Doctoral student's startup invited to compete in Rice Business Plan Competition

Author: Nicholas Barella

A new pharmaceutical startup aimed at treating diabetic foot ulcers has emerged from research at the University of Notre Dame, and is among just 42 teams in the world invited to participate in the Rice Business Plan Competition April 5–7, 2018. 

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Led by Notre Dame Trung Nguyen, a doctoral student in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the new company, SalvePeds, is developing a novel drug for treatment of diabetic ulcers. A diabetic foot ulcer is a lower limb wound that stays open for months, affecting a patient’s quality of life and placing an economic burden on the healthcare system. These chronic wounds can become infected, resulting in more than 100,000 amputations in diabetic patients every year in the United States.

Trung and his team at SalvePeds hope to revolutionize the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers with their new drug ND-336. As a topical gel, ND-336 will selectively deactivate the detrimental effect of a protein called MMP-9, which is involved in the breakdown of tissue and is a contributor to chronic wounds. The way this drug works has been the focus of Trung’s research for five years at Notre Dame in the laboratories of Mayland Chang, director of the Chemistry-Biochemistry-Biology Interface Program (CBBI), and Shahriar Mobashery, Navari Family Professor in Life Sciences. Both are also affiliated with the Eck Institute of Global Health. Trung also has worked extensively with The IDEA Center as he developed the startup.

So far work on ND-336 has shown to be effective in diabetic mice. To move forward, SalvePeds needs investors who can help take it through phase 1 and 2 clinical trials. The company is close to bringing the drug to phase 1 clinical trials. “We think ND-336 will satisfy the market’s need for a novel treatment that’s effective, safe, and convenient,” he said.

Trung and his team previously won the Fast Pitch Competition at the University of Louisville Cardinal Challenge Business Plan Competition. “It was fun learning on the fly,” Trung said. “The Cardinal Challenge expanded my understanding of the commercialization of drugs and medical devices.”

The Rice Business Plan Competition, the largest student startup competition in the world, awards $1.9 million in prizes. While 750 teams apply, only 42 are invited to participate.

“The prizes are enticing, but the real appeal of this competition is the experience and exposure,” Trung said. “We’re going to meet hundreds of venture capitalists and investors, who can help us develop our business strategy as well as potentially fund our next phase.”

Part of the competition is a People’s Choice Prize Poll on Facebook. You can help SalvePeds by voting.