June 2010

Olympus winners showcase UC-Davis GreenTech Entrepreneurship Academy

NCIIA grantees and Olympus Innovation Award winners Andy Hargadon and Paul Hudnut recently spoke at the fourth annual Green Technology Entrepreneurship Academy, organized by the UC Davis Center for Entrepreneurship. Read more about the event.

Andy, who runs the UC-Davis Center for Entrepreneurship, won the Olympus Emerging Educational Leader Award in 2009. Paul, director of the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise Program at Colorado State University’s College of Business, won this year's Olympus Innovation Award.

GoodGuide 47th most innovative company in the US

GoodGuide, a 2006 Sustainable Vision grantee, has been ranked as the 47th most innovative company in the US by innovation magazine Fast Company. GoodGuide, founded by Dara O'Rourke at UC-Berkeley, provides health, environmental and social ratings for over 75,000 consumer products. By making such data available to consumers (at point of sale), GoodGuide has the potential to influence manufacturers towards creating safer, healthier products, says Fast Company.

Previously, GoodGuide was named by Time Magazine in 2009 as one of its ideas changing the world. Read more about GoodGuide.

Wanted: Student Ambassadors to represent NCIIA on campus!

We're seeking super-motivated students to be part of a new national team that will promote innovation and entrepreneurship on campus.

NCIIA's student ambassadors will create networks and events that inspire university entrepreneurs; encourage them to become involved in NCIIA programs and activities; and support them in creating inventions and innovations that have a social benefit. 

Besides the resume-building experience, each ambassador will receive $4,000 and the chance to earn a trip to Open 2011, our 15th Annual Conference!

Read more and apply! Applications due June 30 extended to July 9!

Our view: Students as change makers (GOOD Magazine)

In this GOOD Magazine op/ed piece, Humera Fasihuddin, our lead mentor and BMEidea program manager, talks about the role of students as change makers. According to Humera, yesterday's three BMEidea 2010 winning teams represent the range of positive impacts student innovators seek. Read more at GOOD!



NCIIA's Student Ambassadors 2010-11

Student Ambassador 2010-11 Cohort

Meet the first Student Ambassador cohort!


Portland State University

Adam Smith

Rice University

David Mims

Princeton University

Eden Full

Univ. of Nevada -Las Vegas

Juan Carlo Pascua

Duke University

Maggie Finch

Columbia University

Mayank Yadav



Univ. Wisconsin -Madison

Steve Faulkner

Northwestern University

Swapnil Chaturvedi

New York University

Trevor Owens

Oregon State University

Jennifer Villalobos

University of Maryland

Alex Sposito


Northeastern University

Roland Fomundam

 Wake Forest University

Billy Oelsner






Rapid Hypothermia Induction Device team (Johns Hopkins) wins BMEidea 2010

The winners of BMEidea 2010 were announced today, at the MD&M trade show in New York City. In first place, winning $10,000, is the Rapid Hypothermia Induction Device team from Johns Hopkins University.

Second place and $2,500 went to the Low-cost Ventilator (OneBreath) team from Stanford University. Third place and $1,000 went to the Natural Orifice Volume Enlargement (NOVEL) Device team from University of Cincinnati.

Read more about the finalists and see their prototypes here.

And read Medgadget.com's story on BMEidea 2010.


BMEidea winners announced today!

We'll be announcing the 2010 BMEidea winners at noon today. Check back then!

Read about the finalists, in Medgadget.com.

2011 BMEidea competition winners

2011 BMEidea winners announced!

First place, winning $10,000
Magneto: Magnetic Induction Internal Bleed Detector, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

After percutaneous coronary interventions and cardiac catheterizations in hospitals, there is a risk for complications at the point of vascular access. The current standard of care for monitoring for these complications is an observational approach; medical personnel examine patients several times per hour for signs of tachycardia, hypotension, swelling, visual bruising, pain and discomfort. But the complications are hard to detect, as symptoms only arise after significant blood loss has already occurred. This “wait-and-see” approach is unreliable and places not only a time burden on medical personnel but also a financial burden on the hospital due to extended patient hospital stays.

The Magneto internal bleeding monitor is a portable, non-invasive, autonomous, cost-effective device for detecting internal bleeding complications after catheterization procedures through the femoral artery. The device, which uses magnetic induction technology to detect the accumulation of blood near the access site, consists of three components: a coil pack that interfaces with the patient to send and receive signals, an adhesive system that attaches the coil pack to the patient, and a user pack that interprets the data and alerts the user of bleeding complications.

