It’s safe to assume that the majority of the audience that attended this year’s Bay Area Biomedical Device Conference came for the latest updates on industry leaders in biomed innovation. We can also assume that they were pleasantly surprised by the impressive cadre of students (and tomorrow’s workforce) enrolled in San Jose State University’s (SJSU) biomedical engineering programs. The event, which was organized by the SJSU Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) chapter and led by Dr. Guna Selvaduray, included a full-day program entirely organized by students. And I mean organized! From introducing panel speakers to escorting lost attendees from the parking garage to the venue, this was one of the most professionally managedevents that we’ve attended. And with how many events we attend on a regular basis, that’s really saying something.

The program itself was content rich. Evidation Health’s Lesley Oley kicked off the morning talking about the company’s role in providing high-quality outcome data to determine which digital health care products are most valuable. Oley emphasized the need to focus on both efficacy and effectiveness (there’s a difference) and that biotech compensation is shifting ─ paying only for those who get better and not for those who don’t. She argued that the time is now for Evidation’s services, as nearly all patients are connected with healthcare being integrated into their daily lives. Simultaneously, healthcare is increasingly value-based.

Next up, Anne De Gheest of Healthtech Capital gave a thought-provoking presentation about current disruption in the healthcare industry. She mentioned that we are starting to see a transition from “sick care” to “health care,” as the industry faces increasing consumerization. To address this, her advice to biomedical startups is to make product intelligence a primary focus as the hardware itself becomes commoditized over time.

A series of parallel programs introduced the audience to emerging medical technologies. Featured presenters included entrepreneurs like Dr. Ambika Bumb, founder of Bikanta, whose particle discovery of “nano-diamonds” serve as cancer detection devices, or in layman’s terms, “flashlights with forever batteries.” Dr. Gregory Theyel from the Biomedical Manufacturing Network teamed up with Emmanuel Abidodun of PeerNova to explain Block Chain as it relates to Biomedical Value Chains and traceability. This topic has been a quest for Dr. Theyel who wondered why there is varying success with two artificial knees in the same patient. Dr. Ryan Steger from Intuitive Surgical talked about numerous devices that are “making surgeons super-human.” These range from the da Vinci Surgical System to imaging and visualization tools such as the “firefly night vision”, less invasive surgery techniques, and virtual training tools.

The final panel of the day, comprised of three successful CEOs – Paul Cirico from Silver Bullet Therapeutics, Suresh Pai from LamaMed Solutions, and Maurino Flora of Chrysalis Medical Inc.─ focused on how to bootstrap fund your medical device company. Key nuggets of advice included:

  • Focus on building your product line and keep it going, understand trade-offs of VC funding, and over-communicate with investors. (Cirico)
  • Borrow money from real people, or “super angels” (Pai)
  • Be prepared to answer the question, “Are you prepared to spend your own money?” (Nothing says commitment like a 2nd mortgage!) And, be sure to protect your idea with a provisional patent followed by incorporation. (Flora)

All three panelists agreed on the same “must-have” check list for entrepreneurs who are contemplating taking the plunge: passion, the lifestyle choice to be your own boss, and certainty that the urge is part of your DNA.

Bikanta CEO, Dr. Ambika Bumb is acknowledged by SJSU BMES student volunteers and Dr. Folarin Erogbogbo, biomedical engineering assistant professor at SJSU.