(June 5, 2012) -- Jordan Kaufmann, a recent biomedical engineering Ph.D. graduate of the UTSA College of Engineering, has won the University of Texas Horizon Fund Student Investment Competition and $50,000 in seed funding for developing a new stent-graft that has been shown to prevent aneurysm leakage following cardiovascular surgery.
Kaufmann developed her unique stent-graft as part of her doctoral research in biomedical engineering with faculty advisers Mauli Agrawal, dean of the UTSA College of Engineering, and Steven Bailey, M.D., division chief for cardiology in the School of Medicine of the UT Health Science Center San Antonio. Kaufman plans to use the prize money to help launch Cardiovate, a start-up to develop and market the new technology, which will be the only one of its kind in the $507 million cardiovascular stent-graft market.
"The development of Dr. Kaufmann's new stent-graft and the launch of Cardiovate is testament to the entrepreneurial environment that UTSA has developed in recent years," said Cory Hallam, director of the UTSA Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship. "The technology has the potential to prevent tens of thousands of aortic aneurysm ruptures, which will ultimately reduce health-care costs and complications for patients."
The UT Horizon Fund Student Investment Competition seeks proposals for promising technology‐based enterprise opportunities led by students from across all 15 University of Texas System institutions. Applicants are required to articulate the business and technical aspects of their venture ideas and communicate their ability to execute and succeed in the venture. UTSA held two of the four finalist spots in this competition.
"We are extremely proud of the work Jordan did in the laboratory while she was a doctoral student at UTSA," said Agrawal. "She is a wonderful ambassador of the UTSA College of Engineering, and we expect to see her doing many great things with Cardiovate and throughout the course of her career."
Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. suffer from an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Aneurysm rupture is the nation's 13th leading cause of death. Surgeons perform approximately 65,000 abdominal aortic aneurysm repairs annually.
In a surgical repair procedure called endovascular aneurysm repair, however, one of every six patients experiences stent-graft leakage from traditional stent-grafts in the month following surgery. Additionally, 20 to 30 percent of patients require an additional corrective surgery as much as six to eight years later.
While pursuing her doctoral degree in biomedical engineering at UTSA under the supervision of Agrawal and Bailey, Kaufmann developed a unique scaffold, which promotes tissue formation. The product, called a tissue-engineering scaffold for aneurysm repair (TESAR), creates a tissue barrier between the blood and the aneurysm after it is implanted. The scaffold promotes healthy tissue formation to repave the aneurysm wall. Once the scaffold is in place, the aneurysm stops expanding and the risk of rupture decreases. After new tissue is in place, the scaffold degrades and is safely reabsorbed by the body.
Kaufmann's TESAR stent-graft has been shown in the laboratory to reduce post-operative complications during aneurysm repair surgery, such as the need for additional corrective surgeries following the initial procedure. Also, the natural tissue is a better match for biological healing than the materials found in traditional stent-grafts.
"Through her efforts, Jordan has potentially improved outcomes for countless patients," said Bailey. "I am pleased to have mentored an up-and-coming scientist of her caliber, and I look forward to her future achievements."
Between now and March 2013, Kaufmann, Agrawal and Bailey will work together to refine the manufacturing of the TESAR, and they will test it to ensure it conforms to the highest safety and quality standards. The scholars expect to make the product available for licensing to a larger company in 2013. Ideally, it would be on the market for vascular surgeons to use shortly after being evaluated by the FDA.
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