Haas Newsroom

April 24, 2003

Weight Loss Technology Wins Fifth Annual UC Berkeley Business Plan Competition

Berkeley – A novel approach to weight loss programs may soon allow physicians to curb not only their patients’ intake of food, but in many cases their desire for food.

The new technology, being developed by Gastric Retention Technologies (GRT), won the $50,000 grand prize of the fifth annual UC Berkeley Business Plan Competition at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business on Wednesday, April 23.

GRT is developing a non-invasive approach to losing weight without the need for drugs or surgery. Patients will swallow a pill containing a polymer that will expand once it reaches the stomach, thereby reducing the feeling of hunger. The polymer itself will dissolve in a matter of days. Since it will not actually be absorbed by the bloodstream, the pill will be classified as a medical device.

The GRT principals are Dan Burnett, an MD and an MBA graduate from Duke University, and Nate Beyor, a Ph.D. student in Bioengineering at UC Berkeley.

“GRT holds the promise of a truly safe and effective alternative to surgery for the millions of people suffering from obesity,” said Rebecca Robertson, managing director at Versant Ventures and a competition judge.

The UC Berkeley Business Plan Competition is one of the leading competitions in the country and fosters the creation of viable businesses. In four years, participating teams have raised more than $120 million in venture funding. First-year winner Timbre Technologies was sold in February 2001 to Tokyo Semiconductor for $138 million.

The second prize of $10,000 went to VSee Lab. VSee Lab has developed proprietary software that drives the first viable desktop video-conference system, allowing up to 20 students and teachers to see and hear each other simultaneously. Berkeley MBA students David Geisler and Robert Lee helped founder and CEO Milton Chen, an undergraduate Berkeley alumnus, with the business plan for his software.

Medifuel took both the third place prize of $5,000 and the People’s Choice award of $5,000, the latter of which was voted on by the audience at Wednesday’s final event. Medifuel is developing the first miniature Biological Fuel Cell (BFC) that promises to solve the power problem of the next generation of implantable medical devices. The company’s GlucoCell battery harnesses the body’s natural energy resource – glucose -- to power implants, thereby eliminating the need for traditional batteries, which need to be replaced by way of surgery. Berkeley MBA students Ken Bui and David Tseng joined inventor Kien Lam in creating a company around Lam’s GlucoCellTM.

The business plan competition is led by Berkeley MBA students. Each team must have at least one member who is a UC Berkeley or a UC San Francisco student or graduate to participate.

The teams are judged in three rounds by a leading group of venture capitalists who volunteered their time to the competition. Final round judges included Bob Ackerman of Allegis Capital, David Britts from ComVentures, Todd Brooks of Mayfield, Steve Domenik of Sevin Rosen Funds, Sameer Gandhi of Sequoia Capital, Rebecca Robertson of Versant Ventures, Nancy Olson of Fog City Fund, and Russ Siegelman of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

To emphasize the educational value of the competition, all finalists receive written feedback from the judges on their business plans and presentations. Throughout the competition, teams can participate in workshops on a variety of entrepreneurial topics.

The competition is hosted by the Haas School’s Lester Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation in collaboration with UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering and School of Information Management & Systems as well as UC San Francisco’s health sciences campus.

This year’s top-tier sponsors were Allegis Capital, ComVentures, and Sevin Rosen Funds. Additional corporate sponsors include ChevronTexaco, Fenwick & West, FTVentures, Newbury Ventures, Techstock Ventures, Versant Ventures, and Woodside Fund, along with an individual donation from Kevin Warnock.


For more information, contact Ute Frey at the Haas School at (510) 642-0342 or at frey@haas.berkeley.edu or visit the Web site at http://bplan.berkeley.edu.