While many college students hope to find a job with any company upon graduation these days, a second-year Case Western Reserve University medical student has already raised $100,000 for his own medical device start-up.
Rick Arlow and partner Zachary Bloom, a recent Case graduate in healthcare economics, started LifeServe Innovations LLC to capitalize on a market opportunity that Arlow found while talking to paramedics and emergency physicians about on-the-job challenges.
Arlow, a 23-year-old former volunteer emergency medical technician, discovered that many medical workers aren’t happy with the emergency airway access tools available on the market. In cases of severe trauma when a paramedic can’t access an airway by conventional means, the only choice is to cut open a patient’s throat and insert an air tube to deliver oxygen.
Arlow and Bloom founded LifeServe at based upon their undergraduate work at Lehigh University with the aim of giving emergency workers better devices to conduct the life-saving procedure. During the product development process, LifeServe was inspired by the way snakes bite their prey and designed its devices to mimic snakes’ fangs. The results were two devices that are still in preclinical testing — the Cobra Tracheostomy and the Viper Cric — each designed to perform a different airway-access procedure.
Though LifeServe still is squarely in its early stages, and its devices are only being tested on cadavers, the company has made impressive progress. In May, it was awarded $25,000 in grant money and services after winning an entrepreneurship award from LaunchTown, an Akron-based program that recognizes students who come up with strong ideas for businesses.
That triumph brought LifeServe to the attention of BioEnterprise, a Cleveland nonprofit that helps local healthcare companies with business development. For the last few months, the organization has helped LifeServe identify potential sources of grants and conduct market research, said BioEnterprise development director Chris Sklarin. So far, Sklarin likes what he’s seen of LifeServe and Arlow, calling him "an interesting and thoughtful person," though stressing the company is still in its very early stages.
LifeServe hasn’t done enough research to determine whether its potential market is large enough to support a company, or if its products would more appropriately be sold into a larger company’s portfolio, according to Sklarin. There is, however, a market need for the airway access devices the company is pursuing, he said.
The devices are likely to be of interest to the military if LifeServe can prove they’re better than what’s currently on the market.
In the meantime, Arlow plans to continue gathering preclinical data and seeking sources of investment and finding partners to help test the device when — and if — it’s cleared for use in humans. There’s that little matter of completing med school, too.