All work and no play makes the MEDIC team rather dull. That’s why when we want to unwind, have some fun, and do some great networking all at the same time, we go to LaunchBio’s Larger than Life Science Events. Hosted on the first Thursday of every month, LaunchBio packs these three hour events with informative talks from leaders of the life science industry, fun activities for all ages, and local craft beer!
Ashley Thieman, our Director of Operations, and I have made a habit of attending Larger than Life Science and have had a blast every time. The first one happened in the midst of a January snowstorm and there were still at least 100 attendees! Say what you will about the North Carolina life science community, but we are some serious beer drinkers and networkers.
The February event took an interesting turn. It started with an amazing panel on FDA regulations featuring one of our partners, Luke Marshall, CEO of VitalFlo. By the way, if you like revolutionary medical technologies and haven’t heard of VitalFlo, you definitely want to check them out. Next on the docket were demonstrations of the new frontiers of technology, such as virtual reality. Then a section of tables caught my eye; the new frontier of food!
That feeling of excitement was quickly changed to confusion when I walked up to a table of bugs! Not only that, but these bugs had flavors? We saw crickets with flavors like bacon and cheddar, and chocolate wafers filled with ants! Being the bold and fearless individuals that we are, Ashley and I each tried a bacon and cheddar cricket first and the experience was…interesting, to say the least. Next up were the ant wafers. Mine was mostly chocolate, but Ashley ate a particularly ant-y wafer.
The prospect of eating insects may sound ridiculous, I’m not completely sold on the concept myself, but there are some benefits. Insects are relatively easy to grow and maintain and they are chock-full of nutrients! In fact, it is more efficient to grow insects for consumption than most livestock we currently eat. Eating insects is not an uncommon practice outside of the US. While I may not be sold on eating bugs, I am sold on attending the next Larger than Life Science event this Thursday, April 5th. I would encourage anyone who enjoys a good time and learning about life science to attend as well!
LaunchBio, Inc., a national nonprofit dedicated to connecting entrepreneurs with knowledge, capital and talent across the nation’s leading life science hubs, today announced “Larger Than Life Science”, a monthly event open to everyone interested in building a strong support network for North Carolina’s life science and healthcare innovators. The event will be held in the atrium level of the newly renovated Chesterfield Building in downtown Durham, NC, from 4-7 p.m. the first Thursday of each month, starting January 4, 2018.
Larger Than Life Science will offer multiple featured programs during each gathering, so participants can choose from a selection of practical workshops, industry partnering sessions, networking, meetings with investors, panel discussions, office hours, and some fun activities. The monthly programs will draw on LaunchBio’s network of national resources, as well as partnerships with local entrepreneurial support organizations. Larger Than Life Science will serve up refreshments from local breweries, and introduce companies and organizations that are contributing to make our community a great place to live and work.
If you have yet to visit the newly renovated Chesterfield building, you do not want to miss out on this opportunity to see the space, while networking with the entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, techies, pharma partners, executives in transition, service providers, and support organizations that make up our life science community. This new space is sure to become a hub for research and development within the local ecosystem.
MEDIC is excited to be a partner partner in this endeavor with LaunchBio along with the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, NC Biosciences (NCBIO), Digital Health Impact + Transformation (DHIT), and the American Underground. We would like to thank Hutchison PLLC; Michael Best; and CSC Leasing, Inc. for sponsoring this series.
One question I often hear when I speak about MEDIC is “Why did you decide to start this company?” It is an important question for any entrepreneur or business owner to consider. When you are up late trying to make a fancy slideset of company logos on your website, while in the midst of your first ever attempt at raising funds, and with a pile of emails you need to answer, it helps to have a reminder of why you are doing this instead of working a nine to five like a normal human being. For me, that reminder is the BiliSol.
My senior year in the biomedical engineering department at NC State, I had the opportunity to be part of a team of students dedicated to developing solutions to health problems in low income areas. The team was comprised of myself, Taylor Cook, Lauren Chisholm, Spencer Lacy, and Amber Buckalew, all students in the same program. During this adventure, we learned about a condition called neonatal jaundice.
Neonatal jaundice develops in newborns when their liver hasn’t quite developed. As a result, can’t process a natural byproduct of the body called bilirubin. As bilirubin builds up, it causes a yellowing of the skin (jaundice) and in more intense cases, the chemical can cause chronic neurologic damage or even death. This disease is very common across the globe; in fact, two out of three infants develop this disorder globally, resulting in over 100,000 infant deaths every year.
