Oxford 2024 CoBuilders winners announced

Published 1:24 pm Friday, June 21, 2024

The Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation in partnership with the University of Mississippi announced the winners of the recent Oxford CoBuilders Business Pitch Competition.

Oxford’s first-place team, and the winner of a $7,500 cash prize, went to Dr. Premalatha  Balachandran, Ph.D, MBA for her pharmaceutical research and development startup company PleXignal LLC.

Through their innovative multiplex molecular model (MMM) technology, a high-throughput screening platform, PleXignal’s drug discovery process allows for simultaneous targeting of multiple signaling pathways within a single assay.

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This capability not only accelerates the drug discovery process but also enhances its efficiency, drastically reducing the risk of drug failures during the early screening and target validation phase.

PleXignal co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Balachandran currently serves as a Principal Scientist at the National Center for Natural Products Research and School of Pharmacy at the University of Mississippi. Her husband and co-founder, Karthik Ken, B.Com., MB, will serve as CEO with 35+ years of startup experience.

The competition, held on June 12 at the UM Innovation Hub at Insight Park, featured six entrepreneurial teams pitching to a judging panel of five local business owners and entrepreneurial investors.

The local competition acted as a qualifying event for this fall’s statewide CoBuilders business accelerator led by Innovate Mississippi. Companies selected for the statewide program will be identified through their participation in one of eight regional pitch competitions that have been held in Clarksdale, Starkville, Jackson, Vicksburg, Hattiesburg, Biloxi, Tupelo, and now Oxford.

The Oxford CoBuilders second-place team was awarded to Julien Bourgeois, a rising Junior at the University of Mississippi, and his co-founder Andrew Bradford for their smart watch sports development company Automatic AI. Automatic AI, LLC is a post-revenue startup transforming sports development with innovative smartwatch applications. Their flagship product, Automatic Basketball Trainer, launched in July 2023, harnesses the power of Apple Watch motion sensors to track and analyze basketball shooting workouts.

Third place was awarded to Dr. Mac Nichols of BeWell Health. BeWell Health defines itself as a new type of medical clinic, a modern version of comprehensive, holistic and personal care.

All six companies participating in the competition received pre-pitch business coaching and access to development resources through partners at the Mississippi Small Business Development Center, Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Foundation, UM Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, UM Office of Technology Commercialization, and Yoknapatawpha Arts Council. The other CoBuilder finalists included Keiona Jackson and Nancy Brownlee of the Mississippi Occupational Culinary Institute, Terrence Green Jr. of TJ’s Animation Workshop, and Worth DuPerier of The Pickleball GameChanger Dink.

“We are so appreciative to all our competitors and mentors as this event turned out to be a hit. It was a wonderful celebration of our innovative community spirit,” said Allen Kurr, Vice President of the Economic Development Foundation. “We are looking forward to seeing all these companies grow and supporting them through the entrepreneurial development process.”

For more information on CoBuilders and Economic Development, contact Allen Kurr at 662-234-4651, allen@oxfordms.com, or visit www.cobuilders.ms.