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Postdoc Enrolls in M.S. in Medical Device Innovation Degree Program with Dreams to Change the World | Technological Leadership Institute

Posted on
June 21, 2016
Kenneth Karanja

Kenneth Karanja is the definition of an innovator.

With two master’s degrees, a Ph.D., three patents and more than a decade of academic research experience, he’s striving to be a pioneer in the medical technology industry.

While working as a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology in chemistry and chemical engineering, Karanja gained exposure to the concept of microfluidic diagnostic devices – medical products that require very small samples of blood to diagnose HIV/AIDS and malaria.

“These devices are small and inexpensive to make, so I wanted to find a way to use them in less developed countries in Africa and Asia.”

Karanja knew he needed additional skills to take his idea to market, and he said he saw the Master of Science in Medical Device Innovation (MDI) degree program as a means to help him develop these potentially lifesaving medical products.

“I wanted to stay in Minneapolis because of its reputation as a leader in the med tech industry. I wanted to gain more experience and exposure, and network with other professionals. I was looking at pharmacy and microbial engineering programs, but the qualified faculty and the 14-month length of the degree program were selling points of MDI.”

After his time at Caltech, Karanja joined the inaugural cohort of Medical Device Innovation students at the Technological Leadership Institute (TLI) in 2014. There, he learned about innovation, technology analysis and market research.

“I learned how to think outside the box and not take things at face value. Just because there may already be a product already existing in the market, there might be a way to make it more efficient or cost-effective. I learned how to go from an idea to a working prototype through our work in the (University of Minnesota) Medical Devices Center.”

Students in the MDI degree program complete coursework in technology innovation management, medical device innovation practica, medical technology macro environments, medical-technical subject specific electives and a capstone. In addition to the required core courses, students have the opportunity to explore areas of particular interest through medical-technical electives. The cohort-based model brings together 30 students from all areas of the industry, which allowed Karanja to enhance his skills in working with a team.

“There were people in class with different expertise and different backgrounds, so we could look at things in a different light,” Karanja explains. “I learned how to integrate ideas from different fields. MDI taught me how to look at problems differently and go about solving them differently.”

Karanja recently began working as a licensing associate at the University of Iowa Research Foundation. He works with faculty and staff to evaluate the intellectual property rights and commercial potential of medical device and clinical application ideas.

As for Karanja’s own microfluidic diagnostic device idea, it’s still in the licensing stage. However, thanks to the MDI capstone project assignment, he and his practicum group launched a startup, MAR2K Concepts, to develop a mobile app focusing on weight loss to help people with obesity, diabetes and other metabolic diseases. He hopes the software will be implemented soon because he truly wants to improve the health of others.

“The MDI program gave me a lot of experience working with ideas to develop solutions and bring products to the market, and the faculty offers you the opportunity to develop those ideas. MDI is geared toward creative, innovative problem solvers who want to see change in the real world.”

Karanja joins other M.S. in Medical Device Innovation graduates who have gone on to found startups, improve medical technology and make a difference in the community. If you’re interested in mastering end-to-end medical device commercialization, request information about MDI degree program.

I learned how to think outside the box and not take things at face value. Just because there may already be a product already existing in the market, there might be a way to make it more efficient or cost-effective. I learned how to go from an idea to a working prototype through our work in the (University of Minnesota) Medical Devices Center.

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