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Team of WVU students develop system to track lab animals, will compete in SXSW

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It currently takes 10 years and more than $1 billion to get a promising drug from the bench to the bedside in the U.S. pharmaceutical market, but a team of three West Virginia University graduate students have developed a new solution to the archaic and inefficient use of laboratory animals in testing these drugs.

The team, made up of MD/PhD students Brandon Lucke-Wold and Zachary Wright and MBA student Brandon Cook propose replacing the current system of numbered metal ear tags on each laboratory animal with the “SwifTag,” an ear tag that uses state-of-the-art radio frequency identification and a smart phone reader to collect data for animal inventory and tracking.

This system, more advanced than anything in the market, simplifies the old system of hand-entering data into excel sheets or other software for inventory and documentation of experiments. SwifTag reduces the both excessive animal handling and the chances of human error that can often cause the process to be inefficient.

Lucke-Wold, Wright and Cook have been selected to compete in the semi-finals of PitchAustin, an annual event hosted by the McCombs School of Business during the March 15 South by Southwest conference where they will compete for a $10,000 grand prize against other MBA students from across the country. They will have just a few minutes to explain the plan for their startup business and field questions from investors and entrepreneurs in a format similar to NBC’s Shark Tank.

“These students are very impressive. They will do very well in this competition and as representatives of the innovative work we are doing here at WVU,” said Carrie White, director of WVU Launchlab.

So far, WVU’s team has secured pilot funding for prototyping, filed a provisional patent and formed their LLC. They are submitting a full patent this spring, have a working contract for software development and have secured a partnership with a marketing company for initial tag production.

“PitchAustin will give us exposure for this exciting product, provide us with the funds needed for the initial bulk order of Swiftags to be used in beta testing and accelerate the timeline of getting our product to market,” Lucke-Wold said. “We are looking forward to discussing our business idea with potential investors and other like-minded entrepreneurs.”



CONTACT: Ann Claycomb; Assistant Vice President for Academic and Strategic Communication


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