Alumna Rebekah Scheuerle Wins Entreprenuership Competition for JustMilk

Alumna Rebekah Scheurele and her colleague pose at the Pitch at Palace, a biotech start up competition

Update: Scheuerle and Maier competed in and won Pitch at Palace 5.0 for their entrepreneurial non-profit JustMilk, Monday, March 7 at St. James Palace in London, England.  

Texas ChE alumna and Gates Cambridge Scholar, Rebekah Scheuerle (B.S. ’13) and her research partner have won a highly selective entrepreneurship competition where they pitched plans to commercialize their novel device for administering life-saving drugs to infants during breastfeeding.

Scheuerle and WD Armstrong Scholar Theresa Maier recently co-founded the non-profit JustMilk Limited to commercialize the device. Together, they were invited to pitch the venture at Pitch at Palace Bootcamp, a competition put on by His Royal Highness the Duke of York this week.  After winning the competition – held for the first time in Cambridge – they will be joining 13 start-ups at St. James’s Palace on March 7 for Pitch at Palace 5.0. There they will pitch for support, funding and partnership to an audience including venture capitalists and pharmaceutical company executives.

At the Bootcamp, held at the Wellcome Genome Campus, 45 ventures pitched ideas in categories such as diagnostics, therapeutics and medical devices.  The purpose of the event was to accelerate the development of start-ups through providing networking opportunities with investors, potential business partners and mentors.  All ventures will now have the opportunity to continue networking at St. James’s Palace, but only the winning ventures will have the chance to pitch again.

“The Pitch at Palace Bootcamp was a rewarding and enabling experience. It gave us the opportunity to give a voice to the millions of infants at risk of death from preventable disease, if only they had hygienic paediatric medicines available.  By pitching our novel device for administering medicine during breastfeeding, we hope to attract the interest of pharmaceutical partners, to help us increase access to life-saving drugs and nutrients globally. We are so grateful to His Royal Highness the Duke of York, his team, and the Pitch at Palace Judges, for supporting us through the event. We received invaluable mentors, and pharmaceutical contacts, and are thrilled to have the opportunity to pitch again, this time at St. James’s Palace,” said Scheuerle, who is working on her Ph.D. in chemical engineering.

The JustMilk project aims to prevent child mortality using a novel device worn during breastfeeding that administers compounds like antiretrovirals or nutrients into milk consumed by an infant. The device could be useful in low-resource settings because it does not require potable water for washing the device nor suspending the medicine. It doesn’t need refrigerated storage nor literacy for dose measuring. Furthermore, since it is worn during breastfeeding, JustMilk hopes to promote this nutritionally beneficial practice.  The JustMilk non-profit has focused on developing the device for these settings, having received positive feedback from mothers in rural regions of South Africa and Kenya.

The project is expanding to include applications in western markets, motivating Scheuerle and Maier to form the UK-based company, JustMilk Limited.  Thanks to the University of Cambridge Judge Business School’s Accelerate Cambridge programme, they have received extensive mentorship and support for launching the business. They are now seeking financial support to enable the first clinical investigation of the device and a pharmaceutical partner to license the technology.

In the run-up to Pitch at Palace 5.0, there is an on-going People’s Choice competition, from which the venture with the most votes will win an award. To vote for JustMilk, click here.

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