News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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March 10, 2010

Rose-Hulman Ventures celebrates its 10th anniversary

TERRE HAUTE — At Rose-Hulman Ventures, student-intern Erinn Sheridan has had an opportunity to work on a potentially lifesaving product that will quicken the diagnosis of kidney failure.

She and other project team members have been working on the prototype for FAST Diagnostics of Indianapolis.

Indiana University’s School of Medicine developed and patented the initial concept. FAST Diagnostics licensed it and is now working to take the product to market, with the help of Rose-Hulman Ventures.

Once on the market, the product could help save lives through early detection of kidney failure.

Being involved in such an important project as an undergraduate student — and now a graduate student — “is incredible,” Sheridan said. “The fact that I can make a difference in people’s lives is really kind of special.”

It’s just one of many success stories at Rose-Hulman Ventures, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Rose-Hulman Ventures, a program of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, meets engineering and product development needs of companies and gives students real-world, project-based experiences. It bridges the gap between research and the marketplace, working with companies primarily on a fee-for-services basis.

Through the years, Rose-Hulman Ventures has built and tested prototypes for many new products, including a breast biopsy device that is used in more than 600 medical facilities across the United States.

  Rose-Hulman Ventures also has been involved in the development of a minimally invasive neurosurgery device for NICO Corp. of Indianapolis. Used to remove brain tumors, the NICO Myriad device gives surgeons significantly more control in shaving delicate tissue in a tight area. It has drastically cut operating room time and has made formerly inoperable conditions operable. It has saved lives.

  Brian Dougherty, the Rose-Hulman Ventures project manager for the NICO Myriad work, likes to tell parents of prospective Rose-Hulman students the following story. “Imagine you are 20 years old, and right before you walk in to take an exam, you get a call from your boss telling you a device you’ve worked on for the last nine months has … saved the life of someone who wasn’t supposed to survive.”

  Dougherty believes that kind of innovation is the key to the future of the U.S. economy. Rose-Hulman graduates, using their engineering and problem-solving skills, need to be the ones “driving companies that do this kind of thing,” he said.

Established through an initial $29 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., Rose-Hulman Ventures’ (RHV) operations fill a 35,000-square-foot facility on Rose-Hulman’s 180-acre South Campus along Indiana 46, five miles south of the main campus.

During the past 10 years, Rose-Hulman Ventures has provided the training ground for 757 students who have served in 2,325 paid internships serving 120 clients. An average of 70 student interns work on projects during the academic year and 80 student interns work on projects during the summer. Student intern teams are led by full-time project managers.

Rose-Hulman Ventures has worked with startup companies, while others are well-established, nationally known corporations.

“We’re doing some amazing things here,” said Mitch Landess, Rose-Hulman Ventures manager of client programs. Product development for the kidney failure and brain surgery devices “is just phenomenal stuff.”

Companies “cannot believe we have undergraduate-level students doing this work,” Landess said.

Jeffrey Hanthorn, co-founder, vice president and chief operating officer of NICO Corp., is familiar with the work of Rose-Hulman Ventures on the Myriad neurosurgery tool.

Hanthorn said a Rose-Hulman Ventures project team, under Dougherty’s guidance, “was able to able to take our concepts, thoughts and ideas and develop them to a point we could prove out if the devices and ideas were viable.”

Rose-Hulman Ventures’ work on early product development “was very helpful. We were able to do a lot of things and test them out quickly, and it was very cost-effective from our standpoint,” Hanthorn said.

The student-interns “had a level of enthusiasm that would be difficult to replicate anyplace else,” he said.

Sheridan has developed that enthusiasm while working on the kidney failure detection device.

Knowing that it could someday save lives, “It’s one of those things that it really gives you something to be passionate about,” she said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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