Northwestern Start-Up Wins TechWeek Competition

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BriteSeed members (from left to right) Mayank Vijayvergia, Jonathan Gunn, Paul Fehrenbacher, and Muneeb Bokhari won first place at thr 2012 TechWeek LAUNCH competition.

The medical device start-up company, BriteSeed, developed by a team of four Northwestern University graduate students, won first place at the second annual 2012 TechWeek LAUNCH competition, earning the company more than $100,000 in cash and prizes. 

At TechWeek, BriteSeed was one of five finalists out of 123 startup companies from across the country to pitch to a panel of judges.  The competition was one of the main events at the TechWeek conference held from June 22-26 at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.

“To interact with such a diverse group of individuals and companies that share a passion for bringing life changing ideas to market was an incredible experience.  BriteSeed is honored to have represented the startup community of Chicago at such an impressive forum,” said Paul Fehrenbacher, a fourth-year medical student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Fehrenbacher and the three other co-founders of BriteSeed, Mayank Vijayvergia from the McCormick School of Engineering, and Jonathan Gunn, PhD, and Muneeb Bokhari, JD, from Northwestern University Law School, started the company after inventing SafeSnips during the NUvention: Medical Innovation course.

“When we won first place at TechWeek, it was a turning point for BriteSeed.  The company is now more committed and focused than ever on bringing medical technologies to market that improve surgical outcomes for patients while at the same time saving the U.S. healthcare system money,” said Fehrenbacher. “SafeSnips is an example of such a novel device. SafeSnips is a patent-pending technology that eliminates accidental cuts into blood vessels and thereby helps all the major stakeholders in healthcare: patients, surgeons, hospitals, insurance companies, and the government.”  

While shadowing surgeons, including David Mahvi, MD, ­­chief of gastrointestinal and oncologic surgery and James R. Hines, MD, Professor of Surgery at Feinberg and an advisor to BriteSeed, the team invented the technology, SafeSnips integrates into surgical tools to alert surgeons of the presence of blood vessels prior to cutting tissue.  By doing so, SafeSnips will eliminate excessive bleeding from unintended cuts into blood vessels.

“Without Northwestern and the NUvention course, BriteSeed would not even be a figment of our imagination,” Fehrenbacher said.  “We hope that BriteSeed’s continued success serves as an inspiration for future Northwestern students to take the NUvention courses. These courses provide the initial tools needed to commercialize academically conceived ideas and make a meaningful impact in the world.”

Northwestern’s NUvention Medical Innovation course brings together students from across the University to form businesses and solve previously unaddressed clinical problems. The course is offered through the NUCATS Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute.

Fehrenbacher said that he took the NUvention: Medical Innovation course because he has had an interest in entrepreneurship from a young age.

“I have always been committed to using my medical degree for the betterment of patients.  After taking the course, I now know that I can use my medical degree and my interest in entrepreneurship to this end.” he said.

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