by Ginger Ku, MBA ‘14
The Emerging Markets Institute at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University is honored to sponsor a team to compete in the mai Bangkok Business Challenge @ Sasin that will take place during Feb 27th – March 1st 2014 at Chulalongkorn University. Juan Diego Alonso MBA ‘14, Stephane Corgi (Cornell Post-Doc), Evan Moore, MBA ‘14 and Stephanie Hsi MBA ’14, will defend their business plan for a firm called ZYMtronix, which uses super-charged enzymes to remove bacteria and anti-biotics from waste water. Selected from 48 proposals from 13 countries, the ZYMtronix plan has already advanced Cornell to the semi-final round. This 12-year-old competition is known for bringing sustainability concerns to mainstream commercial ventures. For the first time, all business plans will be evaluated on their venture’s economic soundness and their ability to address relevant social and environmental concerns.
The ZYMtronix technology was developed at Cornell University as part of collaboration among scientists from different fields. This technology is patented by Cornell and is expected to be part of the solutions needed to tackle antibiotic resistance.
Stephanie Hsi, a second-year MBA participating in the team as a marketing consultant with experience in healthcare and previous case competitions, commented “The mai Bangkok Business Challenge inspired ZYMtronix to move faster – pulling together a team of passionate Cornellians whose experiences could not have been more complimentary. Combining industry and academic backgrounds, we have worked in all spectrums of healthcare from provider-side to pharmaceutical marketing. Leveraging everyone’s networks has played a crucial role in gathering the evidence we need for developing a compelling presentation that will hopefully win over the judges and investors! We are pushing forward an innovative product that economically solves a serious healthcare problem.”
The critical need for the ZYMtronix enzymes is demonstrated by Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the 2013 Threat report: “The loss of effective antibiotics will undermine our ability to fight infectious diseases and manage the infectious complications common in vulnerable patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, dialysis for renal failure, and surgery, especially organ transplantation, for which theability to treat secondary infections is crucial.”
The increasing concern about breeding these so-called “anti-biotic resistant superbugs” is a global issue, causing many government officials to actively seek a cost-effective solution. ZYMtronix has discovered an enzyme that will work miracles. Below is a brief interview with the co-founder Juan Diego Alonso, who is a student in the joint MBA/JD program:
Question: What is ZYMtronix’s product?
Answer: Our product can remediate antibiotics and emerging contaminants, such as hormones and pesticides, in water supplies and other applications. Our solution inactivates these contaminants and kills bacteria. Improper antibiotic disposal has led to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, resulting in infections leading to $20 billion in annual excess health care costs, $35 billion in societal costs, and 8 million additional hospital stays in the United States alone. We believe that our product is a strong stepping-stone in alleviating this problem globally.
We offer a biodegradable, small holder that is easily attached to toilets or urinals. As water comes in contact with the product, our gel releases a super cleaning enzyme that immediately inactivates bacteria and antibiotics. In designing this product, we recognized that this problem needs to be solved where it begins. So we think that there is value-added in finding a very simple solution that users can activate with a push of a button.
Question: Who is your target market?
Answer: We are targeting businesses and consumers; specifically providers of specialty cleaners and their consumers, including hospitals, clinics, and health conscious consumers. Our insights into these markets tell us that these are the fastest growing segments among consumers who are willing to pay for these health benefits.
Question: What are the challenges that ZYMtronix is facing now?
Answer: We are currently prosecuting the patents. IP protection is a cost that needs to be covered in the short term. So we are looking for funding resources from various channels to support the process. To date, we have received National Science Foundation’s funding for $150,000. We are using these funds to fine-tune the product, and recruit part-time employees. We are currently seeking extra funds to expedite our speed of business development, piloting, marketing and legal procedures. We hope to conduct a pilot test and scale up our business in a year’s time. Then we will be seeking the right partners.
Question: Why did you choose to join the mai Bangkok Business Challenge?
Answer: Antibiotic resistance is a global issue. And it’s even more important in countries where infrastructures do not allow easily accessible water treatment or where water is a rare commodity. This competition is a great platform for us to test our ideas among different industries and venture capitalists. We are very interested to know what they think about our product.
Question: What makes ZYMtronix a unique team?
Answer: I met StÉphane in a networking event for entrepreneurs at Cornell. Cornell is a great place for technologies to meet entrepreneurs. What drew me to join his team was his passion and belief in leveraging technology to improve people’s lives. We immediately became more than just business partners and interact more like friends. I met Stephanie through the Emerging Markets Institute (EMI)She brings extensive insight in health care marketing and sales. If there is someone who can sell this technology, I think it is Stephanie. Evan, also a JD-MBA, has a passion for regulatory health care, professional knowledge in financial management, and a general understanding for how to reach out to our target markets. I think we have a winning team because everyone has complementary skills to deliver the simple solution to a very complicated problem. We have additionally enjoyed strong support from Cornell, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute, and especially Richard Coyle, Executive Director of EMI and MBA 2012 alum Lawrence Linker.
In 2012, the Emerging Markets Institute sponsored a group of Johnson students, who won the third place in the competition and crystalized their idea in Asia. This year, we believe that ZYMtronix will do even better not only because their product will resolve global social problems, but also be applicable to multiple industries, including but not limited to consumer product goods, wastewater treatment facilities, agriculture, and pharmaceutical manufacturing.
Founders of ZYMtronix (From left to right):
StÉphane C. CorgiÉ – Former Research Associate at Cornell’s Department of Material Sciences and Engineering PhD in Soil Sciences and Microbiology, Henry Poincare University
Juan Diego Alonso – JD-MBA, Cornell University
Evan Moore – JD-MBA, Cornell University