SBTDC at ECU Coached Team Wins Back-to-Back Pitch Contests

Apr 16, 2024

By the ECU Team

Very few people realize that the safety of almost every medical procedure from a simple vaccination to open heart surgery depends on the humble Atlantic horseshoe crab. The blood of these unique creatures contains a rare property (LAL) which reacts when endotoxins are present, alerting to the presence of pyrogens which cause potentially deadly infections. Over 700,000 crabs are captured each year and have up to 30% of their blood removed before being returned to the ocean. However, the process is extremely stressful on the animal and some may even die during transportation to and from the processing facility, leading to public pressure and concerns about the sustainability of this valuable resource.

Recognizing this issue and the pressures the large pharmaceutical companies are facing, Limulus Biomedical, an ECU based start-up, is developing a method to ethically raise the crabs and extract the valuable blood while reducing the mortality rate to near zero.

Working with counselors from SBTDC, the team developed GTM strategies, start-up costs and financial projections and connected with a recognized subject matter expert from the world’s largest producer of LAL. In addition to focusing on the launch of the new company, the SBTDC team at ECU helped Limulus develop and refine a pitch to be used with potential investors.

The preparation paid off this week as Limulus took first place in both the I-Corps Blue Economy contest as well as ECU’s own Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge, netting total funding of $20,000 in cash and $15,000 in equity investment.

“The team at Limulus are great to work with; coachable, smart and incredibly motivated” said SBTDC center director Rob Bower. “We expect great things from them as they continue their entrepreneurial journey”

Up next for the team is the regional finals of NC Biotech’s Venture Challenge next month with a further $20,000 and passage to the state finals on the line. Unlike the Pirate Challenge with it’s 5-minute pitch and minimal Q&A, the NC BioTech competition features a brief 2 minute pitch followed by a whopping 28 minute Q&A grilling by the judging panel. “We’re working hard with the SBTDC team to refine our unique selling proposition and drilling on answers to any possible question that could come up” says Limulus CEO Tyler Hodge.

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