Drs. Monica Kraft and Julie Ledford Win $10K ‘Shark Tank’ Prize

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

On Wednesday, Feb. 13, the College of Medicine – Tucson hosted a Shark Tank-style competition as part of Research Day, a first-of-its-kind, daylong event for researchers at the University of Arizona Health Sciences. 

Six teams went head-to-head for a $10,000 prize during ‘Shark Tank.’ Contestants pitched their research ideas to a panel of “sharks,” a cast of UA celebrity judges that included UA President Robert Robbins, MD, and Senior Vice President Michael Dake, MD. 

The “sharks” ultimately invested in Monica Kraft, MD, and Julie Ledford, PhD, for their pitch on a new, inhaled therapeutic for the treatment of asthma and potentially even COPD, cystic fibrosis and pneumonia. The duo was presented with a check for $10,000 at the end of the competition. 

Contestants and their pitches were judged with six criteria: the impact and innovation of the idea; the potential product’s marketability; the quality of the pitch; the team’s breadth and expertise; and reaction and response to questions from the judges. 

Before making their decision, the sharks heard from five other contestants: Associate Professor of Medicine Louise Hecker, PhD; Associate Professor of Immunobiology Michael Kuhns, PhD; Professor of Medicine and Medical Imaging Marvin Slepian, MD; Associate Professor of Otolaryngology Eugene Chang, MD; and Assistant Research Scientist Nathaniel Hart, PhD.  

Drs. Kraft and Ledford will use to $10,000 to work with a medicinal chemist and continue drug development. Dr. Kraft is a professor and chair of the Department of Medicine. Dr. Ledford is an assistant professor of immunobiology and cellular and molecular medicine.

Nearly 40 teams originally applied to participate in the ‘Shark Tank.’ 

Additional “sharks” on the panel included Humberto Lopez, a UA alumnus, local philanthropist and businessman; Tucson philanthropist and community leader Ginny Clemens; Randal Dull, professor and chair of anesthesiology; and Andrew Messing, president of the Steven M. Gootter Foundation. 


A full recording of the 'Shark Tank' is available below.