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SPS Graduate Foundations and Business Students Earn Seed Money to Address Women’s Health Disparities

Pelvic exams are necessary for early detection of cervical cancer, but they can be uncomfortable. This team has created a solution for that. Students and alumni Lori Gupta, ’21SPS, Graduate Foundations, Saki Tanaka, ’21SPS, Business, Stephanie Lau, ’21SPS, Business and Peter Sharpe, ’20SPS, Business, won third place in the Greater Good Challenge for ComfortSpec, a contemporary reinvention of the speculum. Citing discomfort as a contributing factor in women’s health disparities, the team has designed an instrument to prioritize patient comfort, clearer imaging and cost-efficiency for physicians. They recently spoke about their pitch and their longer-term plans for the $2,500 they won in seed money.

Describe your pitch. What inspired you to develop this idea?

The idea behind the ComfortSpec was prompted by the discomfort women experience during a pelvic exam due to the old-fashioned metal speculum. While these exams are necessary to detect cervical cancer, a treatable disease that is prevalent in low-to middle-income areas, the speculum itself was uncomfortable and discouraging for women who want to be tested. We wanted to leverage advancements in technology to update this archaic tool. Thus, we created the ComfortSpec, a tampon-shaped speculum with imaging capability. In addition to increased comfort for the patient, the low cost will appeal to physicians, while insurance companies will benefit from smaller claims due to earlier detection.

How are you planning to use the seed money?

We plan to use the funds to build and acquire a patent for the prototype.

What do you hope to have accomplished with your business venture a year from now? 

The market’s outlook is positive, with a 16%+ compound annual growth rate projected through 2025. A year from now, we hope to be in an established partnership with a medical device company that can help us manufacture the product and utilize mutually beneficial relationships in the space to market to physicians.

With generous support from the Beba Foundation, Columbia SPS held its first Greater Good Challenge. Open to SPS students and alumni, the business pitch competition culminated in four teams winning a combined $18,500 in seed money. Learn more at sps.columbia.edu/challenge and explore Columbia’s Graduate Foundations program and Business offerings.