UTD team leader's winning device from national design competition launches business
9 months ago
Correction: In a previous version of this story, Yara Almubarak’s name was misspelled. The Mercury regrets this error.
After a UTD engineering team won a national design competition, a group member co-founded a medical device company that modified the team’s design to relieve hemorrhoids, which affects 30 percent of the U.S. population.
The design project spanned over the past academic year. During the second semester, Tyler Markle, a mechanical engineering graduate student and team leader, was asked to participate in company meetings with CerSci Therapeutics, which was sponsoring the team.
That eventually led to Markle co-founding the new company Logan Medical Devices, with CerSci Therapeutics’ owner among the members on the board of directors.
Markle, who led the team, said the group won top honors at the Capstone Design Conference held at the University of Ohio in June. There, the team presented their senior design project.
Initially, the group worked on a device that would help patients without the ability to control their bowel movements, an issue faced by 10 percent of the U.S. population.
“Our project was to develop a rectal array injection device and what this (impacts) is currently there’s a problem out there called fecal incontinence,” he said. “Fifty percent of nursing home residents (are) affected.”
Markle said he chose this particular project from a list provided in his senior design class because he was interested in designing medical tools.
“I just think the biomedical area is really rife for improvement right now, especially with all the strides we’ve made … including novel concepts like 3-D printing, where you can easily fabricate parts that are groundbreaking,” Markle said.
Team member and biomedical engineering graduate student Rashed Rihani said the fact they worked with CerSci, which is a start-up, gave them an advantage in the process of building the prototype.
“What stood out is that (CerSci) was a local company, so what that meant to us was we would get a bit more freedom,” he said. “With the bigger companies… they would make sure you couldn’t really talk to anyone about it. It was easy to communicate back and forth.”
However, mechanical engineering graduate student and another team member Yara Almubarak, said the process didn’t come without challenges.
“When (we started) … we had to create all these drawings and (figure) out the movements (and) degrees of freedom of the design,” she said. “It took us I think a month or two months for us just to figure out how we’re going to get the mechanism to move. That was a big issue.”
Although the team presented their design in June, Logan Medical Devices was incorporated in May and Markle began working at the company to modify the prototype to help a larger demographic.
The focus switched from treating fecal incontinence to addressing hemorrhoids since it affects a portion of the population three times greater, Markle said.
“One of the main things was retooling the device based on some early customer feedback,” he said. “We went from the dual trigger system to a single trigger system just because people thought it was confusing when they (grabbed) it.”
Since then, Markle been cold-calling gastroenterology clinics, applying to Small Business and Innovation Research grants and preparing to interface with doctors at the American College of Gastroenterology conference in October to build support for the hemorrhoid model of the device.
Markle said he grew up watching his father, who was an entrepreneur, choose projects he believed would have a “huge potential payoff.” He said he felt the same way about designing the medical device with his team.
“I really believed in the project as soon as I saw that on the list, that was that number one pick and I didn’t want anything else,” Markle said.