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Posted 03.18.08


COLUMBIA, MO - How many people does it take to create the latest device in hernia repair? At the University of Missouri it takes a surgeon, an engineer and a business professional. A new fellowship program at MU is encouraging collaboration among surgeons, engineers and business professionals to design innovative and much needed medical devices.

"Doctors, engineers and business professionals do not speak the same language," said Steve Eubanks, professor and chairman of the department of surgery in the MU College of Medicine. "Often doctors or engineers will have a great idea, but they don't know how to navigate the business system. This program creates the infrastructure to help scientists understand the business side of inventing and will launch the Fellows ahead in their careers of inventing."

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The MU Biodesign and Innovation Program offers a one-year fellowship for a team consisting of a physician, an engineer and a business professional. This year the team consisting of Terra Holdeman, a surgeon; Shashanka Ashili, an engineer; and Niral Shah, a business professional and surgeon, became collaborative inventors and are in the process of designing and, potentially, marketing a new mesh material for hernia repair.

In their first phase of the program, the Fellows spent hours in the operating room, intensive care units and clinics observing real-life medical situations and doctors. From their observations, the Fellows generated 250 ideas for medical devices that could be invented or improved. After noticing that some types of hernia repairs had an unacceptable failure rate of 15 to 30 percent, the Fellows proposed engineering a new mesh material for use in hernia repair.

Following a filtering process and in-depth marketing analysis, the team chose to focus their work on the hernia repair device. The team identified the problems with the current design and is working on a design with different mesh to reduce the failure rate. The Fellows also attend lectures from experts on a variety of topics including obtaining patents and new medical procedures. The team learns to collaborate and develop the knowledge to succeed in the medical device field.

"This program will plant the seeds to grow the local economy, the medical community and the university," Eubanks said. "Having a School of Medicine, College of Engineering and College of Business on one campus has set us apart from other universities and allowed for this program to exist."

The only other model for this program in the United States is at Stanford University. Eubanks hopes that this program will be a model for other universities and lead the biodesign and innovation field. Eventually, Eubanks would like to expand the program and have three teams each year.



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