Students who are developing and marketing an inventive type of orthodontic braces took top honors in the UCLA School of Law's Lowell Milken Institute-Sandler Prize for New Entrepreneurs on April 19. With $100,000 at stake — $70,000 for first place and $30,000 for second place — the LMI-Sandler Prize is the largest competition for entrepreneurs at any law school in the nation.
"In a dynamic global marketplace, it is essential that our future leaders develop a deep understanding of the constantly evolving issues - whether business, legal or investment - that are involved in bringing ideas to market," says Richard Sandler, a 1973 UCLA Law graduate and a partner at Maron and Sandler, whose gift established the competition in 2016.
Teams of UCLA Law students and colleagues from other schools at UCLA competed by offering detailed presentations on their innovative companies to a group of experienced venture funders and business attorneys. Twenty teams submitted plans to the second annual contest. Judges narrowed the field to the six groups who presented before a "Shark Tank"-style panel.
Mechanodontics, led by UCLA Law students Angela Li and Jenny Chen, and dentistry resident Mehdi Roein-Peikar, won first place and $70,000. Their product is "a revolutionary type of braces that shortens the treatment time, cuts the number of visits to the orthodontist, is more aesthetic, more hygienic, and causes less overall pain for the patient." The braces sit on the back of teeth and use an advanced design that lends comfort while improving effectiveness.
Roein-Peikar first developed them when he was a resident orthodontist in his native Iran, and he met his teammates by networking at UCLA. He and Li told judges that they are performing clinical trials with five patients; ironing out legal, regulatory and patent matters with outside counsel; and seeking financing to expand their manufacturing and trials before a commercial launch. "It was a humbling experience, and we are grateful to have won the competition," Li says.
She added that countless hours of planning had benefitted her team in unexpected areas. "This competition has given us the opportunity to meet some really experienced and well-connected people in the startup world," says Li, who intends to practice business litigation after she graduates. "The challenge of the competition also forced us as a company to grow in new ways, which we will bring into our future plans and projections."
To read the complete story on the competition, go here.