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Walleye Tank winners include Mayo Clinic trainee-entrepreneurs

In December 2018, 23 entrepreneurial teams from across Minnesota and Mayo Clinic gathered in Rochester, Minnesota, to take part in Walleye Tank – Ice Fishing Edition. Several Mayo Clinic students and trainees were among the winners: Christine Mehner, M.D. (CBS ’15), Karim ReFaey, M.D. (NS ’18), and Allisa Song (MED ’22).

Inspired by TV’s “Shark Tank,” Walleye Tank is a biannual pitching competition where budding entrepreneurs get the chance to make their biomedical business dreams a reality. At the Ice Fishing event, each team was given two minutes to present its idea to the “walleyes” in the tank, expert judges experienced in life sciences and business.

Unlike many other pitching competitions, Walleye Tank is focused on removing barriers for life sciences entrepreneurs, not on cash awards. Anglers get a chance to refine and practice their pitches, and to receive valuable feedback and guidance from the walleyes.

In addition, the event serves as a significant networking opportunity. Event organizers “stock the pond” at Walleye Tank with a carefully curated mix of supporting partners — local investors, subject matter experts, service providers, job seekers and mentors — who are eager to help accelerate the best ideas into the biomedical marketplace.

In kicking off the event, Stephen Ekker, Ph.D. (BIOC ’07), director of the Mayo Clinic Office of Entrepreneurship, said to the crowd: “It takes a village to raise a start-up. It’s really hard to do. It’s very complicated. But the wonderful thing about the ecosystem that’s represented in this room is all of these support structures and all of these partners. … They want to join us in the opportunity to make the world a better place.”

Winning teams

Each team pitched in one of three divisions: Junior Anglers (early-stage entrepreneurs), Mid-level Reelers (incorporate companies in early stages of fundraising) or Professionals (established businesses with active sales).

Junior Angler winners

First place — NovoClade, presented by a Siba Das, Ph.D., from the University of Minnesota: Smart technology to control mosquito populations

Second place — Adjustable Fracture Nail, presented by Christine Mehner, M.D. (CBS ’15), predoctoral student, Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences: A nail used in orthopedic surgery that allows for guided adjustment for each patient

Mid-level Reeler winners

First place — QT Grid, presented by Karim ReFaey, M.D. (NS ’18), research fellow, Mayo Clinic: A device allowing 360-degree electrode recordings and readings from desired areas of the brain during surgery

Second Place — Morari Medical, presented by Jeff Bennett from the Twin Cities: A device designed to address premature ejaculation through neuromodulation therapy

Professional winners

First place — ClinicianNexus, presented by Katrina Anderson from the Twin Cities: A collaborative clinical education management tool that helps match medical students to available clinical rotation sites

Second place — Ambient Clinical Analytics, presented by Al Berning from Rochester, Minnesota: A suite of clinical support tools designed to reduce information overload and burnout for physicians in health care settings

Audience favorite

Nanodropper, presented by Allisa Song (MED ’22), student, Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine: A universal eye dropper adapter designed to reduce prescription waste

The next Walleye Tank event is planned for May 3, 2019, at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Winners at that event earn the chance to go on to compete at MN Cup, the largest statewide start-up competition in the United States.


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