This annual death toll is a shame, because neonatal jaundice is very easy to treat. All you need to do is shine a blue light on the infant’s skin, which causes bilirubin to break down in a way that the infant can get rid of it. This process is called phototherapy. The problem is that traditional phototherapy devices cost between $4000-$6000 per unit, require specialty bulbs that are hard to come by in low income area, and all require a constant source of electricity. This therapy is not feasible in low income countries.
Over our senior year, my team developed a device we called the BiliSol. It is a simple filter that provides phototherapy using the light of the sun. It turns out, the sun’s spectrum contains the blue light required to cure neonatal jaundice. So long as you can effectively block away the harmful radiation of the sun, you can provide phototherapy free of charge (pun definitely intended)! This system requires no electricity, has no replaceable parts, and costs under $100 to build.
Once we discovered this system would work, we were ecstatic. We were going to save the world! Cure sick babies! What wasn’t there to love about that? However, life soon got in the way. We all graduated, went on to start our careers, and found it difficult to keep the project moving forward. We didn’t have the time or resources to continue developing this medical device which, it turns out, takes a lot of both! As a result the device sat on a shelf and gathered dust.
This is why I co-founded MEDIC. The BiliSol is one of thousands of potentially life-saving devices that will never make it to community hospitals and clinics because of a lack of resources. Our team thought to ourselves, “What if we could develop five of these technologies, like the BiliSol, and get them to the clinic?” This could potentially lead to 500,000 lives saved every year! Once MEDIC is running at full capacity, we will be spinning out up to five new medical technology companies every year.
The BiliSol story has a happy ending. Since the founding of MEDIC in September of 2016, we have been able to continue developing the BiliSol. In fact, in January 2017, Lauren Chisholm and myself were able to build prototypes and deliver them to communities in rural areas of Guatemala. We are continuing to push this technology forward with the help of MEDIC.
If you would like to support projects like the BiliSol and others, you can donate to our organization at medic-nc.org/support/. If you would like to join our Collaborative, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nonprofit Seeks to Bridge Valley Between Ideation and Commercialization
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — The Medical Innovators Collaborative (MEDIC), bridging the valley between ideation and commercialization, is launching its inaugural innovation fundraising campaign October 16-27, 2017.
The effort comes as the 501(c)(3) nonprofit wraps-up its first year of increasing the pipeline of new biomedical products and startups within North Carolina while immersing local students in an industry environment.
“Starting in 2018, we will be developing 15 biomedical technologies every year, training up to 75 students in medical product development across the state. This will lead to up to five new biomedical device companies in North Carolina every year,” MEDIC President Andy Taylor announced at a recent RTP 180 event on biomedical engineering.
Located at The Frontier in Research Triangle Park, MEDIC is an open, collaborative space bringing together innovators and entrepreneurs such as academics, caregivers, industry professionals, and students in the development of quality medical technologies. To-date, MEDIC has been funded through grants from the Research Triangle Foundation and the Lineberger Cancer Center. In addition, 14 companies have pledged to donate services towards their cause including Citrix and Jenkins, Wilson, Taylor & Hunt.
“The services these organizations are providing have given us the capability to drive real medical innovation in the state;” Taylor said, adding, “It also allows us to immerse the students we work with in an environment of industry experts, teaching them the tools of the trade as they develop real medical products.”
MEDIC is looking to raise $50,000 in the upcoming campaign. Each gift toward the organization will support the development of new life-saving devices, the training of the next generation of the medical technology industry, and help build the economy of North Carolina by starting new companies and creating new jobs.
Tim Martin, Assistant Director of KickStart Venture Services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and advisor to MEDIC, said, “The medical community of North Carolina is excited about the programs MEDIC is providing. If we can unite the community around this campaign and build support across the state, we will have no problem raising the funds we need to continue developing lifesaving medical technology.”
To learn more and support the mission of MEDIC, visit medic-nc.org and be sure to follow MEDIC on Facebook and Twitter.
The Medical Innovators Collaborative (MEDIC) is a nonprofit spinout of the UNC & NC State Biomedical Engineering Department supporting the development of new medical technologies in North Carolina. We do this by providing innovation training, industry relevant professional seminars, and student internships focused around creating life-saving devices. We are an open and collaborative space bringing together innovators and entrepreneurs including academics, caregivers, industry professionals, and students. For more information visit medic-nc.org.