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UNSW entrepreneurs participating in this year's virtual rendition of the Peter Farrell Cup

Impact of our donors

Celebrating 20 years of innovation with (virtual) Peter Farrell Cup


The recent Peter Farrell Cup event marked 20 years of celebrating the next generation of entrepreneurs, with the top prize going to medical device startup ALTEN.

A medical research team with a device enabling doctors to provide more personalised cancer treatments took out first prize in the coveted UNSW Peter Farrell Cup this week, securing $10,000 in prize money.

ALTEN addresses a major problem oncologists face in knowing whether a cancer treatment will work in a patient. Especially when first line of treatment fails and the individual is then moved through several options until the right one is found, greatly affecting survival rates.

Andrew Law, the CPO and co-founder of Alten
Andrew Law, the CPO and co-founder of Alten

“This trial and error approach of testing treatments in the body is harmful for patient wellbeing, not to mention expensive”, says PhD candidate, Andrew Law, CPO and Co-Founder of ALTEN. “We started to think about what would happen if there was a device that could let oncologists know which treatment is right for each patient’s cancer.”

“We developed the ALTEN medical device which uses a specialised gel to simulate the human body and “trick” tumours into surviving within it”, explains PhD candidate and Clinical Coordinator, ALTEN, Laura Rodriguez. “We do this by taking a biopsy and testing multiple treatments simultaneously to help oncologists identify the best option within two weeks.”

The concept for ALTEN was originally uncovered when Andrew was researching breast cancer, studying how to stop cancer cells from high jacking immune cells, as part of his PhD. As his curiosity grew, and the tests continued, he began sharing his insights with lab co-workers and soon the team of four was formed with Laura, David Gallego-Ortega (Andrew’s PhD supervisor), and Mana Lao, IP Manager.

The ALTEN medical device has gained traction over the past year. A patent cooperation treaty has been signed with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and an early stage trial is due to start later this year to validate ALTEN’s clinical application.

For the team, participating in the Peter Farrell Cup gave their technology a significant boost. “All the mentors provided great insight into commercialisation, an area we had never considered before, along with strategies to help launch our device onto the market,” says Andrew.

The UNSW Peter Farrell Cup

Dr Peter Farrell AM
Dr Peter Farrell AM

Launched in 2001 as the bold vision of Dr Peter Farrell AM, the Peter Farrell Cup is UNSW’s most prestigious student-led and teams-based competitive ideas program which aims to fast-track the next generation of entrepreneurs. Each vying for a share of the $20,000 prize pool.

Thanks to the generous ongoing support of the Farrell Family Foundation, this competition has grown extensively from its humble beginnings with only a few entries to now impacting over 3,000 students and 950 teams creating a ripple effect across the broad entrepreneurship ecosystem.

This year, from a pool of 79 teams, 46 were selected to participate in a series of experiential workshops necessary to test, iterate, pitch and potentially launch a real business. Each team was also matched with an industry mentor to enhance their personal growth and knowledge.

“It takes a dedicated student team to participate a competition like this, in particular this year, when midway we had to change to a digital format without disrupting momentum”, says David Burt, Director Entrepreneurship, UNSW. “The commitment the teams have shown is remarkable, testament to their enthusiasm to drive change in the world.”

“Nothing takes the place of persistence” – Dr Peter Farrell

Upon completing the 10-week program, 10 finalist teams were selected to participate in the Peter Farrell Cup Finals Night. Three esteemed judges – UNSW benefactor, Chris Baxter, alumna Melanie Hogan (BEc '00), and alumnus and member of the UK Foundation of UNSW Australia, Andrew Rubio (BCom '84) – assessed each of the three-minute pitches against seven core criteria including: problem worth solving, innovation solution, market, value proposition, business model, team and pitch to select the winner.

“ALTEN’s pitch was clear, covered all the key criteria and was both highly innovative and commercially compelling”, said Chris. “That coupled with the personalisation of their cancer treatment process which helps people recover quicker, along with their partnership with the Garvan Institute (of Medical Research), made the team a strong choice for winner.”

“With our $10,000 prize money, we aim to improve and optimise the prototype before launching on to the market,” says Laura. Speaking at the Finals Night, Dr Farrell congratulated all the teams saying, “Innovation and entrepreneurship are absolutely critical for economic growth and job creation”.

Dr Farrell quoted Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States when defining success:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On!’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Dr Farrell understands persistence and determination growing his business ResMed – a pioneer of innovative medical solutions to keep people out of hospital – from six people at launch in 1989 to the now 7,500 people spread across 140 countries with a market capitalisation of $38 billion. And as far as he’s concerned, he’s just getting going. “This is a marathon and we are just lacing our shoes.”

Through the continued generosity of the Farrell Family Foundation, the Division of Philanthropy has secured funding for the Peter Farrell Cup to continue through to 2024.

Our 2020 prize winners

First prize: ALTEN guiding doctors to provide the best healthcare for cancer patients by developing personalised treatment strategies. We believe that everyone deserves a healthy future. (UNSW Medicine)

Second prize: Negotium empowering local entrepreneurs with the tools they need to buy and sell their businesses without upfront fees or legalese. (UNSW Business School)

Third prize: Freighto building Australia’s largest network of independent trucks. (UNSW Business School)

People’s Choice Award: Zelk developing a buffet spread dispenser to replace single-use plastic packaging and the food waste associated with it. (UNSW Engineering)