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Nov 04, 2014 4:25 PM

Nate Rhodes saw a chance to improve medicine through developing a new type of catheter that would be less prone to infections. Inspired by his aunt, a primary care nurse who often told him stories about catheters that clogged and subsequently caused infections, Rhodes sought to find way to solve the problem.

With the help of other University of Utah students, Rhodes, a bioengineering student, did just that. He created a catheter that emitted visible light, which kills bacteria and prevents infections. As one of the student teams to come out of the University of Utah’s Center for Medical Innovation, Rhodes and students James Allen, Mitch Barneck, Martin de La Presa and Ahrash Poursaid created a startup company, Veritas Medical LLC, to develop the LIGHT LINE Catheter. The team has already filed a utility patent on their technology and is in the process of completing laboratory testing and clinical trials.

In the process, they’ve garnered national attention, including a first place finish and $75,000 at the International Business Model Competition hosted by Brigham Young University last spring. The competition drew more than 2,500 teams from 200 schools representing 20 countries. The group also won impressive honors at the University of Utah Bench-2-Bedside competition last spring —exposure that brought top-level CEOs knocking to invest in the students’ product, helping them to secure jobs after graduation.

The story of Veritas is one of many success stories to come out of the Center for Medical Innovation, and is a reason why several foundations recently have chosen to invest in the nationally renowned program, said John Langell, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H.,  Executive Director of the Center for Medical innovation.

Fueled by a collaborative effort between the University of Utah Health Sciences Center, The David Eccles School of Business, The College of Engineering and The Technology Venture Development Program, the Center for Medical Innovation combines formal education programs, faculty and student project development, and support and facilitation of device development and commercialization. The Center creates a one-stop-shop environment that assists both the novice and experienced innovator through ideation, concept generation, intellectual property, market analysis, prototyping and testing, business plan development, and commercialization.

The program recently received two major grants, including:

—The Sorenson Foundation awarded CMI a $975,000 grant, amounting to $325,000 a year over three years). The money will be used to build on the existing programs at CMI and will allow for more seed grant funding, the creation of a basic prototype facility, the creation of an FDA regulatory advisory program, and the addition of other programs.

 —The Center for Medical Innovation also recently was named as only one of 11 sites in the country to become an Innovation Corp site (http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/i-corps/) by the National Science Foundation. CMI will receive $300,000 over three years to take faculty-based intellectual property and figure out whether or not there is a commercially viable market —and if so, to create an entrepreneurial team to take it to market.  

The grants are indicative of the success the University of Utah has had in merging disciplines such as engineering, medicine and business into a unique entrepreneurship program for students, said Langell.

“It’s recognition that we have cutting edge program that combines elite technology and commercialization program.  At the Center for Medical Innovation, we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, but know that it’s only the beginning of what we will accomplish in the future with our students, faculty and other disciplines working together to achieve new ideas,” said Langell.