Brown startup takes top spot at R.I. Business Competition pitch contest

Updated at 5:27 p.m.

PROVIDENCE – A 2019 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 2.8 million people in the U.S. contract antibiotic-resistant infections each year, causing 35,000 deaths. Burn victims are at a particularly high risk for developing these dangerous infections.

It’s a health care challenge that caught the attention of Brown University graduate students Alison Veintimilla and Pranav Akella. They co-founded Burbujita Mandhu, a company with patented technology intended to promote improved healing of burn wounds.

As part of a class on intellectual property in biotech, Veintimilla and Akella, interested in whether the technology invented by researchers Anita Shukla and Shashank Shukla could capture the interest of a larger audience, decided to bring the concept to a pitch contest held by the Rhode Island Business Competition on Nov. 11.

Burbujita Mandhu took the top spot in the competition, earning a $500 award.

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“At least through the elevator pitch, it does look like people are interested in the technology and what can happen,” Akella said.

Conventional methods for treating burn wounds often foster a complicated healing process, Veintimilla and Akella said.

“What happens with these burn wounds is, traditionally, you have blood and fluid leakage onto the burn wound, and that makes it really hard to treat,” Akella said.

These fluids decrease the concentration of antibiotics applied to the wound, which diminishes their effectiveness and can lead to antibiotic resistance.

“It’s a very dangerous and scary thing,” Akella said.

The company draws its name from two languages: “Burbujita” is Spanish for “little bubble,” while “Mandhu” Telugu is for “medicine.” The name refers to the tiny nanoparticles that power the hydrogel technology.

The company is still in its early stages, Veintimilla said, and she and Akella intend to continue to seek funding and partnerships with larger entities as they develop their business plan.

Veintimilla and Akella are also eager to promote diversity in the business landscape, they said.

“We really believe in inclusivity and diversity in business and entrepreneurship,” Veintimilla said, “so as individuals of minority groups, we’re really proud to be represented in this way.”

“It’s a pretty big honor to kind of represent that group, do the work and win this competition,” Akella added.

(RECASTS lede, minor edits.)

Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Voghel@PBN.com.

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