Medical device startup Lapovations LLC of Fayetteville has received a $225,000 grant to complete the development of a device that’s expected to improve the safety of minimally-invasive abdominal surgeries.
Lapovations, which started as a part of a University of Arkansas entrepreneurship class, received a Small Business Innovation Research Phase I grant from the National Science Foundation. The UA on Wednesday (Feb. 27) announced the grant will allow the company to complete the development of AbGrab, a trademarked Class 1 medical device that’s used to non-invasively lift the adnominal wall at the start of laparoscopic surgery.
While major complications during the surgery are rare, when they do happen, they can be serious or fatal. Most often, the complications occur when instruments are first inserted into the abdominal cavity before the camera is inserted to provide visibility into the cavity. Surgeons, in order to minimize risk, lift the abdominal wall away from vital organs that could be inadvertently punctured during the first steps. They typically use two lifting techniques, but unlike those that use mechanical force, AbGrab uses suction and is more reliable and less invasive, according to a news release. Some of the projected benefits include better surgical outcomes, increased surgeon and patient satisfaction and decreased patient post-op pain.
Lapovations was established in the graduate-level New Venture Development Course taught by Carol Reeves, associate vice chancellor for entrepreneurship and innovation. The founding team includes alumni from the College of Engineering and the Sam M. Walton College of Business. Jared Greer, a 2018 graduate of the biomedical engineering department’s master’s program, is CEO of Lapovations, and while at the UA, the team, which also includes Walton College graduates Flavia Araujo and Michael Dunavant, received more than $300,000 in prizes from startup competitions across the nation. The sum was a record for a UA startup team.
Greer said key to the success of Lapovations was the ability to learn about engineering and business simultaneously.
“Our time at the UA was a critical contributor to what Lapovations has accomplished so far,” he said. “AbGrab was the focus of my biomedical engineering master’s thesis, so we worked closely with the department on early product development and testing. Department Head Dr. Raj Rao and Dean John English are doing a great job fostering an entrepreneurial spirit within the College of Engineering that allows companies like ours to flourish.
“Another key contributor to our success has been what we learned in the New Venture Development class taught by Dr. Carol Reeves in the Walton College. Dr. Reeves is a tireless worker who, with the support of Dean Matt Waller, has built Walton College into an entrepreneurial powerhouse. We are very fortunate to have resources like the Walton College and the College of Engineering that allow a cross-disciplinary group such as Lapovations to achieve success.”
Rao, head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, noted Greer’s success as positive for the program.
“We are really excited one of our alumni is actively pursuing the entrepreneurial route based on guidance and training obtained in our graduate programs,” Rao said. “Lapovations is a great example of the need to build an innovation ecosystem and graduate programs that will rely on collective expertise from engineering and business.”