Tech capstone team wins ACC Inventure

Students of the carSeal BME capstone team recently won the 2022 ACC Inventure prize. The award, which was given at the 2022 ACC Inventure conference at Florida State University, comes with $15,000 for the team to continue development. // Photo courtesy of bme.gatech.edu

Earlier this month, a group of BMED students was awarded the 2022 ACC Inventure prize. The ACC Inventure event, much like the Georgia Tech equivalent, is an interdisciplinary innovation competition between students who have developed a novel device they wish to use to pursue an entrepreneurial endeavor. 

The Inventure prize, awarded at the yearly show, is designed to, according to the Inventure prize website, “bring together student innovators from all academic backgrounds in an effort to foster creativity, invention, and entrepreneurship.” 

The Institute hosts an Inventure prie for Institute students, but there is also an ACC Inventure competition between all the best devices from participating ACC Universities and Institutes. Competition is extremely fierce, and this year, a team from Tech, composed of Shovan Bhatia, Joshua Cruz, Nicholas Lima, Derek Prusener, and Giancarlo Riccobono, was crowned with 1st place in the competition, and the $15,000 prize that comes with it to help fund the teams subsequent efforts to further develop and commercialize their product. 

The device was developed in conjunction with the Mayo clinic, and was intended to assist surgeons in sealing vessels. “The device we’ve developed is a ‘vascular closure device’ designed specifically to close punctures made in the carotid artery during endovascular procedures”, said Josh Cruz, fourth-year BME and member of carSEAL, the winning team. 

“Surgeons have begun to treat people having strokes with a procedure called a thrombectomy, which is just medical-speak for removing a blood clot. Surgeons currently perform this procedure by puncturing the femoral artery in the leg, then navigating the necessary devices through the patient’s vessels to the site of the blood clot near the brain,” said Cruz. “20% still fail due to patient’s vessels being too twisted. Therefore, the device we’ve created a vascular closure device made specifically to close the carotid artery during endovascular procedures for stroke interventions.” The project was sponsored by the Mayo clinic, and so the team needed to work and communicate directly with Mayo staff, whether virtually in person. 

The team was able to commute to the Mayo clinic’s Florida campus, flying out multiple times to meet with doctors and staff to discuss carSEAL. 

“We had the opportunity to visit the Mayo Clinic campus down in Jacksonville, FL multiple times over the last few months. While it wasn’t always easy to leave school during the middle of the week, it was a blast getting to fly down there, watch neurosurgeries, talk to some of the top doctors in the world, and do validation testing in their simulation center” said Cruz. Once finished, the team presented the device to the Institute’s fall Inventure expo in fall, and successfully won the best overall project at the event. 

While an impressive accomplishment, the team was beyond thrilled to win the spring ACC Inventure expo’s first place award, an achievement which has not ever been accomplished by a Tech team in the 7 years it has been hosted. 

“While we were certainly nervous leading up to the actual broadcast, I think we all felt afterwards that we had been beyond prepared by our senior design classes here at Tech and we were really grateful to have had the opportunity to represent the school in the competition”, stated Cruz, “us winning was also a huge boost of confidence for us because it really validated what we’ve developed so far and has encouraged us to pursue it more fervently going forward.” 

The team is composed of some of the brightest minds at the Institute, but ultimately attributed their success to their genuine enjoyment working together with one another. 

“Nobody knew everyone going into the project, so we all became very close and have been able to communicate very well over the past few months. This dynamic led us to divide up work pretty evenly and to trust one another at every step of the project”, noted Cruz. 

With the competition won and behind them, the team intends to use their winnings to further develop the product, compete in other events, and bring the product to commercialization as soon as possible after completing the necessary steps and procedures. 

“We’re really want to sprint through the FDA regulatory pathway as quickly as we can so that we can hopefully get our device into the hands of surgeons as soon as possible” exclaimed Cruz. 

With two substantial victories under the belts, it’s clear that the future is looking bright for the carSEAL team as they continue to navigate their product into the hands of doctors and surgeons capable of saving lives.