Students to showcase potential cancer treatment in Walmart competition

Six University of Arkansas at Little Rock students will soon present their business plan to Walmart executives, suppliers, and environmental organizations for a technology that may improve survivability in diagnosed breast cancer patients.

UALR senior and team captain Meri Calderon will be joined by her colleagues, Carlos Sepulveda, Saad Azaam, Jarques Smith, and Kolton Kulis, as well as post-baccalaureate student Max Deaton, during the Walmart Better Living Business Plan Challenge.

The final competition will be held Thursday, April 10, in Bentonville, and provides a way for students to transform their idea for a sustainable product or business solution into reality. The teams are vying for a grand prize of $20,000.

In the business plan developed by the UALR team, they note that existing diagnostic imaging techniques lack the sensitivity to detect certain cancers. Their concept is to market the innovative technology developed at UALR to address this challenge.

“Cancer is a worldwide problem and there is constant research to improve treatment options,” said Calderon. “Among the innovations out there, this one definitely stood out to us for its potential impact.”

The plan calls for a company called C-Tect to be commercially established in Little Rock. C-Tect will establish a partnership with UALR’s Engineering Technology and Applied Science Center, allowing for the use of their labs and equipment for clinical trials through an operating agreement negotiated with UALR’s Center for Innovation and Commercialization.

Calderon, an international business major and a Donaghey Scholar at UALR, said the diverse range of majors represented on the team may have provided an advantage during regionals, recently held in Atlanta.

There, the UALR students outperformed teams from Georgia Tech and Jackson State University, as well as graduate-level student teams from University of Florida and Emory University. Their win in Atlanta meant they qualified for the final competition in Bentonville next week.

UALR team members were recruited by members of UALR’s winning Governor’s Cup team from last year, according to Calderon. The Governor’s Cup team, comprised of UALR College of Business students, presented their idea last year for handling the Asian Carp invasion by turning the fish into organic fertilizer.

Calderon said the best part of the process so far has been the collaborative effort required across many disciplines, as well as the opportunity to potentially improve the quality of life for many people.

Even if the team does not capture the $20,000 grand prize, there is still a shot at the first-place prize of $10,000 or a second-place prize of $5,000. All semi-finalists also receive a stipend for travel, hotel, and meals for the competition.

Other teams entering the Walmart competition on April 10 include students from Colorado State University, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute, Kellogg School of Management, Penn State, Bainbridge Graduate Institute, University of Texas at Austin, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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