In 2008, a team of bioengineering students at the University of Pittsburgh used a media player, a few sensors, and a goat trachea to create a new kind of medical training device. Ten years later, Pitt engineers and clinical educators continue to improve on that idea. The prototype has evolved into advanced simulation-based healthcare training system for nurse anesthetists. It’s called the BodyExplorer.
Doug Nelson helped develop the technical capabilities of the BodyExplorer platform while working on his bioengineering doctoral dissertation at Pitt. He remembers early versions of the BodyExplorer being presented at medical conferences being well received.
“People began asking us how much is this worth? When can I buy it? How much is it? And it was at that point that we realized there was strong interest in this.”
Seeing commercial potential, the BodyExplorer team looked to see what programs the university might have that could help to further develop and market the system.
They applied to the Coulter Translational Research Partners II Program through Pitt’s Innovation Institute. The Coulter mission is to identify, select, develop, and commercialize promising projects undertaken together by bioengineers and clinical faculty that address unmet clinical needs and better patient care worldwide. BodyExplorer won funding and assistance with licensing, after competing with over 30 other applicants.
Doug Nelson talks to other entrepreneurs at the AlphaLab Gear hardware accelerator in Pittsburgh
BodyExplorer team also participated in the Innovation Institute’s Pitt Ventures First Gear program, which pairs inventors and investigators with experienced business mentors who guide them through a demanding customer discovery process. Nelson credits this guidance with helping to transform the initial prototype into an advanced standalone platform.
“It expanded BodyExplorer, allowing for scalability and additional learning modules to be added. And seeing that transition has added to our success.”
Today, the BodyExplorer is the first system of its kind that is fully self-contained, portable, durable, and can be operated by trainees 24/7 without an instructor present. With the BodyExplorer, medical students can practice more often, more easily, and on their own schedules.
Today, Doug Nelson is the CEO of Lumis Corp., a new company that aims to make advanced, simulation-based healthcare education more effective, affordable and available to students and healthcare trainees.
Doug did not plan to become an entrepreneur, but through his experience with the University of Pittsburgh’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem, he’s looking forward to making Lumis Corp. the region’s next successful startup.
Health care is not as safe as it could be. Human error is a common cause of adverse events in medical settings.
At the University of Pittsburgh, one company is using advanced simulators and augmented reality to help reduce those errors.
Medical training typically involves large rooms and a big staff, but with the BodyExplorer simulation system, students can practice procedures anywhere, anytime, even without an instructor.
Doug Nelson: “We’re not necessarily taking the instructors out of the loop and losing those opportunities, but we’re making the instruction more efficient.”
Doug Nelson began working on the BodyExplorer team while earning his PhD in bioengineering. His goal is to improve patient safety by making simulation-based training more accessible and easier to use.
Doug Nelson: “Clinicians can make errors in a controlled environment and no patient is harmed.”
At Pitt’s Innovation Institute entrepreneurs get help starting, growing and commercializing small businesses.
Doug Nelson: “Through my participation in that programming. I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug as they say.”
Doug didn’t plan to be an entrepreneur, but with the help of Pitt’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem he and his co-founders launched Lumis, the startup company commercializing the BodyExplorer.
The Innovation Institute provides a comprehensive suite of services for Pitt Innovators, from protecting intellectual property to the commercialization of new discoveries through licensing and/or new enterprise development. The Institute also provides a wealth of educational programming, mentoring and networking for Pitt faculty, students and partners.