An innovative medical cancer treatment device wins the 2020 Peter Farrell Cup

01 Jun 2020
Screenshot of Zoom finals night event

A team of medical researchers has won first prize in the coveted UNSW Peter Farrell Cup this year. 

Team ‘ALTEN’ won for creating a medical device that helps doctors provide the best healthcare for cancer patients, by developing personalised treatment strategies. The team took home $10,000 in prize money to support the project. 

The medical device, named ALTEN, addresses a major problem oncologists face which is knowing whether a cancer treatment will work in a patient. This is particularly important in a scenario where the first line of treatment fails and the patient is moved through several options until the right one is found, greatly affecting survival rates.

“This trial and error approach of testing treatments in the body is harmful for patient wellbeing, not to mention expensive,” said Andrew Law, PhD candidate, CEO and Co-Founder of ALTEN.  

“We started to think about what would happen if there was a device that could let oncologists know which treatment is right for each patient’s cancer.”

“We developed the ALTEN medical device which uses a specialised gel to simulate the human body and ‘trick’ tumours into surviving within it,” said Laura Rodriguez, PhD candidate and Clinical Coordinator at ALTEN. 

“We do this by taking a biopsy and testing multiple treatments simultaneously to help oncologists identify the best option within two weeks.”

The ALTEN medical device has gained traction over the past year. A patent cooperation treaty has been signed with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and an early stage trial is due to start later this year to validate ALTEN’s clinical application.

Participating in the Peter Farrell Cup gave the team’s technology a significant boost.

“All the mentors provided great insight into commercialisation, an area we had never considered before, along with strategies to help launch our device onto the market,” said Mr Law. 

Launched in 2001, the Peter Farrell Cup is UNSW’s most prestigious student-led and teams-based competitive ideas program which aims to fast-track the next generation of entrepreneurs. 

The bold vision of Dr Peter Farrell AM and the ongoing support of the Farrell Family Foundation, in partnership with UNSW, has seen this competition grow to impact more than 3,000 students and 950 teams over its 20 years, creating a ripple effect across the broad entrepreneurship ecosystem. 

Upon completing the 10-week program, 10 finalist teams were selected to participate in the Peter Farrell Cup Finals Night. Three esteemed judges – UNSW benefactor Chris Baxter and UNSW alumni Melanie Hogan and Andrew Rubio – assessed each of the three-minute pitches against seven core criteria including problem worth solving, innovation solution, market, value proposition, business model, team and pitch to select the winner.

“ALTEN’s pitch was clear, covered all the key criteria and was both highly innovative and commercially compelling,” said Mr Baxter.  

“That, coupled with the personalisation of their cancer treatment process which helps people recover quicker, along with their partnership with the Garvan Institute (of Medical Research), made the team a strong choice for winner.”

Ms Rodriguez said the team is looking forward to the next step.

“With our $10,000 prize money, we aim to improve and optimise the prototype before launching on to the market,” said Ms Rodriguez.

At the Finals Night, Dr Farrell congratulated all the teams who participated, saying, “Innovation and entrepreneurship are absolutely critical for economic growth and job creation.”  

Top teams

First prize: ALTEN - guiding doctors to provide the best healthcare for cancer patients by developing personalised treatment strategies. (UNSW Medicine)

Second prize: Negotium - empowering local entrepreneurs with the tools they need to buy and sell their businesses without upfront fees or legalese (UNSW Business School).

Third prize: Freighto - building Australia’s largest network of independent trucks (UNSW Business School).

People’s Choice Award: Zelk - developing a buffet spread dispenser to replace single-use plastic packaging and the food waste associated with it (UNSW Engineering).