ViVita Technologies includes UC Davis vet, three biomedical engineering doctoral students.
A new approach to tissue preparation that makes heart valve replacements less likely to be rejected by the body’s immune system — potentially giving transplant patients longer, healthier lives — was the clear favorite in this year’s UC Davis business plan competition — sweeping both the first prize and the People’s Choice award.
ViVita Technologies, a team comprising a UC Davis veterinarian and three biomedical engineering doctoral students, took home a total of $12,000 in the 13th annual Big Bang! Business Plan Competition, run by MBA students in the UC Davis Graduate School of Management: $10,000 for first place, decided by a team of judges, and $2,000 for the People’s Choice award, decided by a vote of the approximately 150 people who attended the awards ceremony Thursday evening (May 16) at the UC Davis Conference Center.
Second prize of $5,000 went to Davis Chem, a team that is working to commercialize a sustainable method of producing isobutryaldehyde, a common base chemical used in everything from paint to cosmetics, with genetically modified E. coli bacteria rather than with the petroleum products currently used in production.
ViVita Technologies was driven to create its product to address the current shortage of organs. “But unlike with current heart valve transplants, the patient would be free from a lifetime of drugs,” said Maelene Wong, chief executive officer of the nascent company.
The ViVita process removes substances that trigger patients’ immune response while preserving the structural integrity and functional properties of the replacement valve tissue. The method has been successfully tested on small animals, they said.
The proprietary process allows the patient’s own cells to join and grow with the transplant tissue — a process that the team says could eventually be used for any organ transplant. Such an organ transplant would allow the person to lead a normal, healthy life without fear of organ rejection and the need to spend a lifetime on anti-rejection medication. It would also allow for better transplant methods for children, who often need new transplants, and additional surgeries, when their bodies grow, Wong said.