Second place, winning $2,500
Oculeve, Stanford University

More than 20 million Americans have some form of Dry Eye disease. 1.6 million of these people suffer from the most severe form, a debilitating condition that impacts quality of life as drastically as severe angina, and can threaten one's vision. These patients cannot read or watch television due to the dryness, and cannot go outside due to the sensitivity to light. Unfortunately, there are no good treatment options for this population. This population is desperate, currently relying on artificial tear drops, an ineffective and expensive immuno-suppressant drug called Restasis and a surgery in which their eyelids are literally sutured shut.

The Oculeve team is developing a device-based therapy that treats this terrible disease. The device is a simple in-office procedure that results in a substantial increase in tear production to near-normal levels, and will allow these patients to return to a normal life. The device is a one-time procedure and will therefore be a more cost effective treatment than the expensive drug therapy, and much less intrusive than a blinding surgery. The team has surveyed more than 250 patients with Dry Eye disease with overwhelming support of the new therapy, and is proceeding with commercialization to provide treatment to this desperate group of patients.

Third place, winning $1,000
Medtric Biotech, Purdue University

Infected wounds have an incalculable impact on patient quality of life.  Infection prevents proper healing and subjects the patient to potentially avoidable complications. Additionally, infection leads to skyrocketing health costs. Domestically, care for an infected wound is nearly $14,000 per case. In chronic wounds (in which 98% are estimated to be contaminated), total treatment costs can escalate beyond $40,000.

Standard therapies for bacterial remediation have several disadvantages. For example, antibiotics are plagued by the alarming increase in pathogenic drug resistance. The Center for Disease Control estimates the rate of drug resistant has climbed 36% in the last 20 years. This trend is coupled to the realization that no new classes of antibiotics have been developed since 1963. Alternative treatments such as antimicrobial silver are complicated by toxicity issues and pose long term hazards to the environment.

The Medtric Biotech team is developing OSMOSE, a line of antimicrobial dressings for the prevention and treatment of infected wounds. The OSMOSE platform represents a fundamentally new mechanism of bactericidal action. Our proprietary nanotechnology offers three distinct competitive advantages:  (i) wide spectrum antibacterial activity (even against antibiotic resistant strains), (ii) OSMOSE actively promotes wound healing and (iii) OSMOSE dressing provide economical solutions in a high priced field.


Honorable mentions:

Lipoluminator: A Light-Directed Instrument for Plastic Surgery, Rice University

IpsiHand: An EEG Brain Computer Interface for Rehabilitation and Restoration of Hand Control following Stroke, Washington University in St Louis

ToughKlave: A Modular and Portable Autoclave, Tulane University

The winners were announced on June 8 at the Medical Design Excellence Awards ceremony in New York. Congratulations!

The right team at the right time: Keen Mobility

Often the best teams don’t form as a result of careful planning: they synthesize when the right people work on the right project at the right time. Such is the story of Vail Horton and the Keen Mobility E-Team.

Born without legs, Horton learned determination and perseverance at a young age. At four he pleaded with his parents for prosthetic legs, and got his wish when a team of biomedical engineers at the Rusk Institute of New York University designed a pair of custom titanium legs for use with ordinary wooden crutches.

While glad to be free of a wheelchair, over the years the jolting of the crutches caused tremendous pain in Horton’s back, shoulders, and arms. In college he was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in his shoulders, and when the incessant pain became severe his doctors prescribed a wheelchair. Horton refused; he had experienced an independent lifestyle, and going back to a wheelchair wasn’t an option.

One day, Horton, then a business student at the University of Portland, walked into the engineering department and asked if someone could build him a crutch with a shock absorber. A professor who happened to be in her office at the time spoke with him about it. “A few days later,” said Horton, “three engineering students called me and said, ‘We’ve been assigned to build your crutch for our senior year project.’ I said, ‘Oh, cool’.”

Just like that, the team was formed.

The group was soon accepted into UP’s E-Scholar program, in which students form teams and pursue a business venture funded partly by the university and partly by themselves. Horton and his team began a venture based around a new, improved crutch—one that wouldn’t be detrimental to long-term users.

But the team wasn’t complete. Horton soon realized they needed more information about how the crutch would affect the human body, and took steps to add a life sciences major to the ranks. Horton, the three engineers and the life sciences major met once a week over the course of their senior year and, aided by NCIIA Advanced E-Team funding, eventually came up with a product: the Keen Krutch. The improved crutch featured underarm cushioning that conformed to the curvature of the body; a contour shape to redistribute pressure; adjustable, mobile handgrips to prevent carpal tunnel; shock absorbers, and a pivoting ankle joint for increased mobility.

