Idaho Technology Creates Lucid Path to Texas

Friday, March 12 2010


Written by Ken Kingery

MOSCOW, Idaho – An interdisciplinary team with some of the top talent at the University of Idaho is taking their two-time champion business plan to Arlington, Texas, host of the annual World’s Best Technology Showcase as well as the University of Texas at Austin’s IC2 Institute business plan competition.

The WBT Showcase features between 75 and 100 of the best business ideas from around the world while UT-Austin’s competition is one of the largest in the nation.

The team is a bundle of firsts. It is the first time students from the University of Idaho and WSU have partnered on a business plan team and the first time a team from Idaho has been accepted to either prestigious competition. In fact, it is the first time a business plan team from the University of Idaho has competed outside of the state of Idaho or the Palouse.

“It was a perfect setup,” said Gaylene Anderson of the University of Idaho’s Technology Transfer Office and the team’s coach. “The University of Idaho’s inventor creates the idea, MBA students from WSU bring business expertise, Idaho law students help with the legal language and the Idaho science graduate students tell the technology’s story. And they all really benefit from the cross disciplinary interactions of the team.”

The business plan centers on technology developed in the lab of Larry Forney, professor of biological science at the University of Idaho. Forney’s research focuses on the billions of microorganisms that form complex interactions between one another as well as the human body. The relationships between these tiny communities can have large effects on human health. Though no two people have exactly the same microbial communities, they can usually be grouped into similar compositions.

The idea behind Lucid Diagnostics is to develop a test to determine in which group a woman’s microbial community belongs. Currently, the business plan focuses on taking to market the test to determine the specific microbial communities found in the human vagina required to maintain a woman’s health.

“In the short term, we can test women, tell them what group they belong to and tell them if they are at a higher risk for contracting certain sexually transmitted diseases, yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis,” said Jacob Pierson, now a law student at Idaho with a master’s degree in bioinformatics and computational biology, who worked to develop the technology in Forney’s lab for several years.

“It will revolutionize women’s health,” added Brandon Holbrook, also a current law student at Idaho and former valedictorian of the MBA program at WSU. “In the grocery store, instead of one medicine for all women, there could be eight; each targeted for a woman’s unique microbial type.”

Lucid Diagnostics is well prepared for the competitions in Texas, which take place simultaneously March 15-17. They won both WSU’s and the University of Idaho’s business plan competitions last spring, besting more than 100 teams combined.

“The connections and exposure to people in the professional world is priceless,” said Michele Vachon, who completed her master's degree in environmental science at Idaho and is now taking course work towards a doctorate while working full-time as a sustainable community project manager for the university’s Building Sustainable Communities Initiative.

Outside of the competitions, the business idea has gained interest from several investors in the Pacific Northwest, including The University Funds, a venture capital company dedicated to creating startup companies out of intellectual property from several universities in western states.

Besides Pierson, Vachon and Holbrook, the original team included Bradley Hansen, recent graduate of WSU’s MBA program, and Siris Silva, also a recent graduate from WSU’s MBA program. Though most of the original players are still on the team, some have moved on since graduation.

“We would all love to see this thing through and have a company started around this technology,” said Pierson. “We’re just trying to bring some economic development to the Palouse while having a positive impact on women’s health.”
# # #

About the University of Idaho

Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. The university is home to the Vandals, the 2009 Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl champions. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.





About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.