Innovative allergy testing device nets University of Michigan student $25,000

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ANN ARBOR, MI — A dual medical and business student at the University of Michigan has won $25,000 in a nationwide competition for her startup that is innovating allergy testing technology.

EpiSLS, pioneered by MSc student Parker Martin, is a medical device that provides fast allergy test results and also works to eliminate the risk of false allergy detection.

This innovation won second prize in the 2022 Heartland Challenge, a competition held at the University of Arkansas School of Business to simulate the process of raising venture capital for a high-growth company.

EpiSLS was one of 12 semi-finalists judged on Saturday, April 16, and Martin won $25,000 out of a $160,000 prize pool. The competition is organized by the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, named after the founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club.

Martin’s EpiSLS device combines “innovative application and sensing technologies to automate bedside in vivo allergy testing,” according to the release. Martin came up with the idea after he ran into an allergy problem during one of his surgical rotations, he said in an interview with Ross Business School.

“I heard the anesthetist mention that we couldn’t give preferred antibiotics (to) our patient due to penicillin allergy,” he said in February 2021. “That was the first time I realized that allergies were compromising the way we care for patients.”

This prompted him to further his allergy research, including rotating with Michigan Medicine’s Allergy & Immunology Division. One finding was that “there is a lot of unnecessary morbidity and even mortality caused by a lack of access to reliable allergy testing,” he said.

“I hope EpiSLS solves this problem by enabling allergy testing in settings where it was previously impossible and in communities that otherwise wouldn’t have access to it,” he said.

He pitched his idea to the Michigan Business Challenge, a competition similar to the Heartland Challenge held by the business school’s UM Zell Lurie Institute. He won the challenge in February 2021, crediting the process with pushing him to better articulate his ideas about improving allergy testing.

“The Michigan Business Challenge guides teams through every step of the process by providing structure and an incentive to practice putting those thoughts on paper and presenting them,” he said.

For other business, medical or work-study students looking to innovate in their own field, Martin offered a simple suggestion: “Take your idea and try it out.”

“It doesn’t have to be perfect before you start – in fact, it almost never will be. If you have a great idea, start doing customer discovery interviews, create a prototype and get feedback” , he said, “The fear of doing it wrong and the urge to get started are the biggest obstacles you will ever face.”

“Everything you need to know can be learned along the way.”

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