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From Participant to Judge in the International BioGENEius Challenge

June 24, 2014
My name is Sagar Rambhia, and I participated in the 2011 International BioGENEius Challenge. Three years later, I have come back to be a judge at the 2014 International BioGENEius Challenge. I am 19 years old, and since competing in the 2011 BioGENEius Challenge, I have started my own company and continued to conduct biomedical engineering research.

Back in 2011, as part of the BioGENEius Challenge, I was given the life-changing opportunity to present my two years of biomedical engineering research to top biotech scientists. To quote one of the attendees, she and her fellow judges, “could not believe the quality of research done by these high school students.” This sentiment was shared by academics, people working in the industry, and even the other participants.

I was impressed too! I was blown away by the staggering amount of knowledge that students -- some only 15 years old -- possessed. We presented together, bonded together, and enjoyed some laughs in the back of the hotel playing silly games. We formed a little family that continues to keep in touch, whether that means updating each other on internships, business opportunities college decision, and even one engagement announcement.

Every single participant has continued to pursue their goals, and many are still excelling in biotechnology. Many of my fellow participants are continuing the same research that they presented three years ago in Washington, DC. I’m excited to say one participant has even started a company and has raised significant capital to bring his novel cancer therapy to market.

I am continuing to conduct biomedical engineering research using Optical Coherence Tomography to image microvasculature to quantify the effects of cardiovascular diseases on microcirculation. The research is exciting, and the applications in humans look promising.

I have also secured funding for, a startup that a friend from high school and I founded in May 2013. We hope to revolutionize the way mobile games are played by building a platform that allows people to play anyone, anywhere for cash or cryptocurrency on popular games like Tetris and Flappy Birds. It hasn’t been an easy process, but in the past six months, my cofounder and I have put together a team, built a prototype, launched a beta, and presented our company over and over again to accelerators and angel investors.

Fortunately, applying to these programs and preparing presentations to investors takes requires many of the same skills that I learned through the BioGENEius Challenge. Presenting to scientists, drafting abstracts and writing research papers can be similar in many ways to the work we are doing to drum up funds.

After several months of work, we will be working in the Flashstarts Accelerator this summer. They have generously provided us with funding, mentorship, and an army of interns!

Coming back to judge this year will be a completely new experience. I’m in the driver’s seat. Instead of being evaluated for the quality of my work and innovativeness, I will be evaluating the work of high school students, and seeing what tomorrow’s scientists have to offer. This is a tremendous honor, and I know that I will learn as much as a judge as I did as when I competed.