minute labor, they fine-tuned their plan enough to advance beyond the semifinals in mid-October, thanks to peers and faculty who offered what Garcia called “honest, constructive critiques.”
“The guidance, mentorship and resources we’ve received from GCU on such short notice has been beyond anything we thought,” Devera said. “They want us to do more and better by taking initiative and reaching back to us, and it’s challenged us to do more and be better.”
They plan to use any winnings toward hiring an outside lab or company to perform its own research to corroborate (or not) the effectiveness of their product and its contents.
If a few things go their way and further research concurs, a couple ounces of “prevention” could be worth a lot more than $100,000 worth of “cure.”
“It’s been a journey, but everything is happening very quickly,” Garcia said.
To which Devera added: “We’re slowly finding our purpose.”
Contact Mark Heller at (602) 639-7516 or [email protected].edu