Columbia University Medical Center

Pitchfest 2010 At Crossroads Of Health Sciences And Biomedical Engineering

NEW YORK (February 3) – At Pitchfest 2010, that distinctly entrepreneurial event now in its second year on the Columbia campus, a palpable trend emerged – business and humanities students were looking to science, and in some cases the health sciences, to build the next big market-moving invention or that hot new business start-up.

Nearly 200 spectators witnessed some 40 enthusiastic entrepreneurs take 90 seconds each to “pitch” their ideas for new products at PitchFest, sponsored by the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Center for Technology, Innovation and Community Engagement (CTICE), and the Society for Entrepreneurship and Technological Innovation, a student group.

Rebecca Rodriguez, senior associate director for entrepreneurship at CTICE, said this year’s competition highlighted the work of students at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S), as well as students from other universities.

P&S Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine & Pathology George Vlad, making his pitch at the 2010 PitchFest. Credit: Dana Vlcek
Among the P&S pitches was faculty member George Vlad, assistant professor of clinical medicine in pathology, who is exploring new immuno-suppressant drugs that can be better tolerated as part of a novel approach to treat auto-immune diseases, based on the immune system’s own self-limiting mechanisms.

Emmanuel Dumont, a Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering, presented his idea for an infection-repelling joint replacement device. The device is coated with a patient’s own cells prior to implantation, “mimicking a living tissue and thus preventing bacteria from developing an antibiotic-resistant protective shield.”

“No hospital can currently claim zero device-related infections, so this product is as large as the market for joint-replacement surgeries – more than 1.5 million per year in the United States,” Dumont said.

Last year, Meena George ’03, PhD ’08 GSAS, now a P&S student, garnered a lot of interest after pitching an online computer software program designed to provide research laboratories with a way to minimize waste of laboratory reagents by creating a secondary market.

“Pitchfest supports curiosity and intellect and the recognition that individuals can produce amazing things, regardless of their discipline,” Rodriguez said. “We welcome more submissions next year, particularly from Columbia University Medical Center.”

An entire suite of videos from this year’s PitchFest can be seen here.


Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical and health sciences education, and in patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Established in 1767, Columbia’s College of Physicians & Surgeons was the first institution in the country to grant the M.D. degree and is now among the most selective medical schools in the country. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and state and one of the largest in the United States. For more information, please visit

The Center for Technology, Innovation and Community Engagement, or CTICE (pronounced SEE-tice), supports community-based learning programs for Columbia students and creates and sustains partnerships between Columbia University and her neighbors. CTICE harnesses material and intellectual resources available at Columbia University to train students using real-world experiences. In 2006, Columbia Engineering established CTICE as a way to expand community-based learning for University students while promoting development in surrounding neighborhoods. With the help of other University offices and local community-based organizations, CTICE programs educate local youth, train residents for new careers, support local entrepreneurs and economic development, and help community organizations achieve their goals. For more information, please visit: