After hearing his aunt, a primary care nurse, tell stories of catheters causing clotting and infections, University of Utah bioengineering student Nate Rhodes decided to come up with a solution. Along with a few classmates, he developed a type of catheter — a tube inserted into patients to remove and deliver fluids — that emits visible light killing bacteria to prevent infections from occurring.
Rhodes’ team of bioengineering and medical students recently won first place and $75,000 at the International Business Model Competition hosted by Brigham Young University. The competition drew more than 2,500 teams from 200 schools representing 20 countries from around the world.
The students created a startup company, Veritas Medical LLC, to develop the LIGHT LINE Catheter™, using high-intensity narrow spectrum light, which is known to kill bacteria without any harmful effects to human cells. They have already filed a utility patent on their technology and will complete laboratory testing later this year followed by clinical trials beginning next year.
“This competition was a huge validation for what we have created,” said Rhodes, who received a master’s in bioengineering from the U this spring. “We have come a long way since starting this project three years ago, and we hope to finish clinical trials by 2015 and begin selling our product by 2016.”
Other members of the team include James Allen, a U bioengineering graduate; Mitch Barneck, a U bioengineering graduate currently in medical school at Oregon Health and Science University; Martin de La Presa, a U student doctor; and Ahrash Poursaid, who received a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering from the U this spring.
Veritas Medical plans to use the $75,000 in winnings to support further product development and validation. They have already conducted successful laboratory tests of their product, and they are steadily working toward getting clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The students previously won more than $20,000 in cash prizes and grants through other student competitions at the U, including Bench to Bedside, a medical device competition, the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge, a statewide business plan competition, and the Entrepreneur Club milestone funding program. They also received $1,000 from the Baylor New Venture Competition in Waco, Texas.
“I’m always incredibly impressed by what our students are able to do,” said John Langell, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, who mentored the team and is the director of the U’s Center for Medical Innovation. “We started focusing on training future health care innovators through our interdisciplinary innovation programs only a few years ago, and we are already seeing many successful technologies like this ready to transform the market.”
Veritas Medical has received substantial support and advising from the U’s Department of Bioengineering, the Center for Medical Innovation and the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute.
“This team has achieved a lot of momentum by taking advantage of all the competitions and programs available to innovative students that want to create a product, start a company and carve their own path,” said Troy D’Ambrosio, executive director of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, a division of the David Eccles School of Business.