Tympanogen LLC, a New Orleans startup company with a nonsurgical patch for treating holes in the eardrum, has won $44,000 in a major graduate-level student startup competition.

More than 500 startups from around the world applied for the Rice University Business Plan Competition, with 42 startups from eight countries selected to compete in Houston.

Tympanogen won three prizes totaling $44,000 after being named one of six finalists.

The company also won a $25,000 first prize on April 11 in the Tulane University Business Model Competition. Tympanogen is commercializing a gel patch called Perf-Fix, which it developed at Tulane.

The patch could eventually be used every year in more than 700,000 patients who have holes in the eardrum. The patch can be applied in a clinic without surgery or anesthesia, and it has a success rate that is double that of surgical treatment options, which have success rates as low as 40 percent.

“The cash awards will support our next phase of testing, and the connections we made to investors, surgeons and experienced biotech entrepreneurs are invaluable,” Tympanogen co-founder Elaine Horn-Ranney said of the Rice competition.

The startup company pitched four times over the course of the weekendlong competition and earned $4,000 as the fifth-place finisher.

It also received a $20,000 award from the nCourage Entrepreneurs Investment Group for the top women-led startups at the competition, as well as the $20,000 NASA Earth/Space Human Health & Performance Innovation Cash Prize.

This prize goes to the best life science startup whose technology has applications to NASA and the space program.

“The feedback from the judges of the competition, who are mostly investors, was extremely positive,” Horn-Ranney said.

“Many had children who had undergone the surgery our product will replace, and they could easily relate to the issue Perf-Fix resolves,” she said.

“This gave us further validation that Tympanogen is on the correct path to commercializing this much-needed gel patch and getting it to patients and their families quickly.”

To prepare for its competitions, the team of Tympanogen biomedical engineers and physicians developed a business plan and pitch with free support from the New Orleans BioInnovation Center.

The center is a not-for-profit technology business incubator that fosters entrepreneurship and supports biomedical and clean technology innovation in southeast Louisiana.

The 66,000-square-foot facility offers wet-labs, offices and conference facilities to a range of companies, from early-stage startups to maturing and expanding businesses.

Source: New Orleans Advocate