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SialoGen Therapeutics Wins UC Davis Business Plan Competition

May 16, 2003

A biopharmaceutical company developing a breakthrough treatment to prevent the spread of cancer by putting tumor cells on a low-carb diet has won $10,000 in a business plan competition organized by MBA students at the University of California, Davis.

SialoGen Therapeutics Inc. of Davis won first place in the third annual Big Bang! Business Plan Competition, designed by the students of the Graduate School of Management to promote entrepreneurship, innovation and hands-on learning.

SialoGen has patented chemical technology that shuts down the production of enzymes that make polysialic acid, a sugar polymer found on the surface of cancer cells. It's thought that the presence of the carbohydrate allows tumor cells to rapidly multiply and expand. SialoGen has already identified one inhibitor that will work and could lead to a future cancer therapy.

Team members are Brian Rogers, a UC Davis Graduate School of Management alumnus and adjunct professor; Frederic Troy, a professor in the UC Davis School of Medicine; Jaqueline Gervay-Hague, a professor of chemistry at UC Davis; Sandra Reynoso, a Ph.D. in immunology from UC Davis and MBA student; and Neil Byzick, an MBA student at UC Davis.

A panel of nine venture capitalists from the Sacramento region and the Bay Area, including two UC Davis alumni, served as judges and selected the first- and second-place winners in the final round. Results were announced at the final event of the competition on campus Thursday evening.

"This $10,000 is our lucky charm. We need to go out and raise close to a half-million dollars to launch the business, but this is a beginning for us," said Sandra Reynoso, COO of the winning team. "This competition is not about the money. All the feedback that we have received has been invaluable. I was taken aback when two venture capitalists and an angel investor who judged our presentation approached me and offered their help. I didn't have to move. I was excited that people were coming up to me saying that we want UC Davis to be successful in starting companies."

"In SialoGen we found a start-up with an intriguing new hypothesis on the molecular cause of invading cancer cells, and more importantly, the drug candidates to treat cancer based on this novel idea," said Brian Atwood, a managing director of Versant Ventures in Menlo Park and a UC Davis alumnus. "Their scientific work and business plan were first rate, and the judges were impressed with the SialoGen team."

Second place and $3,000 was awarded to Inventra of Davis, which focuses on innovative prosthetic valve technology and has developed the Active Response Valve for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. Team members are Dr. Michael Dake, Chris Elkins, Karoon Monfared, Bassel Rifai, Ceron Rhee, Dr. Jacob Waugh and UC Davis undergraduate Lana Chan.

As the audience's favorite, Davis BioPharma of Davis won the People's Choice award and $2,000. The company has developed technology that more quickly screens compounds leading to the discovery and identification of new drugs, with an emphasis on those used in the treatment of cancer.

Team members are Paul Yu-Yang, an MBA and doctoral student at UC Davis; Suzanne Miyamoto, Ph.D., an assistant research biochemist at the UC Davis School of Medicine; Alan Lehman, a post-doctoral scholar at the UC Davis Medical Center; Jeff Doherty, an MBA student at UC Davis; Alicia Jerome, an MBA student; Young Lee, a doctoral candidate; Flore Look, a law student; and Kit Lam, a professor and chief of hematology/oncology at the medical center.

The other finalist team was Applied Microsensors Inc. of Oakland, which is promoting sensors that will allow farms to remotely monitor their crop's health with real-time data on temperature, humidity and light intensity. Team members are Sparky Rose; Kimberly Cornett, a UC Davis master's graduate and doctoral candidate; Michael Guddal, a master's graduate of UC Davis; and Mark Chang, a graduate of UC Davis.

Matthew Weeks, co-chair of the competition, said the organizing team was pleased with the level and breadth of competitors this year. "As a direct result of our increased outreach efforts, we've seen increased participation from across the UC Davis campus, including more GSM student teams and biotechnology and engineering," said Weeks.

"The Big Bang! is building closer ties between investors and the academic community," added co-Chair Corinna Krueger. "This gives financiers early access to innovative research and technology investment opportunities originating at UC Davis, particularly in the life sciences."

After the competition's launch in October, students from the management school organized a series of workshops to help competitors craft business plans based on marketable ideas.

More than 40 teams submitted executive summaries of their business plans in two rounds: a November warm-up round and a final deadline in February. Eleven qualifiers were asked to submit complete business plans in March. Following a review of the business plans, four teams were selected to make 15-minute presentations before judges Wednesday and before a public audience Thursday.

Throughout the competition, judges were asked to evaluate the summaries, plans and presentations as they would for ventures funded by their firms. The final judging panel included: Gilles Attia of Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich in Sacramento; Brian Atwood of Versant Ventures in Menlo Park; Barry Selick from Sofinnova Ventures in San Francisco; Bill Lanfri from Accel Partners in Palo Alto; David Aslin from 3i in Palo Alto; Cynthia Posehn from the Sacramento Angels; Roger Akers from Akers Capital in Fair Oaks; Harry Laswell from American River Ventures in Roseville; and Pete Bernardoni from Technology Funding in El Dorado Hills.

About 25 firms provided financial sponsorship, led workshops, groomed the teams or judged the competition.

Major sponsors include the Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich law firm, Lightsource Creative Communications and Versant Ventures. Other sponsors include the Fenwich & West law firm; Sofinnova Ventures, Kinko's, William Lanfri and Bank of Sacramento.

About the UC Davis Graduate School of Management

The UC Davis Graduate School of Management has been ranked among the nation's top 20 public MBA Programs and in the top 50 public and private Graduate Business Schools for eight consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report. The UC Davis MBA program ranked 15th among public institutions and 35th overall in the latest U.S. News survey.

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