U of U Students Win $70K for Prototypes at Bench-2-Bedside Competition
April 17, 2013 — Student collaborators from multiple University of Utah colleges pitched their best medical-device prototype business plans to local business leaders and medical personnel as part of the Bench-2-Bedside competition last Friday.
Teams consisting of medical, engineering and business students vied for more than $70,000 in cash and prizes while working together to solve issues in the health care arena. Eighteen teams presented their ideas inside The Point Restaurant at Huntsman Cancer Institute, and boasted everything from mechanical leeches to brain drill bits to video games aimed at autistic children.
“This program represents a paradigm shift in the way we educate tomorrow’s doctors, engineers and business leaders,” said John Langell, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., a surgeon and the director of the U’s Center for Medical Innovation, the parent organization for Bench-2-Bedside. “Instead of learning in a classroom, these students learn by forming interdisciplinary teams that create devices with real potential.”
In its third season, Bench-2-Bedside teams start with $500 and an idea to create an innovative medical-device plus accompanying business-plan. Six months later, they produce a working prototype and solid plan to present at the competition.
Team Troclosure walked away with the Grand Prize of $15,000, and an additional $5,000 for Best Business Idea. The team invented a device that helps surgeons suture the inside of the hole created when doing laparoscopic surgery, simplifying a process that usually requires extra time and equipment when a surgeon works through a small hole to secure a suture inside the abdominal wall. The device could potentially benefit an estimated 2.5 million patients who received laparoscopic surgery in the U.S. during 2012.
“They actually have something that is ready to license soon,” Langell said. “As a surgeon, this is something I want to use. This is a problem every day.”
Team Troclusure consists of bioengineering students Pablo Johnson, Mike Fogarty and Spencer Madsen. The team says they used the Bench-2-Bedside experience to improve their understanding of how medical devices are invented and launched – however, they’re also serious about selling their device. The team already filed a patent, and is hopeful they can license the technology to an established company. They plan to use the $20,000 they won to create a professional prototype – something more refined than the 3D printing they used for the competition – with the ultimate goal of making progress toward animal trials and approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
“It’s going to decrease complications for patients, it’s going to decrease operating-room time, and it’s going to keep surgeons from sticking themselves with needles,” said Troclosure team member Pablo Johnson, who is also a medical student.
Bench-2-Bedside is made possible by substantial support from Zions Bank. University of Utah departments that provide support include the Lassonde Entrepreneur Center and the Technology Venture Development office.
2013 Bench-2-Bedside Winners
Best Overall Grand Prize ($15,000) – Troclosure – port closure device with a suture deployment mechanism for laparoscopic surgeries.
Best Overall Runner-Up ($10,000) – Green Lite – developing a simple, single-use illuminating device that brightly illuminates vaginal and cervical tissues during a pelvic exam.
Best Overall Runner-Up ($10,000) – Mechanical Leech – replaces the use of live leeches for skin grafts and other surgeries to remove old, black blood and allow fresh, oxygenated blood to take its place.
Best Overall Runner-Up ($10,000) – Clearport – a replacement for current venous catheters that uses a single hub accessed through self-healing silicone ports.
Best Entertainment Arts and Engineering Award ($5,000) – Teddy Care – developing medical devices for children, including teddy bears that collect and transmit pulse-oximetry, thermometer and baby-monitor data to smartphones and other devices.
Best Medical Idea ($5,000) – Attach & Latch – a nipple protraction device for mothers who want to overcome difficulties with breastfeeding.
Best Business Idea ($5,000) – Troclosure – (see description above).
Best Engineering ($5,000) – HEAD Bit – a helical epidural access drill bit for use in brain surgery with minimal trauma to soft tissues.
Consumers’ Choice ($3,000) – Doxy.me – provides telehealth and remote monitoring through a video conferencing solution that maintains patient privacy and is designed specifically for health-care providers.
Best Design ($2,000) – HEAD Bit – (see description above).