Carle Illinois student-led biomedical incubator AxisMED expands impact

August 3, 2022
Beth Hart
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A Carle Illinois College of Medicine peer-to-peer biomedical incubator for business-minded students is expanding its impact on health care entrepreneurship. AxisMED, a student group that has helped launch several successful start-up teams, is recruiting medical students and students in other disciplines to learn how to create their own med-tech enterprise this fall.

AxisMED was founded by Carle Illinois medical students Alexander Smith, Alexander Teague, Ariana Barreau, and Diana Wu in 2021 to provide an entry point for students to gain experience with the process of ideating, inventing, and then building new technologies and ventures. “Our program provides direct exposure to challenges facing medical professionals and helps students find translational approaches to solve these problems,” explained co-founder Al Smith, an MD/PhD student at Carle Illinois College of Medicine.

AxisMED connects aspiring student entrepreneurs from different disciplines across the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus to form teams, with the goal of launching new health care-related companies and non-profits. Their innovations are based on ideas from team members. Teams attend workshops and present their designs in periodic design reviews led by AxisMED leaders during the nine-month program, culminating in a ‘demo day’ in which teams showcase their work toward developing new med-tech companies. “By the end of the curriculum, teams are ready for further incubation or acceleration and are encouraged to fundraise through various sources, pitch to venture capitalists, and make their ideas a reality in the medical field,” Smith said.

AxisMED has established a track record of success with three of its first five teams. Nephra a start-up focused on improving care for dialysis patients, served as a trial team for the AxisMED program. The team found success through their participation in the iVenture Accelerator program at the Gies College of Business and went on to tie Ferritiva for second place in the COZAD New Venture Challenge. “These successes proved the need and potential for a longitudinal AxisMED program, and we moved forward with a 2021-2022 academic year cohort,” Smith said.

<em>Jeffrey Lu of Team Ferritiva at the iVenture Demo Day 2022</em>
Jeffrey Lu of Team Ferritiva at the iVenture Demo Day 2022

In 2022, AxisMED-supported Teams Ferritiva and Voca joined Nephra in garnering accolades and financial support in the Cozad New Venture Challenge at UIUC. Ferritiva’s plan for a saliva-based at-home test for iron deficiency anemia also took second place and won more than $30,000 in support, and then went on to participate in the iVenture Accelerator program through Gies College of Business. Team Voca’s app designed to analyze voices to help manage diagnosed voice disorders and prevent the onset of future complications also won two awards and prize money in the Cozad Challenge. Both teams credit AxisMED with helping launch their success and prepare for the next steps. “With feedback from advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship about once a month, my team was able to pivot on certain ideas we originally had and pursue other ideas we had not necessarily considered heavily,” Voca Team Leader Shreya Rangarajan said.

AxisMED leaders are now recruiting students for their 2022-23 cohort. A medical student from Carle Illinois will lead each team, supported by team members from across campus. “For medical innovation, we’ve found it’s important to have more of a clinical focus, including mentorship and advising heavily geared toward medicine-specific innovation,” Smith said. To learn more about the application process, contact AxisMED.