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Ohio State students’ biotech startup to compete for $1M

OSU students Manny Setegn (left), software developer of Genetesis LLC, and Peeyush Shrivastava, CEO, are finalists in the 43North business competition. Credit: Lindsey Oates / Lantern reporter

OSU students Manny Setegn (left), software developer of Genetesis LLC, and Peeyush Shrivastava, CEO, are finalists in the 43North business competition.
Credit: Lindsey Oates / Lantern reporter

Two Ohio State students are hoping to walk away from a national business competition with $1 million.

Peeyush Shrivastava, a second-year in biomedical science, and Manny Setegn, a first-year in computer science and engineering, who met in high school, will be venturing to Buffalo, N.Y., in January as part of the 43North business competition. 

According to it’s website, 43North is one of the world’s largest business idea competitions that looks to award $5 million in prizes to 11 companies across the world. 

The business Shrivastava and Setegn plan to pitch, Genetesis LLC, aims to make data more personalized for patients with membrane excitability disorders, which include heart disease, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and epilepsy. 

The company also plans to eliminate guesswork of biomedical software and treatment, making it marketable to a wide audience, Shrivastava said. 

Genetesis received its name from a combination of “genetics” and “genesis,” he said.

Shrivastava, Setegn and the other finalists — who are currently in Buffalo to pitch their businesses one last time — will be required to stay in Buffalo for one full year starting in January, said Peter Burakowski, senior marketing manager for 43North.

Burakowski said four awards of $250,000, six awards of $500,000 and one prize of $1 million will be distributed to the various finalists for their businesses. 

Finalists will receive mentorship, incubator space in Buffalo and guidance from 43North as added perks in the competition, Burakowski said.

What this means for Genetesis, Burakowski said, is a guaranteed prize of $250,000, just for being a finalist. 

43North is holding a separate “People’s Choice” award, worth an additional $10,000, that will be awarded to the startup with the most hits on their social media hashtag, Burakowski said. 

Shrivastava and Setegn said the hashtag for Genetesis is #43North6, which they have been pushing out heavily in tweets and mentions since being named a finalist. 

But the idea for Genetesis didn’t just happen over night, Shrivastava said.

Shrivastava’s grandfather, whom he considers a hero, was diagnosed with heart arrhythmia — which feels like a fluttering or racing heart and occurs when the electrical impulses that coordinate heartbeats don’t function properly — and related complications when he was just 10 years of age. 

From then on, Shrivastava knew he wanted to create Genetesis one day.

When asked if he had any fears about creating the business or the competition, he said he wasn’t afraid of failure, but rather people not believing in his company. 

“Failure is a mindset. If you think you’re doing everything right, you’re wrong,” Shrivastava said. “It’s very important for us to get people excited about our technology, and that is difficult to get people to do that when they think ‘Oh, he’s only 18 years old without a degree, how is he going to start a biotech company?’” 

Setegn agreed, but said his biggest personal fear is a learning gap. 

“The biggest thing I’m afraid of is the knowledge barrier,” he said. “There is going to be so much you don’t know, and you have to go above and beyond to figure out that stuff with the help of your peers.” 

Setegn said he likes the direction Genetesis is heading because he feels that people will continue to believe in them with more time and effort.  

As for plans for the company in Buffalo, Shrivastava said they are going to play it by ear after their mandatory year living in Buffalo ends. 

“Our intentions right now are a little ambiguous. I think having plans kind of takes a little of the fun out of it,” Shrivastava said. “We love not knowing sometimes, because what it means is we have the freedom to make our own decisions.” Genetesis LLC is set to pitch the company and business plan to a team of seven judges on Thursday in Buffalo, Burakowski said.

The finalists will be awarded prizes starting with an awards ceremony that evening, Burakowski said. 

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