J. Michael Bennett, MD • April 11, 2017

A few days ago McNair Hall at Rice University was buzzing with anticipation and energy as many of the entrepreneurs scurried about putting the final touches on their presentations getting ready for the elevator pitch event. Every year contestants from across the globe merge together for this special event that crowns one winner with a cash prize and connections worth over a million dollars. Now the hallways are empty and the grand prize has been earned by Forest Devices, a startup company with a novel technology that allows medics, ambulatory personnel, and physicians to screen for stroke quickly and efficiently.

The Rice Business Plan Competition has become one of the most sought-after competitions within the startup world. This year 42 companies competed, with a staggering 21 of these companies within the healthcare market.

As a healthcare provider and entrepreneur I wanted to highlight ten niche-specific companies that I found great potential in tackling a specific problem within healthcare.

Alleviant Medical

A minimally invasive percutaneously placed device that allows cardiologists to create a pressure relief shunt between the atria to provide continuous and dynamic decompression. The problem addressed is heart failure with the advantage of not using stents or anticoagulants. Animal studies with two design firms to finalize product development are upcoming.

Droice Labs

Helping healthcare providers customize the right treatment for each patient by utilizing Artifical Intelligence-derived algorithms.

Forest Devices

RBPC 2017 winner. Creators of AlphaStroke, the first portable device that screens for stroke across all point-of-care environments and can be used by all medical personnel. See above.

General Biotechnologies

Creators of a small molecule therapeutic (Nivien) that defeats several resistance mechanisms at once. Pre-clinical data predicts Nivien could double the survival rate of metastatic pancreatic cancer patients. Currently working on IND status with the FDA.


A novel US patented non-invasive intraocular pressure monitoring system within a contact lens. Helps identify patients with undiagnosed glaucoma. Finalizing the prototype ahead of FDA approval.

Medical Magnesium

Innovative load bearing magnesium implants that are biologically absorbed instead of having to be removed after the bone has healed. Currently preparing for FDA approval. Regulatory approved for first and second product in Europe.


A tissue engineered scaffold that enables patients to regenerate, with their own cells, an innervated nipple with natural pigmentation and projection after mastectomy. Completing animal studies with human studies to follow.

Project Starfish

An add-on device that will reduce Catheter Associated Urinary Tract Infections (CAUTIs) by continuously killing harmful bacteria using light systems. Currently working on prototyping, testing, and FDA approval.

Smart Bandage

A remote wound monitoring system that wirelessly sends vital signs (pH levels, bacteria presence, bleeding, infection, etc) to remote medical staff and doctors to provide early signs of infection/ ulceration/ bleeding in real-time. Clinical trials and regulatory approval underway.


An integrated smartphone platform where field workers can acquire patient or environmental samples, detect the disease using proprietary algorithms, and report results in real time with geo-tagged data. The technology provides rapid results allowing quicker reactive responses to outbreaks and early disease detection. Currently undergoing field testing with cholera and malaria testing platforms.

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J. Michael Bennett, MD
Regional Medical Director, angelMD


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Image Credit: Rice Business Plan Competition