Article updated June 9, 2023

UW Bioengineering team Endozene won the Karr Tuttle Campbell Best Health/Wellness Impact Award for their endometriosis diagnostic kit in Dempsey Startup Competition. Hosted by the UW Foster School’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, the award recognizes a venture with significant potential to prevent, diagnose, or treat diseases or disorders that impact human health.

The team is comprised of students from three UW programs – Biology, Philosophy and Bioengineering. The project is led by Rachel Shi, a bioengineering Master of Science student, and three members are Master of Applied Bioengineering (MAB) students – Aaron Ayenew, Jack Kussick and Aya Safira.

Endozene is developing a non-invasive, low cost, accessible diagnostic kit that accurately predicts whether a user has endometriosis through the detection of microRNAs (miRNAs) in menstrual blood. Endometriosis is a painful and traumatic disease that affects roughly 10% of reproductive age women and girls globally.

“The Endozene team has worked very effectively with other members of the Bioengineering community and also the UW community to identify and understand the challenges around diagnosing endometriosis,” said team advisor Soraya Bailey, assistant teaching professor of bioengineering and director of the MAB program. “Their advancement to the Sweet 16 round at Dempsey is a sign that their work is helping others understand the importance of early diagnosis for this debilitating disease. Developing solutions in femtech is extremely hard, and we’re very proud of their accomplishments in this area.”

UW BioE professor Soraya Bailey

Soraya Bailey, MAB team advisor

“The Dept. of Bioengineering is very proud of the accomplishments of this team in winning the Karr Tuttle Campbell Best Health Impact award. We are grateful to our partners in UW OB/GYN for their support and mentorship of this project. We wish the team well as they continue to develop the technology next year.”

In addition to Bailey, the team is mentored by Dr. Barbara Goff, professor and chair of obstetrics & gynecology, UW School of Medicine.

Endozene Prototype

A prototype of the Endozene endometriosis diagnostic test kit.

The Endozene team was one of 16 teams who advanced to the Dempsey Startup Competition Sweet 16 chosen from a record pool of 117 participants from 13 colleges across the Cascadia Corridor. This is the second time a team made up of MAB students has made it to the top 16 in the Dempsey Startup, formerly known as the UW Business Plan Competition.

Their innovation won the $15k Washington Research Foundation Capital Grand Prize in UW’s Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge on March 3 Their diagnostic kit was also featured in a Q-13 Fox news story and a Geek Wire article.