An Innovative Solution
June 6, 2012
Between finals and writing her honors thesis, Alison Stace-Naughton '11 Th'13 took a crash course in regulatory clearance and intellectual property rights. While she didn't receive course credit, her hard work paid off in other ways.
On June 21 she expects to take home a patent.
The young entrepreneur is now on her way to raising $400,000 to build a medical-grade prototype of her vacuum suction tissue stabilizing device, designed to prevent tissue damage during endoscopic surgery. In April, Stace-Naughton's innovation placed first in the Greener Ventures Entrepreneurship Contest hosted by the Tuck School of Business. A hefty $25,000 in prize money catapulted her ahead in her plan to land the device in operating rooms.
"I thought the contest would be a good experience to practice giving my pitch. Winning came as a complete surprise," says Stace-Naughton, president and manager of Spiral-E Solutions, LLC. "Thayer encouraged me to take charge of this opportunity and to file for the patent. There has been a lot of ifs along the way, but everything has worked out as planned. The company is off the ground and running."
Just 18 months ago, she invented the medical device, which she calls the Spiral-E Solutions Tissue Stabilizer, in her entry-level ENGS 21 class with three other students. Original founders Scott Snyder '00 Th'01, now a Dartmouth engineering Ph.D., Brenna Gibbons '12 and Ihab Basri '13, serve on the board of Spiral-E Solutions, LLC., while Stace-Naughton took a more active role—with guidance from a few key individuals—in establishing the company and achieving proof of concept.
"I couldn't have done any of it without the critical business development advice of Gregg Fairbrothers and Scott Schorer '90 Th'91," says Stace-Naughton.
Schorer, a medical device industry professional, and Fairbrothers, Tuck adjunct professor and founding director of the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network, connected Stace-Naughton with patent lawyers and clinicians at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center to perform an in vitro study on a pig stomach.
"Surgical procedures lack appropriate tissue stabilizing platforms, limiting surgeons' ability to effectively hold tissue and close the incision site without complications," she explains. "Our device uses vacuum pressure orders of magnitude to stabilize tissue around an incision and minimize tissue damage from any angle during surgery."
Next, Stace-Naughton plans to reach out to industry players like Johnson & Johnson, land an in vivo study, and finally, move ahead with an exit plan. Never once did she lose sight of her long-term career plans.
"I am hopeful that Spiral-E Solutions will continue," says Stace-Naughton. "But I plan to keep the company as a side project as I write my honors thesis on neuroscience engineering and go on to pursue a career in federal research."