This project was done for a class called NUvention. In it, students from the Law, Business, Medical, and Engineering schools team up to start a business based on a medical device. My team founded the company Neuvel. (logo designed by me)
Needs finding and research was a labyrinthine process. We watched brain surgeries, interviewed doctors, and practiced procedures on dummies. The final need came from something a medical student had observed independently: lumbar punctures. After exploring a myriad of ways lumbar punctures could be improved, we decided to enable doctors to use ultrasound while inserting the needle. We then assessed the market size and the patent landscape and judged it to be sufficient.
Lumbar punctures, also known as spinal taps, are a very common procedure used to diagnose various conditions. Essentially, the doctor is inserting a needle between two vertebra to extract a sample of cerebral spinal fluid. The process of finding the exact position and angle to puncture at is a difficult tactile technique learned by experience. My team decided to develop a better way.
We wanted the device to be able to hold many types of ultrasound probes in place on a person’s back. We also wanted the device to be disposable so minimizing parts and sizes were paramount. For such a device, a simple process is vital.
After many iterations of prototyping…
The final design fixes an ultrasound probe to the body using a belt, and can move in three degrees of freedom after that. To hold the probe inside a ball and socket, we developed a unique mechanism we called a snap-collet. We made a video to show how it works:
To top it all off, Neuvel was invited to the Rice Business Plan Competition – the largest and most prestigious business plan competition in the world. Though we didn’t win any major investments, I came away from it with a new respect for and love of entrepreneurship.