Livestock News

Winners of Merck’s $10K student-innovation competition are announced


Merck Animal Health has announced the winners of this year’s THE IDEA Student Innovation Competition. University of Georgia’s Alyssa Gutierrez and Greena Kim, and UC Davis’ Madison Luker won first place in THE IDEA and took home a grand prize of $10,000 for their concept of AutoMat, a self-disinfecting, retractable non-slip mat for veterinary exam tables.

“Year after year, we are inspired by the standout veterinary students who convert their innovative ideas into tangible products or companies that will ultimately shape the future of animal health and veterinary medicine,” said Judson Vasconcelos, DVM, Ph.D., Veterinary and Consumer Affairs Lead at Merck Animal Health.

Designed for veterinary students, THE IDEA Student Innovation Competition aims to spark the entrepreneurial spirit and help develop creative ideas from up-and-coming veterinary problem solvers. Now in its fourth season, the 2020 contest saw more than 30 student teams from North America and across the world, who developed new products, tools, services and technologies that will improve the veterinary field and accelerate the development of animal health innovation.

Merck Animal Health, which is known as MSD Animal Health outside the United States and Canada, partnered with the Veterinary Entrepreneurship Academy and VetPrep for this competition.

“Without a doubt in my mind, these students will absolutely and positively change the world,” said Rob Trimble, DVM, Executive Director at the Veterinary Entrepreneurship Academy. “I’m so proud of the fact that they began THE IDEA Competition with just an idea and have now exited the program with a fully-formed and partially-funded business. It shows the tangible impact that our entrepreneurial education and mentorship opportunities can have on both improving the lives of students and the broader veterinary profession.”

The live contest finale was held virtually today. The top three winning student teams were awarded cash prizes in partnership with Merck Animal Health to assist in funding the ongoing development of their ideas.

Other award-winners were:

  • Marty Metzger, representing Ontario Veterinary College, received the $5,000 second place prize for CattleDock
  • The University of Missouri’s Libby Martin got third place and $2,500 for Calving Technologies

Preceding THE IDEA Competition, the Academy hosted another event that was sponsored by Merck Animal Health: The 2020 VEA Closing Event. The Closing Event was a day-long celebration of student innovation and entrepreneurship that brought together the 2020 Student Cohort, Commercial Partners, and Academic Partners to recognize the positive impact that these students have had on the front lines of veterinary businesses. Merck Animal Health has been a proud sponsor of this program since the inception of the program in 2016.

While a large percentage of the 2020 student cohort has been asked to stay on with their companies through the fall, the 2020 Closing Event marks the official conclusion to the 2020 Summer Internship Program. The Summer Internship Program guided an impressive cohort of 24 business-minded veterinary students through a didactic curriculum that was centered around the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and how to start a business. At the same time, students were embedded into a working internship at some of the most innovative and forward-thinking companies in the animal health space.

For ambitious students looking to take the next step with their big idea in animal health, applications for Season five of The IDEA Student Innovation Competition are now open. Students can also learn more about the Summer Internship Program at

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