Collaboration between engineers, professors and students has always happened in Andrew DiMeo’s biomedical engineering classes at NC State and UNC.
But that crossed into the healthcare world a year ago with the first “speed dating” for engineers and surgeons at UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. DiMeo (pictured top left) came away with $10,000 to explore an idea he dreamt up during the event with Jason Long, a cardio-thoracic surgeon, assistant professor and co-director of the UNC Lung Cancer Screening Clinic.
The vision was to create a space for surgeons to share cool device or technology ideas and work on them with students or the broader community of entrepreneurs. DiMeo deployed a team of students in his joint NC State/UNC graduate biomedical engineering course to create a business plan for the project.
And now, with the help of an $85,000 Catalysts for Innovation grant and free office and prototyping space at The Frontier for the next two years, it’s really happening.
MEDIC is another unique effort for the region. And there’s still about $500,000 left to raise to fully achieve the vision. In the meantime, the grant will be used to set up a 501c3, fund legal work and purchase equipment.
DiMeo’s co-conspirator in the MEDIC project is Andy Taylor (top right), lab manager of the NC State Cell Mechanics Laboratory and a recent biomedical engineering grad. Also assisting are Preston Linn and Tim Martin, both industry mentors to DiMeo’s students over the last year. Martin also serves as assistant director of KickStart Venture Services, a program that helps UNC faculty and students take biomedical technology innovations through the startup phase.
DiMeo also will work closely with Bunker Labs, a veteran entrepreneurs accelerator program also based at The Frontier. The prototyping lab will be shared by the two organizations, and DiMeo expects to find other synergies too.
They expect to hold a kickoff event in October, and to eventually become known as the hub of medical innovation in the Triangle.
“There are a few gaps in this ecosystem and we’re trying to fill those in and be a place that brings academics, industry professionals, students, veterans and clinicians together to really catalyze what is already happening,” DiMeo says.