TrophoWell, a platform that serves as an alternative to animal testing in patient-personalized medicine, earned top honors in the Cheng Wu Innovation Challenge at the Indiana University School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering. The team was awarded $10,000 for winning the competition.

The challenge is open to students who are learning to develop technological innovations that are not judged on their commercial potential and winners were chosen by a panel of judges from among eight finalists.

The TrophoWell team was led by Louis van der Elst and Merve Gokce Kurtoglu, two Ph.D. students in the intelligent systems engineering program at SICE. TrophoWell uses stem cells from patients to grow cultures that can test drugs while individualizing medical treatment.

 “When I look at the medical market and how it generates medicine, I recognized how each patient and even each cell is different,” Kurtoglu said in a news release. “We need specific treatments for specific patients to achieve more efficient treatment results. If you can use a patient’s own cells to test treatments, we also can observe the immune reactions, which will make the process faster. TrophoWell can fill that role, and it can do it while hopefully lessening side effects for patients as well.”