Pitch Perfect: Entrepreneur hopes to change lives and inspire others


When Shrishti Singh came to George Mason University for her doctoral studies, she had a goal in mind: developing a new technology that would allow the visualization of cancer in deep tissue and perhaps enable earlier diagnoses.

Using a combination of FDA-approved dyes for photoacoustic imaging, Singh created an injectable contrast agent that attaches to tumor cells and increases the visibility of those cells against the background tissue.

Singh completed her PhD in bioengineering in 2022, but her relationship with the university continues. During her time at Mason, Singh has used all the tools the university provides to bring her discovery to the marketplace.

In April 2023, Singh was on one of the 15 teams that competed for $40,000 in prizes at the Costello College of Business annual Patriot Pitch Competition. She took home first place and the Mason’s Choice Award in the competition’s science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) track.

In November 2023, Singh was at Mason Square pitching her technology at Mason’s annual Accelerate Investor Conference, which attracts more than 400 entrepreneurs, investors, students, and members of the Washington, D.C., entrepreneurial ecosystem. She was awarded $2,000 for her efforts.

“I'm a researcher by training. I've been trained to present at scientific conferences so talking in front of an audience was not difficult for me,” said Singh. “The difficult part was assimilating all of the business information that I've learned so far into a presentation or a slide deck, and to be able to present that in a time-constrained environment.”

Singh, now a postdoctoral fellow at Mason, has cofounded a company, NIRView Biosciences, with her bioengineering faculty mentors Remi Veneziano and Parag Chitnis, and Singh and NIRView Biosciences have been designated a 2023 Virginia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Success Story.

“As we develop the company, [Veneziano and Chitnis] are involved in creating strategy and vision of the company, along with helping me write grants and obtain funding,” she said. “They provide me with mentorship on the technology front to be able to take this company forward.”

Singh and her cofounders were a few of 30,000 entrepreneurs who participated in a Virginia SBDC workshop, seminar, or training in 2023. Through its 16 programs, the Virginia SBDC, which is part of Mason Enterprise, helped 10,000 businesses, provided 40,000 hours of one-on-one counseling, offered 1,600 training programs, and incubated more than 550 companies with an impact of $3.36 billion. Of the businesses served, 61% were woman-owned, 46% were minority-owned, and 15% were veteran-owned.

Veneziano, Singh and Chitnis
Mason researcher Remi Veneziano, Shrishti Singh, and Parag Chitnis cofounded NIRView Biosciences. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Office of University Branding

“The SBDC has been one of our biggest supporters,” Singh said. “I work extensively with my SBDC mentor, Elizabeth Pyle, who is always ready to be to give us advice on how to take the business forward.”

Singh and Veneziano participated in SBDC’s Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP), a no-cost incubator that helps technology start-ups from ideation to initial funding and beyond. They worked with ICAP’s life science business mentors over the course of a year to position their technology for successful commercialization, and in 2023 they were accepted into the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program, which provides financial support and experiential education to help university researchers commercialize scientific discoveries.

“The support of SBDC has been tremendous,” said Singh, who also has a master’s degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut and an engineering degree from Ramaiah Institute of Technology in Bangalore, India. “My training has been on the scientific front, so SBDC helped me learn different aspects of the lean business model canvas, customer discovery, and product-market fit, which was a new learning curve for me.”

Singh said while she chose Mason originally for its diversity, it is the people and community here that have made a difference in her life. “I have made friends, and I have gained mentors that are still an active part of my professional life,” she said. “I have been able to take this education and put it toward a better professional vision that I've always wanted. I can say Mason is the reason I have been able to accomplish a lot of my dreams.”