Some Northwestern graduate students treat the “NUvention: Medical Innovation” course as a way to accumulate credits. Not Nick Brenckman, Lydia Barrett and Nitin Yerram who used the class as a launching point for their company, Centripid Medical Inc., and the innovation at its center, the smartCAP.
Brenckman, a second-year law student along with Barrett, a second-year Kellogg student and Yurman, a fourth-year Feinberg student, have come together to participate in the Northwestern Venture Challenge after meeting in the NUvention class during September 2012. For their first two months in the class, they shadowed and interviewed Northwestern Memorial Hospital doctors in order to isolate inefficiencies they could help remedy with an innovative idea and product of their own.
Within a month, the Centripid team identified a major issue with oxygen tank monitoring and focused their attention on possible solutions. Their idea for a smartCAP came together in late January, and they submitted a provisional patent in February.
The smartCAP attaches onto the existing gauge for oxygen tanks, monitors pressure and then submits that data to a remote location electronically. Brenckman described it as “eliminating the chance of an empty tank being used with patients” as audio alarms and easy-to-read LED screens quickly notify caregivers when oxygen is low.
Currently, a couple designated individuals do sweeps of every oxygen tank in most hospitals every few days and try to keep track of their levels manually. The smartCAP would allow hospitals to manage all oxygen tanks from one computer screen, potentially saving “45% on oxygen tank management costs” as Barrett pointed out.
The company has been participating in the Northwestern Venture Challenge (the university’s biggest business pitch competition that seeks to provide capital to new start-ups) for the past couple of months. After having their abstract selected to compete in the semi-finals, Centripid presented their pitch on April 11 and was chosen to advance to the finals on May 8.
Brenckman called the competition “exciting” as it allowed him and his team to “venture into doing things on our own outside the classroom setting”. Barrett added that it was “cool to see the other great ideas around the university during the competition” and interact with like-minded individuals.
As they spend the next couple of weeks preparing for the NUVC finals, the group is relatively optimistic about their chances. The team has gone through the rigor of two quarters of presentations with feedback from professors and medical device companies which they believe puts them a step ahead of their competition. They hope that their more “refined presentation” as Brenckman described it allows them to win over a panel of judges in the finals and catapult their idea to new heights.
After the competition, Centripid hopes to advance smartCAP from its current prototype stage to full product completion by the end of the year. Starting next year, they hope to begin internal testing and controlled experiments before expanding to local hospital trials and beyond.
Describing their main selling points, Barrett stated: “We feel that we have a great value proposition, a business based on high gross margins and we have a management team that will lead us to success.” Brenckman made sure to add another important part: “and we obviously bleed purple.”