NUvention: Medical Innovation Provides Framework for Entrepreneurs
Reducing the amount of x-rays and time in the operating room: that was the goal of Christopher Walsh, MD ’10, and his group during their NUvention: Medical Innovation class.
When a bone fracture requires surgical treatment, a rod or nail can be driven into the bone and held in place by screws to create stability across the fracture. To ensure proper placement of those screws, a number of x-rays are needed.
“Our team developed a system to deploy a locking device contained within the nail itself, thus decreasing the time and radiation exposure associated with screw placement,” Walsh said.
He credits NUvention with allowing him to use his undergraduate years as an engineering major to help tackle a problem facing orthopaedic surgeons worldwide.
“It was an excellent learning experience in not only the science and medicine behind new products, but I was also able to see the business and law decisions, and problems facing new medical device companies,” Walsh said.
NUvention: Medical Innovation is a six-month course designed to expose students to medical entrepreneurship, with current class teams comprised of three fourth-year medical students from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and two students each from Kellogg School of Management, Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the School of Law.
Now an orthopaedic surgery resident at the Detroit Medical Center, Walsh has stayed in close communication with classmates as part of their company, Torjo Medical Solutions Inc.
“It was actually a requirement of the class to start a company, incorporate, and form positions. It allowed everyone to understand a bit more about what it takes to actually start your own company and work to bring a project to production,” he said. “We have pitched our idea to venture capitalists and outside investors with some interest, but with no formal investments.”
Investments have brought Neurologic LLC, one of the course’s first groups in 2007, to the cusp of commercial production.
“Our team designed an easier-to-use neurosurgery tunneling device for the passing of wires and shunts under the skin, around the skull,” said Neurologic President Brian Flyg, MBA ’08. “We filed a utility patent for our device and incorporated into a company, which enabled us to license our IP to a well-established medical tools supplier. We are continuing to work with this company with the hopes that they will commercialize our design as one of their new products.”
Flyg, a senior strategic portfolio manager with medical technology company BD, said all eight members of the Medical Innovation class are shareholders in Neurologic, with some still actively involved.
The lone Feinberg student in the group, Varun Kshettry, MD ’08, a neurosurgeon resident at the Cleveland Clinic, is working with the licensee to ensure that the device gets refined in a clinical environment before approaching the FDA.
Another spinoff of NUvention, Chicago-based NuCurrent, founded in 2009, designs and develops high-efficiency electrical components for wireless applications.
The company, led today by Jacob Babcock’s, JD ’09, an associate with Foley & Lardner LLP, developed a novel antenna that transfers power more efficiently than existing technology. NuCurrent focuses on the development of wireless power systems for medical devices.
Feinberg’s representative in the group, Arjun Sharma, MD ’09, maintains a sense of pride in NuCurrent’s roots.
“It's amazing where the company is today compared to where we were at the conclusion of the class, which in retrospect was really close to nowhere,” said Sharma, a resident in diagnostic radiology at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. “I hadn't really considered a career in industry during medical school, but by the end of the course saw how it is certainly a viable career option, and one which I may pursue post-residency and post-fellowship.”
NUvention: Medical Innovation was first offered five years ago, with the course model expanded to the fields of web and energy in 2010 and social entrepreneurship in 2011. Last year it was named one of the best courses in America by Inc. magazine.