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Winning animal health hacks help farmers, veterinary surgeons

Members of the Quick Stitch team said they definitely felt “jostled” after meeting with mentors during the 2024 Animal Health Hackathon. But that uncomfortable feeling ended up being pretty helpful, as they refined their idea and took home the event’s ”Most Novel and Innovative Veterinary Health Solution” award.

The Feb. 2-4 event, hosted by the Cornell Center for Veterinary Business and Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship at Cornell and the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, included 150 students from across campus who formed 30 teams to find innovative solutions to problems related to animal health. The Quick Stitch team —Sunita Devi MEng '24, Ana Grandgeorge MEng '24, Caroline Murabito '25 and Xin Rou (Natalie) Tan DVM '26 — developed an idea that replaces sutures for veterinarians, inspired by existing solutions in human medicine.

Members of the winning "Quick Stitch" team stand with Dean Lorin Warnick, right, of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

“The stakeholders we were targeting pivoted after conversations with mentors, who made us think about reaching out to emergency surgery practices instead,” Tan said. “That seemed to make more sense in terms of how we were planning our product and the device.”

Other winning teams included:

  • Most Market Ready: Fem5, a device using electrical conductivity to detect subclinical mastitis in cows before they are milked. Team members included Angelique Miane MEng '24, Yaa Achampong MEng '24, Bhavishya Agarwal MEng '24, Danielle Falcon MBA '24 and Lauren Meyer DVM '26.
  • Most Relevant and Impactful Animal Health Solution: Team Zero, with members Chenhan Feng PhD '27, Sanjeev Wasti PhD '25, Subash Bhandari PhD '26 and Zhengfei Li MS '24. The team is working on a device that pairs an inexpensive microscope with a mobile tool to help farmers in rural areas around the world diagnose common pathogens.

This is the 8th year for the Animal Health Hackathon, which also drew 56 mentors to campus, including veterinarians, industry representatives, researchers, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs.

The event began with team formation sessions on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, giving students the chance to form teams before Friday night’s kick-off. Students spent Saturday working with mentors and other resources before Sunday morning’s pitches. Nine teams were chosen as finalists for the project showcase Sunday afternoon.

“The Cornell Animal Health Hackathon is all about the creation and coming together of entrepreneurial interdisciplinary networks from across all of the Cornell campus to ideate solutions to animal health problems,” said Jorge L. Colón, ’92, DVM ’95, MBA, associate professor of practice at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. “The event allows students to experience and get exposure to the breadth of opportunities available within the animal space.”

Emily Aston '11, DVM '15, PhD, director of business development for Zoetis, offered a keynote address during the event’s kickoff Friday night. She also participated as a mentor to teams throughout the rest of the weekend.

“I’ve always considered myself to be a non-traditional veterinarian. When I was in vet school, I could have used more messaging around the fact that there are so many ways we can take our careers,” she said. “All of these mentors have made several changes in their careers at some point. I wanted to normalize change and pivoting.”

Aston said there are many opportunities in veterinary medicine to be more interdisciplinary rather than specialized. She encouraged students to try different opportunities to see what seems to be the best fit for them.

“Think creatively outside the box about how you can apply your knowledge and skills,” she said. “And by networking, students can get an idea of who they could potentially be one day.”

There are two more hackathons this year organized by Entrepreneurship at Cornell. The Digital Agriculture Hackathon will take place from Feb. 16-18 at Schurman Hall on campus and a Health Hackathon is happening in New York City March 8-10. Find more hackathon information on the Entrepreneurship at Cornell website.

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