A Laparoscopic Windshield Wiper
Health Innovation Award: ClearCam
Dell Seton Medical Center’s John Uecker performs about 350 laparoscopic surgeries a year and was frustrated by constantly having to stop surgery to clean the camera lens. Cleaning the lens meant breaking concentration; removing the camera from the patient’s body; cleaning the lens of blood, fat and condensation; and re-inserting the scope and finding his position to resume the surgery.
Believing there had to be a better way, in 2016, Uecker, an associate professor of surgery, approached Chris Rylander, an associate professor in UT’s departments of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.
Rylander recruited then-Ph.D. candidate Chris Idelson to co-invent a solution. Rylander and Idelson were intrigued by the shape of the Slurpee straw, and after more than a year of development, Uecker began testing their prototype.
In the fall of 2017, the creation was patented, and Doug Stoakley, an entrepreneurial adviser with the Innovation Center at UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering and a longtime technology executive, became interested in the project.
When it came time to form a company in 2018, Uecker became chairman and CEO of ClearCam. Stoakley became president and chief operating officer. Idelson, a newly minted Ph.D. at Dell Med, became vice president of engineering/research and development. And Rylander became ClearCam’s chief technical officer.
Related Story: “Slurpee Straw Inspires Surgery Innovation.”
Defeating Cancer by Enhancing Immunity
Startup of the Year: Kyn Therapeutics
Tumors cause a number of structural and chemical changes in the surrounding cells and tissues, referred to as the “tumor micro-environment,” changes that promote tumor survival. George Georgiou, professor of chemical engineering and molecular biosciences, founded Kyn Therapeutics Inc. in 2016 to reverse these changes and allow immune cells to reach the tumor.
In 2019, Kyn Therapeutics, based in Boston, entered into a global strategic collaboration with Celgene to develop novel immuno-oncology therapies. Georgiou is co-inventor of more than 120 issued and pending U.S. patents licensed to 29 pharmaceutical and biotech companies. He has been named one of the top 100 chemical engineers of the modern era by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and in 2013 he was selected as one of the top 20 translational researchers by Nature Biotechnology.