THE IDEA Student Innovation Award Winners Competition Announced Awards Made Possible Through Partnership with Merck Animal Health

MADISON, N.J., August 13, 2020 – Merck Animal Health, known as MSD Animal Health outside the United States and Canada, in partnership with the Veterinary Entrepreneurship Academy (VEA) and VetPrep, today 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, PhD., Veterinary and Consumer Affairs Lead at Merck Animal Health. “As a company, our mission is “The Science of Healthier Animals” and it is an honor to partner with VetPrep and the Veterinary Entrepreneurship Academy to provide awards to these incredibly talented students, to help advance innovation in 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.

“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 on Thursday, August 12, 2020. 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.

  • The IDEA grand prize of $10,000 was presented to Alyssa Gutierrez (University of Georgia), Greena Kim (University of Georgia), and Madison Luker (UC Davis) for their concept of AutoMat.
  • Marty Metzger, representing Ontario Veterinary College, received the $5,000 second place prize for CattleDock.
  • Third place prize of $2,500 went to University of Missouri’s Libby Martin 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.  

In addition to learning about startups and developing a business model, students enjoyed a guest speaker series that helped them build their network and gain deeper insights into the veterinary 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  

About Merck Animal HealthFor more than a century, Merck, a leading global biopharmaceutical company, has been inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases. Merck Animal Health, a division of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., USA, is the global animal health business unit of Merck. Through its commitment to the Science of Healthier Animals®, Merck Animal Health offers veterinarians, farmers, pet owners and governments one of the widest ranges of veterinary pharmaceuticals, vaccines and health management solutions and services as well as an extensive suite of digitally connected identification, traceability and monitoring products. Merck Animal Health is dedicated to preserving and improving the health, well-being and performance of animals and the people who care for them. It invests extensively in dynamic and comprehensive R&D resources and a modern, global supply chain. Merck Animal Health is present in more than 50 countries, while its products are available in some 150 markets. For more information, visit or connect with us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter at @MerckAH.

About the Veterinary Entrepreneurship AcademyOn a mission to accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship from within the veterinary profession, the Veterinary Entrepreneurship Academy is a non-profit organization that brings together business-minded veterinary students, innovative companies and startups, and forward-thinking veterinary colleges in order to create immersive and high-impact educational opportunities that drive the whole profession forward. Our students get hands-on experience with the challenges faced in the “real world” of veterinary medicine and through our educational programming, gain the confidence, competence, and creativity needed to help solve some of the biggest, most complex problems faced by the veterinary profession. For more information, visit or connect with us on LinkedInFacebook, or Instagram.