Test for heparin contaminants wins NDSU’s Innovation Challenge ‘13

Erin Nyren-Erickson, a graduate student in pharmaceutical sciences at North Dakota State University, took top honors in Innovation Challenge ’13, the second annual student innovation competition sponsored by NDSU and the NDSU Research and Technology Park. The winners were announced at an awards ceremony on Feb. 28.

The competition was part of the fourth annual Innovation Week, Feb. 26-28, to showcase and encourage student ingenuity at NDSU. It included three tracks: tangible innovations, intangible innovations such as services, processes or methods, and corn-based innovations.

“In just two short years, NDSU students have taken the Innovation Challenge competition to a new level,” said Brenda Wyland, interim executive director of the NDSU Research and Technology Park. “The innovation taking place on campus is astounding, and we can’t wait to see these new ideas in the marketplace.”

Nyren-Erickson, one of 22 finalists, won the $5,000 tangible innovations track and the $5,000 best in show prize for a new kind of test for contaminants in heparin, a blood-thinning drug that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires to be screened. Nyren-Erickson is from Fargo. Her innovation adviser is Sanku Mallik, professor in pharmaceutical sciences.

Team Improving Osteointegration won the $5,000 intangible innovations track for their method of determining the ideal pore size for growing cells that will allow a novel dental implant, also being developed by NDSU students, to integrate into a patient’s jaw bone. 

Team members are:

  • Emily Steil, a senior majoring in zoology from St. Cloud, Minn.
  • Shelby Schields, a junior majoring in zoology from Beulah, N.D.
  • Sarah Lindblom, a junior majoring in zoology from Fergus Falls, Minn.
  • Hannah Green, a junior majoring in music from Iowa City, Iowa

Their adviser is David Wells, professor in industrial and manufacturing engineering.

Team Corn Oncologists won the $5,000 corn-based innovations track sponsored by the North Dakota Corn Council. Their project is corn resistant starch nanoparticles as encapsulation material for colon cancer drug delivery. The encapsulation material has the potential to deliver anti-cancer drugs directly to the colon while minimizing the side effects of chemotherapy.

Team members are:

  • Dusan Petrovic, a senior majoring in chemistry from Smederevo, Serbia
  •  Nilushni Sivapragasam, a graduate student in chemistry from Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • Darshika Amarakoon, a Dec. 2012 cereal science graduate from Gampaha, Sri Lanka
  • Su Hyeon Hwang, a junior majoring in food science and technology from Seoul, South Korea 

Their innovation adviser is Pushparajah Thavarajah, assistant professor in the School of Food Systems.

Team Midwest Best won the $1,000 People’s Choice Award for their software program that uses cameras to record video to help determine fault when car accidents occur. The video also can help identify perpetrators when a vehicle is broken into. 

Team members are:

  • Bryce Heustis, a sophomore majoring in finance from Devils Lake, N.D.
  •  Drew Spooner, a sophomore majoring in marketing and management from Fargo
  • Anna Haugen, a sophomore majoring in accounting from West Fargo

Their innovation adviser is Kay Hopkins, academic adviser in the College of Business.

“This week wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of our sponsors,” Wyland said. “Their willingness to champion Innovation Week demonstrates the commitment they have to our future leaders and their ability to diversify the economy through innovation.”

NDSU is a student-focused, land-grant, research university listed among the top 108 research universities in the nation by the Carnegie Foundation. 

The NDSU Research and Technology Park and Technology Incubator are home to fast-paced, high-growth companies that promote technology-based economic development in North Dakota. The companies compete globally or have the potential to. To operate within the park or Technology Incubator, a company needs to be involved in the advancement and development of new technology and be willing to establish a working relationship with NDSU. The companies work in the fields of material sciences, biosciences and life science technology, information technology, nanotechnology, and advanced manufacturing and sensors/micro-electronics.


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