Melbourne Professor wins 2015 Shark Tank Competition for epilepsy research

In an international Shark Tank, one Melbourne Professor with a Power Point presentation and a killer argument beat some of the best the in the U.S., in a battle for research funding. Professor Mark Cook trounced teams of researchers from prestigious American universities such as M.I.T., in a cut throat session to win funds for epilepsy research.

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In an international Shark Tank, one Melbourne Professor with a Power Point presentation and a killer argument beat some of the best the in the U.S., in a battle for research funding.

Professor Mark Cook trounced teams of researchers from prestigious American universities such as M.I.T., in a cut throat session to win funds for epilepsy research.

Run by the Epilepsy Foundation of America, the Shark Tank pitches experts against each other in a public forum, where they argue the merits of their research ideas.

"It was a David and Goliath battle" Prof Cook said, "I was the only solo competitor, and some of the others had highly produced video graphics. I had a Power Point!"

The Shark Tank was to fund the most innovative ideas for anti-epileptic drug or device trials.

The best ideas were chosen for funding via live voting by conference attendees and a panel of judges (Sharks) representing physicians, scientists, industry investors and people with epilepsy. Each vote was worth US$25,000.

The competition ran in two rounds – each team had five minutes to present their research idea to the forum, another five minutes to answer questions, and were then invited back to give a one-sentence pitch.

Professor Cook, the Director of Neurology at St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne, and the Chair of Medicine at the University of Melbourne, is one of Australia's most eminent neurologists, with an international reputation for epilepsy research.

Professor Cook believes he won the Shark Tank with his one-sentence pitch.

"Two-hundred thousand dollars was up for grabs" he said, "I am pretty sure I sealed it with my final sentence – it was roughly $6,000 per word."

Prof Cook heads a team of five which has developed a device which can be inserted under the skin behind the ear, to detect and potentially prevent epileptic seizures. The pitch was to fund clinical trials of the device.

More than 60 million people world-wide have epilepsy, 400,000 of them in Australia.