Then everyone graduated. Horton decided to try and commercialize the Keen Krutch, but the engineers didn’t join him. Says Horton, “They didn’t see entrepreneurship in the same light as myself. I gave them every opportunity to stay and form part of the company, but I didn’t have the resources to offer and they weren’t willing to accept the risk associated with running a startup.”

Horton decided to call on an old friend and former roommate, Jerry Carleton. Carleton had already accepted a job in northern California, but jumped at the chance to join Horton. Says Carleton, “Just knowing Vail, I was already caught up in the vision and I knew he was going to take the company as far as it could go. I knew he was the kind of guy that would never say die—that he was putting his mind to this company and was going to make it a huge success. So when the moment came and I was sitting there at lunch and he offered me the job, I didn’t hesitate.”

Together the two founded a small startup company, Keen Mobility. Five years and a grueling, exhausting, and ultimately rewarding startup process later, the company is on its feet and growing rapidly. Alongside the Keen Krutch, the company manufactures a wide array of technologically advanced, safe ambulatory aids and other progressive products that allow the disabled greater mobility, safety and independence.

Waiting a While for the Payoff: Insitutec

High-tech bootstrapping
Imagine trying to bootstrap a company that makes industrial positioning and measuring systems with nanoscale resolution. Sound tough? It’s exactly what Shane and Bethany Woody, co-founders of Charlotte-based InsituTec, Inc., have been doing since incorporating in 2001.

Shane, a University of North Carolina at Charlotte mechanical engineering PhD candidate, first started working on industrial measuring systems to meet a need articulated by Boeing. Shane studies and works at the Center for Precision Metrology at UNCC, which brings in corporations that have specific needs they want addressed by university researchers. Boeing’s military and commercial aircraft have millions of small rivet holes; at the time they contacted Shane they measured the holes by transferring samples to a metrology laboratory: a slow, expensive, and time-consuming process. Boeing needed a faster, cheaper way to measure the size and form of the holes in real time. Shane met the challenge, designing a prototype of a vector-based probe that would allow the measuring to take place within the manufacturing process itself, with comparable accuracy and at a lower cost. Timing was bad, however, as the economy went on a downswing—Boeing pulled out.

But the technology was too promising to leave behind. In 2001 Shane won Advanced E-Team funding from the NCIIA to optimize the probe and move toward commercialization, and the team officially incorporated as InsituTec, Inc. Bootstrapping began.

How have they done it? According to Shane, the most important factor in InsituTec’s high-tech bootstrapping success has been their incubator. The Office of Technology Transfer at UNCC provides high-tech startups with office space and access to laboratory equipment based on a fixed-fee agreement in which they pay based on what facilities and office space they use. Since both Bethany and Shane are graduate students they receive free office space; they’re charged only for InsituTec-related use of university equipment. And that equipment is extremely expensive.

“One of the instruments we use to test our devices costs about sixty to eighty thousand dollars,” says Shane. “That’s why without the incubator InsituTec wouldn’t really be possible.”

“If it wasn’t for the university incubator program we would have no hope of even having this company right now,” adds Bethany. “That we pay for the equipment on an hourly basis instead of having to buy it is absolutely invaluable.”

The second major factor in their bootstrapping success is salary. That is, the big salaries they don’t pay themselves. Shane pays himself far less than what the typical engineering graduate makes. “I make a tiny fraction of what I could be paying myself,” he says. “But we just have to do that right now.”

Bethany works for no pay. She has a second job that pays the bills and offers her services to InsituTec at no cost. “My time is free to the company,” she says. “I get paid at my regular job and then I spend my afternoons, evenings, and weekends working on InsituTec. We’re in this to build the company and be successful, so a little sacrifice now for success later is worth it to us.”

Another source of savings comes in the form of materials used in making the devices themselves. Says Bethany, “We spend every penny wisely. When we put together systems and devices we pinch every penny and do it cheaper and leaner than bigger companies. We watch everything we order. We look for the best deals. If we can get something two dollars cheaper elsewhere, we take it.”

If all goes well, they’ll be out of bootstrapping mode in a year. “Four months ago we received a Phase I SBIR grant,” says Shane. “We’re writing several proposals for other grants. We’re working on a development contract with a large industrial equipment company. We’re getting there.”

In the meantime Bethany offers some advice to young student inventors who may be facing years of tough bootstrapping: “If you have a company and you have a stake in it you should be willing to sacrifice early on. Don’t expect to pay yourself top dollar and succeed. If everything works out, you’ll get a big payoff later.”