COVID-19 Test Wins Wharton Venture Lab Startup Competition

Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania Courtesy photo

Ranjan Pati’s interest in healthcare and business was first sparked as a high schooler when he attended Biotechnology High School in New Jersey — a school that specializes in life sciences, technology, and engineering. For Pati, now an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Life Sciences & Management dual degree program, there’s something about making an impact and solving problems that drive him to succeed. The problem he’s looking to solve now? The inaccessibility of COVID-19 diagnostics.

At Penn and The Wharton School, Pati is the co-founder of a biotech company called 3Cor Bio. Pati, with the help of Penn’s de la Fuente Lab, developed a low-cost, rapid, and highly accurate COVID-19 test last July. With just a small saliva sample and a smartphone, 3Cor Bio provides a COVID diagnosis (including variants) within four minutes with 97% accuracy. A test costs only $4.67.

“I think healthcare, as we saw with this pandemic, is something that affects all of us,” Pati says.  “Unfortunately, it’s ripe with a lot of small problems. But these small problems can be solved with technology. When you’re dealing with anyone’s health, these very small problems compound with more people. We think that we can make a difference by solving these small problems and really just doing well by doing good.” 

Ranjan Pati of The Wharton School. Courtesy photo


Last month, 3Cor Bio was named the winning team of the Wharton Venture Lab Startup Challenge receiving the $30,000 Perlman Grand Prize. The Startup Challenge is an annual competition for Penn student-founded new ventures, where student teams compete for cash prizes by pitching their startup to a live audience and alumni judges.

The company began research on their COVID-19 diagnostic test back in July 2020. By November, they had completed their first prototype. On New Year’s Eve of 2020, 3Cor Bio finalized an agreement to commercialize the test. Since then, Pati and his team have been laser-focused on filing their test for Emergency Use Authorization.

He credits his education at Penn and Wharton for the success of 3Cor Bio. As a dual degree student in Life Sciences & Management, Pati’s been able to integrate his interests in healthcare and business to solve real-world problems.

“It’s being able to learn about a new concept in neuroscience and then ten minutes later you’re learning about some M&A deal — only Wharton and Penn have this incredible focus on interdisciplinary learning,” Pati says. “I think it is the sole factor that has led to our current successes”


In countries, like India, where COVID-19 has killed more than 300,000 people, the need for accessible diagnostics and vaccines is more critical than ever before.

“I’m of Indian origin and seeing the situation in India is heartbreaking,” Pati says. “Every day I hear about a family member or family friend passing away from COVID. These tests need to get to the market as soon as possible and that’s why we thought that creating a company around this would allow us to get to market quickly and solve this problem with a much-needed solution.”

In the U.S., where states have begun loosening restrictions and opening up to a sense of normalcy, there is also a growing need for accessible diagnostic testing.

“There’s been an unprecedented need in testing that’s coming especially as K-12 schools begin opening,” Pati says. “There are concert venues, sporting events, airlines — all of which need accessible diagnostic testing.

3Cor Bio is currently conducting clinical trials — with over 400 samples collected — and expects to receive Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization in the coming months. Pati has received letters of intent for customer orders totaling 5 million tests per month, including orders from Spain’s largest hospital, Quirónsalud. But Pati is looking beyond just the COVID-19 pandemic. He wants 3Cor Bio to make accessible diagnostic tests for illnesses such as common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), cancer, and more. And, above all, he hopes to continue making a powerful impact in solving the complex problems that a pandemic brings.

“We want to democratize diagnostics,” Pati explains, “and put the power back into the hands of the patient so that they can seek need at the most optimal time and together we can hopefully prevent the next pandemic.”


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