UA’s Neuro Challenge Team Nails Elevator Pitch to Advance in Competition

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. An undergraduate student team from The University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce STEM Path to the MBA program has advanced to the second phase of the National Institutes of Health’s Neuro Startup Challenge after nailing their elevator pitch in phase one.

“I am so proud of our team,” said Dr. Rob Morgan, director, STEM Path to the MBA. “This is a rigorous competition, and it’s a huge accomplishment to advance, especially as a mostly undergraduate team competing among graduate students from around the world.”

The Challenge provides student teams from universities around the world with patented technologies that have been developed by NIH-funded researchers. Teams are required to develop a plan to commercialize the technology for medical use related to neurological diseases and injuries.

“This is great news for The University of Alabama, Culverhouse and the STEM Path to the MBA program,” said Dr. J. Michael Hardin, dean of the Culverhouse College of Commerce. “Our mission is to prepare our students to meet the challenges of businesses, and I think this team has shown they have what it takes to compete on a global level.”

The University of Alabama team, named Crimson Pharma, chose invention 1 for the competition. This invention targets substance abuse, specifically cocaine. Crimson Pharma will be the liaison between the manufacturer and customers, such as medication-assisted treatment clinics, hospitals and the justice system

For phase one, teams from multiple universities were required to submit a two-minute elevator speech video for their product and a 350-word executive summary of their plans for moving the technology forward. The videos were posted online for public viewing and voting.

The UA team is headed by Megan Torman and includes Seth Chauhan, Anthony Fiacco, Pablo Ferrer, Al Gilani and Andrew Talbert, all students in the STEM Path to the MBA program. Two students outside the STEM MBA program, Arun Bharatula, a graduate student at the University of Melbourne, and Pandora White, a graduate student in chemistry at UA, are also working on the team.

Phase two of the challenge has teams developing a 10-page business plan with a detailed financial plan and a live 20-minute pitch to challenge judges. Winners of this phase receive a $2,500 award and will move on to Phase 3 where teams will launch their startups and apply for licenses.

Last year, three teams from UA participated in the Breast Cancer Challenge and were the only undergraduate teams in the competition.

See Crimson Pharma’s elevator pitch and executive summary here:


Edith Parten, UA media relations,, 205/348-8318