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Harvard i-lab honors student innovators

Harvard Innovation Lab managing director Jodi Goldstein

Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff/File 2015

Harvard Innovation Lab managing director Jodi Goldstein

Some of the brightest ideas from Harvard students, from health care software to a device that makes eye surgery less painful, were recognized Wednesday.

Launched in 2011, the Harvard Innovation Lab is a university-wide initiative that supports student innovation and brings together aspiring entrepreneurs from different academic disciplines, said managing director Jodi Goldstein.

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Each year, the Harvard i-lab holds a series of innovation competitions, including the Deans’ Challengeand the President’s Challenge, to foster cross-disciplinary innovation to solve some of the world’s toughest problems.

The fifth annual President’s Challenge concluded last month, with the grand prize going to SurgiBox, a portable device that unfolds to provide a sterile surgical environment that can be deployed in remote regions.

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On Wednesday, the winners of the Deans’ Challenge were announced.

Herald , a MassChallenge participant whose healthcare software offers clinicians real-time access to clinical data, won the Health and Life Sciences grand prize of $30,000 and the chance to incubate their idea in the Harvard i-lab through the summer. The company’s chief executive, Brad Diephuis, is an MD/MBA candidate, a dual degree that prepares graduates for a career in healthcare management and finance.

Pykus Therapeutics , a budding company which makes a dissolvable device that doctors inject into a patient’s eye to make retinal surgery less painful, was first-runner up. They received $25,000 and summertime access to the i-lab incubator.

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In the Cultural Entrepreneurship category, a company founded by four female graduate students took the top prize of $45,000 and access to the incubator over the summer. Their website M.A.G.I.C. has online activities for young minority women to explore careers and develop a positive self-image.

Songshark , an app that lets anyone compose and record songs regardless of musical skill, was first-runner up in the category, winning $10,000 and access to the incubator.

“Harvard is a very decentralized place,” said Jodi Goldstein, Harvard i-lab’s managing director. “Historically it’s been very difficult for students to find people with similar ideas but different academic backgrounds. . . . The interdisciplinary approach is superior because you want to come at [innovation] from many different perspectives.”

The collegiate incubator has helped launch a handful of fast-growing startups, including RapidSOS, which won grand prize in last year’s President’s Challenge for their app that lets users call an ambulance, police, or fire officials by simply tapping their smartphone screen. The company raised $5 million from investors shortly after winning the prize, and has since relocated its headquarters to New York.

Amanda Burke can be reached at amanda.burke@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @charlie_acb.
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