From The Lab Into The Business World
Emily Morris ‘19
Draper Winner & Founder of ImmunoGo
Emily Morris '19 got $10,000 to start up her business, ImmunoGo, as first place winner of the 2017 Draper Competition. Emily's $10,000 winning venture, ImmunoGo, is a website database that allows credentialed researchers to rate antibodies on a standard scale (based on wet lab data) and search for the best options on the market. Read this Q&A to learn how she did it and Emily's advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
How did you come up with the idea for ImmunoGo?
The idea of "Yelp for antibodies" was a running joke in my lab at Smith, but I actually decided to come up with a business plan at the beginning of the semester in January. It started off as a science venture and as something that I wanted to exist and thought would be helpful to me personally. I applied very last minute to the competition and spent about 6 hours filling out the application the night before it was due.
Why did you found your venture? What needs were you hoping to address?
Antibodies are a REALLY important tool in biochemistry research (and a lot of other research). There are more than 200 million antibodies on the market and it would be great if they all did what they are advertised to do. Unfortunately, up to 50% don't, which has consequences in my field that can range from annoying to dangerous. There isn't an industry standard for them, so you can end up spending hundreds of dollars on useless antibodies.
ImmunoGo is the solution. It's a website database, like Yelp, that allows credentialed researchers to rate antibodies on a standard scale (based on wet lab data) and search for the best options on the market. ImmunoGo also provides consumer data for biotech companies that make antibodies and a direct line of communication with their customers.
It does a lot of other things, too, but my main goal was to create a resource like the Protein Database or the Human Genome Project that speeds up the pace of research and decreases the cost.
How did you prepare for Draper?
I first participated in the Smith Entrepreneurship competition which was extremely helpful and I got a lot of feedback before going in front of the Draper judges. The Shark Tank competition was also great prep because it gave me more time to practice pitching and talking to judges.
How was your experience at Draper? What was challenging?
Draper was fun! But terrifying! My favorite part was meeting all the judges, who all had a lot of interesting things to say about my idea. It also reassured me that my idea was really valid, and that it was something I had a talent for even though I had never built a business plan before. It was rewarding knowing that I could do it! I think the hardest part for me was explaining a complicated technique, the problem with it, and the solution in a 90 second pitch. I also found designing my booth challenging. Your booth really matters and it was important to me to make it accessible to non-scientists.
What’s your advice to other aspiring student entrepreneurs?
Just do it! I entered Draper on a whim and look where it got me! As long as you've got a solid business plan and you've found a market, it's going to work.
This article was originally published in the CIEC Newsletter in March 2018.
Emily Morris ‘21
Emily is Biochemistry major and spends a lot of time in the Lab at Smith. She has recently taken a trip to San Francisco with the Conway Center and the Lazarus Center where she was able to meet successful Smith entrepreneurs and gather advice for her venture.
Connect with Emily on LinkedIn