MDI Student Determined to Bring Prosthetic Device to Countries with Large Numbers of Amputees | Technological Leadership Institute

Posted on
December 28, 2016
Photo of George Daniel, a student in the 2017 cohort of the M.S. in Medical Device Innovation program

One of the most common reasons that students seek out the M.S. in Medical Device Innovation (MDI) degree program at the Technological Leadership Institute (TLI) is that they wanted to improve health care and quality of life without going through medical school. The rigorous leadership-focused, technology-driven program empowers students like George Daniel, a student in the 2017 MDI cohort, to transform their ideas into commercially successful products as rapidly and as effectively as possible.

After learning about the program as an undergraduate student, Daniel was certain that TLI’s MDI program could help his company, a start-up that is developing a prosthetic leg, identify international markets and attract investors.

“Being a physician was just not for me. I wanted to help people and going to med school was just not the path on which I was destined to be,” said Daniel. “It was much more gratifying to start applying (biomedical applications and principles) into real life, like medical devices.”

Originally from Geneseo, Illinois — a small town just east of Davenport, Iowa — Daniel followed his life-long passion for health care innovation by pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering at the University of Iowa. His undergraduate academic advisor — a former fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Medical Devices Center (MDC), with which MDI has a partnership, recommended the MDI program to Daniel to help achieve these goals. After reviewing the curriculum and the qualifications of faculty like Dr. Daniel Mooradian, Steven Webster and Sean Solberg, Daniel was convinced.

“The faculty really stood out and they seemed like the right people with whom to connect,” said Daniel. “Dan (Mooradian) has challenged me the most. Anytime I really need anything, Dan is my go-to guy. He’s especially challenged me to become a better writer.”

While working on his undergraduate capstone project, he and a group of fellow engineers designed an innovative prosthetic leg, and ultimately founded “Universal Prosthetics, LLC.”

The company’s business model — though still exploring distribution channels — is to send patients in India a low-cost prosthetic leg via mail that can be fitted at home. Their goal is to reach amputees in rural communities where access to a prosthetist would require long travel. Daniel used his engineering training to help develop the company’s first device, which is now patent-pending. He now travels on an almost-weekly basis to meet with industry leaders and investors lobbying on behalf of amputees in need of his new device.

“We call it the ‘Shoe Box Leg’ and it is custom-fit by the amputee,” said Daniel. “Now there’s no need for a prosthetist so that way we can treat people who have never been able to receive treatment before. A lot of people, even those below-poverty level, have access to mail so we can still mail it to them.”

As a result of the research he did in the MDI program’s Medical Industry Macro Environment class, Daniel learned about the challenges of launching medical devices in international markets. Using forecasting techniques and other tools like a PESTLE analysis, he assessed what would be required to introduce the shoebox leg in India, where there are large number of amputees in need of prosthetic limbs.

“India is, per capita, the world leader in diabetes and there is a lot of vascular disease that results in amputation,” said Daniel. “Amputating significantly handicaps a person to a point such that, unless they can access a prosthetic limb and afford to continually treat the disability, they significantly risk dying.”

The large unmet clinical need and potential impact on the quality-of-life for amputees is motivating Daniel and his team to bring their low-cost prosthesis to India and Daniel believes his MDI experience is helping him achieve that goal.

“This program is going to help me gain an appreciation for the complexity and importance of the medical device industry so I can be an effective leader.”

He and his team also hope to equip general, non-prosthetic clinics and organizations in India with the product to expand access amongst amputees. Their goal is to expand into other Asian countries with large numbers of amputees, whether as a result of health epidemics or effects of war. Health insurance in many countries does not cover prosthetics, making these countries attractive targets for products like Daniel’s “Shoe Box Leg.”

“I’m inspired by the fact that we can actually change a little sector in global medicine through our prosthetics,” said Daniel. “Being able to treat people that have never been treatable before is so promising. Everything I learn in MDI I try to apply to my company or future companies I hope to start.”

Students in the M.S. in Medical Device Innovation degree program study medical technology innovation management, take medical industry-specific electives and more. Attend an information session to find out how the Master of Science in Medical Device Innovation can give you the experience you need to advance your career.

I’m inspired by the fact that we can actually change a little sector in global medicine through our prosthetics. Being able to treat people that have never been treatable before is so promising. Everything I learn in MDI I try to apply to my company or future companies I hope to start.

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