UI starts business to sell medical devices designed by university students, faculty

Iowa Now – Research

By Steve Gravelle, correspondent

Patients come in all shapes and sizes. But anesthesiologists have had only a single device to enable those patients to breathe during surgery.

“They work well for a good amount of people, but for some folks they don’t,” said Dr. Ron Abrons, associate professor of anesthesiology at the University of Iowa. “When you put folks to sleep, obviously you’ve got to breathe for them.

“That can be difficult, especially for people who have sleep apnea or other anatomic abnormalities that don’t let you pass air through.”

Abrons’s solution, the Abrons Oral Airway, opens to displace the patient’s tongue, clearing a larger airway for assisted breathing.

It’s the first product of IowaMADE, a “virtual medical device company” organizers hope will speed improved products to market while providing its student staff experience in the devices’ development and marketing.

“It’s going to be fascinating,” said Dr. Matthew Howard. “I don’t know of any other university that’s done anything like this.”

Howard, chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, oversees IowaMADE, launched last September. The program has no full-time staff.

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“It doesn’t cost much of anything, but people are learning a lot and it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

“It’s the first of its kind as far as we’re aware,” said Jordan Kaufmann, director of start-ups for UI Ventures. “The concept of taking devices the faculty has developed, wrapping a quality (assurance) system around them and selling them directly out of the university — we don’t have any precedent for that that I’ve found.”

Perfecting the process
Abrons’s device, a refinement of a widely used oral airway that’s essentially a simple one-piece tube, was a good candidate for IowaMADE.

“They’re all …

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