How Learning to Speak Science Changed the Course of My Business Relationship
By Caroline Landau, MBA ‘16
In late February, Walker McHugh, MSE ‘17, and I had the privilege and honor of taking home the grand prize at the Zell Lurie Institute’s Michigan Business Challenge, for our company PreDxion (pronounced: Prediction).
PreDxion (@PreDxionBio), produces a technology called MicroKine that measures proteins in patients’ blood called cytokines in less than thirty minutes, which is six times faster than any current technology.
Our bet is that once MicroKine gets to market, it will transform how physicians treat critically ill patients, especially those patients getting treated with a certain kind of cancer immunotherapy called Chimeric Antigen Receptor Therapy (CAR-T).
MicroKine is a patent-pending, near-bedside diagnostic device that quantifies multiple serum cytokines using small blood volumes by leveraging a proprietary, label-free localized surface plasmon resonance. MicroKine consists of ready-to-use disposable assay cartridges and a standalone near-bedside reader platform.
If you’re a little unsure about what that means, that’s OK. It took me time to unpack it as well.
Even though my background is in health program administration and evaluation, with a focus at Ross in biopharma and device go-to-market strategy, I’ve never taken a biomedical engineering course in my life.
So, when I first met Walker, one of MicroKine’s passionate founders, who has a background in product design and biomedical engineering, it took us a little while to stop speaking past each other.
With good humor, we’d make fun of each other for our stereotypical business and engineering tendencies, respectively: I’d inundate Walker with calendar invites, and he’d draw complex graphs on whiteboards. What we ultimately learned was that we needed both skillsets and stories to explain what makes MicroKine so valuable. In learning to talk to each other about our business and its complexities, we learned how to talk to others.
Entrepreneurship, as all entrepreneurs have proclaimed to us and others, is as much about people as it is about technology. More than that, entrepreneurship is about communication. It’s making everyone in the room as jazzed about your idea as you are, in whatever language it takes to make that happen.
In many ways, Walker taught me how to speak science, and I believe I taught him something about how to speak business. Sharing our hopes and dreams -- in science and other languages -- in an auditorium full of fans, judges, and critics also taught us that words carry tremendous power, as we hope that they breathe life into MicroKine and the next generation of life-changing technologies.
Caroline Landau is a second-year MBA student at the Ross School of Business.