INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – Business students typically don’t study the mechanics of kidney dialysis. However Kelley School of Business Indianapolis students are learning about the business implications of dialysis treatment through a unique program specific to the IUPUI campus. They’re partnering with students in the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology to bring a patented invention to market.
“It’s been cool to get to work with other IUPUI students who are equally as motivated as we are, but in a different context,” said Kelley junior Jim Plew, who partnered with Kelley sophomore Rishi Chandra and three biomedical engineering students.
The Center for Research and Learning’s Innovation-to-Enterprise Central (ITEC) program takes advantage of IUPUI’s academic diversity by partnering undergraduates from various disciplines with a mentor to bring a faculty member’s patent to market. In the first launch of the program, Plew and Chandra’s group researched how to commercialize a dialysis invention by IU vascular surgeon George Akingba, M.D., Ph.D.
“He’s an inventor, a surgeon and a professor. But he’s not a businessman,” said Plew about Akingba. “So he doesn’t really know how to start a company or how to license it. That’s how we can help.”
The group investigated various routes to bring Dr. Akingba’s device into the market. Using their business backgrounds, Chandra and Plew researched the necessary industry procedures to put the invention to use.
“Dr. Akingba patented the device, but there’s still a lot of research that needs to be done,” explained Chandra. “So that’s what we’re working on right now. We’re comparing the device to its competitors and going through all the government regulations and possible future funding.”
Dr. Akingba said it was helpful to have the students contribute to the research.
“They understood all the hoops I needed to jump through,” he said. “They educated me about that.”
Dr. Akingba’s patented device is called a modular arterio-venous shunt device (MAVD.) It helps open and close a tube, which connects blood flow during dialysis. His invention could improve the tube’s durability.
“If the MAVD works as expected, it really could make a huge impact on all dialysis patients,” explained Plew. “It’s cutting edge and it feels cool to be part of it. And it’s just a great group dynamic, too.”
The business and biomedical students each lent their areas of expertise to the commercialization of the MAVD.
“We made good friends with everyone on our team,” said Chandra. “We learned a lot from the engineering students about areas of science and device testing. It was a very important project because it opened my thinking to different aspects of business.”
Students say the flexible nature of the program allowed them to direct the course of the project.
“We were brought into this to provide some kind of value from the business end,” said Plew. “It put pressure on us but we could show what we’ve learned in the business school and how we can infuse that into this setting.”
Based on their research, the students will offer Dr. Akingba advice on whether to start a company based on his device or to license it to someone else. The program gives faculty like Dr. Akingba a chance to move their invention forward, and offers the students a practical lesson using another field of study.
“There’s only so much engineers and physicians can do,” explained Dr. Akingba. “You always need the business people to help you keep your direction and your focus, so that at one point in time you can decide if your startup is a money pit or a pot of gold.”
Chandra is considering a business career in the medical industry.
“I’m drifting toward medical devices,” said the accounting and supply chain major. “But I’m just exploring that area right now. This will give me an upper hand compared to other students who want to go into the medical devices field.”
Both business students say the unique opportunity at Kelley Indianapolis is one more thing to add to their résumés.
“I’m a finance major, so I’ve done an internship in the finance industry,” explained Plew. “But I think that doing this research project really sets us apart in terms of where our fundamental core study is and what we’ve done with that. It’s not very common for business school graduates to have experience like this in the medical industry.”
The ITEC program is available to full-time undergraduate students in good academic standing with an interest in research commercialization.