From July 2016 to the end of January 2017, TREAT Entrepreneur Fellow Shailly Jariwala was immersed in the world of device commercialization for rehabilitative and assistive technologies. Working closely with TREAT mentors, she internalized TREAT’s commercialization methodology and helped advise TREAT clients with their own go-to-market strategies. Among other learning opportunities, she developed educational materials for TREAT, including an article on reimbursement strategy. Prior to TREAT, she received a doctorate in biomedical engineering at Syracuse University and was a postdoctoral fellow at Pennsylvania State University. Read on to learn about Dr. Jariwala’s experience as a TREAT Entrepreneur Fellow.
My name is Shailly Jariwala, and I am passionate about turning innovative engineering solutions into value for patients. While completing my doctorate in Biomedical Engineering at Syracuse University, I became involved in a project to develop a novel bone-cement for treating vertebral compression fractures. Bone-cement, comparable to grout or putty-like material, is used to affix implants or prostheses to bone. My research resulted in cement that presented a novel solution, but was limited to my dissertation and not translated for any clinical use.
Moving ahead in my career, I therefore decided to affiliate myself with translational research opportunities. As a postdoctoral fellow at Pennsylvania State University, I was part of a clinical trial study that involved modifying the design of a fracture fixation device to enable monitoring of bone healing in patients with traumatic tibial (shin) fractures. Seeing the device being successfully used in a clinical trial was a very satisfying and fulfilling experience. However, I was hungry to learn more about the commercialization process involved in translating an idea from bench to bedside.
At the end of my postdoctoral fellowship, I was fortunate to reconnect with Dr. Andrew Darling, my professor from Syracuse University, who encouraged me to apply for an Entrepreneur Fellowship with the Center for Translation of Rehabilitation Engineering Advances and Technology (TREAT) that would allow me to gain that in-depth knowledge about technology commercialization. I was most enthused about being selected for this six month fellowship in which I would focus on both business development activities and product design aspects of several different projects.
I arrived in New Hampshire eager to start working and appreciating the wonderful New England scenery that I had so often heard about. My time was divided between the TREAT facility and one of TREAT’s member organizations, the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. At Thayer, I contributed to an ongoing project in Dr. Douglas van Citter’s laboratory that matched my bioengineering skills and also required commercialization assistance. At the TREAT facility, my first priority was to understand TREAT’s goals, areas of expertise, and learn key commercialization concepts in order to provide input to the program and its processes. By assimilating TREAT’s educational resources on Technology & Market Assessment (TMA), I quickly realized the importance of good customer discovery in the product design process.
I also learned about proper techniques for searching and evaluating patents related to a client’s product/new device. My mentor at TREAT, Scott Holson, provided orientation in the TREAT application and assistance process which enabled me to contribute early on in reviewing client abstracts and commercialization assistance grant proposals. Participating in TREAT meetings and observing client consultations helped in developing expertise and providing client assistance independently in various business model development activities such as: conducting customer discovery, developing value proposition, identifying distribution channels, key partnerships, and revenue streams, and developing regulatory and reimbursement strategies.
I was able to provide assistance with respect to customer discovery and business model development activities to approximately 7 TREAT clients over the course of my fellowship. One of the projects allowed me to conduct customer interviews and create a case summary which could be used as an educational tool for future TREAT fellows. I also participated in 2-3 client kick-off calls that helped identify the areas where clients required TREAT assistance and provided feedback for developing an assistance plan. Besides the client assistance activities, I also drafted education modules on regulatory and reimbursement strategies for TREAT’s educational resources, provided content and suggestions for future fellow training, and prepared content for TREAT’s newsletters.
What has been most unique about this fellowship is that I not only learnt business development at TREAT, but also learnt product design/development and regulatory process for a Class I medical device at Dr. van Citter’s lab at Thayer. I was a project lead at Thayer for manufacturing and regulatory testing of an intra-osseous infusion needle placement guide. It was a great experience collaborating with manufacturers and regulatory consultants to develop device prototypes, design and conduct non-clinical device testing, and develop sterilization and packaging validation protocols. My work also involved writing a manuscript for the device design which will be submitted for publication to the ASME Journal of Medical Devices. I was also able to contribute to the laboratory’s ongoing medical device failure analysis and post-market surveillance activities.
It has been a full circle learning about customer discovery for product design at TREAT and applying this expertise to convert user input to product requirements for the Thayer project. The fellowship at TREAT/Thayer has most definitely broadened my understanding and knowledge about the various aspects involved in commercialization that were unknown to me previously as a biomedical researcher. This opportunity greatly refined my interpersonal skills which required maintaining an effective line of communication within my team and between external clients and manufacturers. It has helped me identify the areas within business and product development that I enjoy working in the most. I envision myself working as a Product Development Engineer in the medical device industry, and my time at TREAT/Thayer has helped me tremendously in moving closer to this goal.
For more information about the TREAT Entrepreneur Fellowship visit: https://www.treatcenter.org/service-resources/entrepreneur-fellowship/.