ACPHS In The News

Bootcamp Teaches Medical Entrepreneurs About Business

Entrepreneurs who pitched ideas at Bioinnovation Bootcamp Pitch Night
May 31, 2024

Former emergency room nurse Hilario Castillo, who has patented a two-needle syringe to make administration of injections safer and faster, has been traveling from his home in Westchester County to Albany on Thursday evenings to learn how to get his device to market.  

On May 30, he saw the fruits of that commitment. After pitching his syringe idea to an audience of judges and interested onlookers in the ACPHS’ Panthers Den, Castillo (centered in the picture above) won the pitch competition that culminated an eight-week program known as Bioinnovation Bootcamp.  

Castillo won $15,500 in cash and in-kind support to move his idea forward. More importantly, he said, Bioinnovation Bootcamp introduced him to a new network – including a regulatory consultant who will now advise him on how to get federal approval to market his device.  

“I am out of words,” Castillo said after judges announced his win. “The sacrifice was well worth it – the traveling up here, the sacrifice of time.”   

Castillo was one of nine entrepreneurs (pictured) to pitch ideas for new medical products, as the first Bioinnovation Bootcamp hosted by the Stack Family Center for Biopharmaceutical Education and Training (CBET). This joint program is the initial effort of a growing partnership between CBET and Albany Med Health System’s Office of Translational Research, Innovation, and Technology Transfer (OTR). OTR, directed by Dr. Stephanie Dosiek, has also recently supported the establishment of the Accelerator for Medical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, a business incubator at ACPHS’ Life Sciences Education Building.  

The nine entrepreneurs making their pitches were among 15 to attend Bioinnovation Bootcamp, designed to teach science-minded entrepreneurs about bringing their novel medical devices, health technologies and pharmaceutical innovations to market. The program, which ran from April 11 to May 30, featured experts on topics including protecting intellectual property, clinical trials, clearing federal regulatory hurdles and team building.  

On Thursday evening, competitors had eight minutes each to pitch their innovations to judges from Empire State Development, area academic institutions and regional entrepreneurial support organizations. and other Capital Region incubators. Their concepts included new ways to view CT images, identify the presence of an active viral infection and reduce post-surgical discomfort. They arrived with varied backgrounds, including as surgeons, nurses, engineers - medical researchers and students.  

Whether they pitched or not, Bootcamp participants said they gleaned multiple benefits from their eight-week experience. As scientists and researchers, they said the business-heavy curriculum was invaluable in filling in gaps in their knowledge. Several, like Castillo, mentioned the value of networking and making connections.  

Dr. Mengzhou Li, a postdoctoral researcher at Troy’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, did not take part in Pitch Night but participated in BioInnovation Bootcamp because of its focus on medical devices – in particular, the applications needed to get approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Researchers in his lab are interested in developing high-resolution CT scanning technology that increases diagnosis speed and accuracy.  

ACPHS student Dylan Wang, who just finished his first year in the pharmacy doctoral (PharmD) program, also participated without any intention to pitch – or even develop a business idea at this point. He enrolled in Bootcamp because of his long interest in entrepreneurialism and was impressed by the intelligence, passion and drive of the people around him.  

“I’ve always had this idea in the back of my head of maybe wanting to start a business with the knowledge that I get from a PharmD degree,” Wang said. “This program was the perfect way to introduce me to those potential ideas that could be used in the future.”