IowaMADE: Bringing university-made products to market

A new company is aiming to bring products developed at the University of Iowa from concept to commercialization.

IowaMADE is a manufacturing and e-commerce initiative by the University of Iowa that encourages the University of Iowa community to bring innovative, need-based products to market with the goal of enhancing economic development at the university.

“The way that we bring products in is that the faculty researchers generally have developed it for their own use that they see need clinically and decided they needed to be addressed,” said Jordan Kaufmann, director of start-ups for UI Ventures. “They’ve worked through a lot of the early development work. And then our student team onboards it. We bring it on, look at the design, we scale it for manufacturing purposes.”

“Our target with this is to help get some of these pieces out there. A lot of them are a more niche product that are very useful,” Kaufmann said. “We see this as an opportunity to bring it from the research realm to the people that actually need it and would benefit from it.”

IowaMade’s first product on the market, the Abrons Oral Airway, is an articulating oral airway that can provide improved airway access for difficult to intubate patients.

AOA Open and Closed
The Oral Abrons Airway. Photo courtesy of IowaMade.

“I was sitting in a room as an anesthesia resident, thinking about ways to make it easier to mass ventilate people and the idea just came to me,” said Dr. Ron Abrons, associate professor of anesthesiology at the University of Iowa and creator of the Abrons Oral Airway. “I wrote it down on piece of paper I still have.”

The Abrons Oral Airway is approved for use, is currently available for purchase and is about halfway through clinical trials.

“I think it’s really cool that this is truly a joint venture with the university that a lot of people are part of, not only the professionals, but students as well,” Abrons said. “Last summer I had three biomedical engineering students working on the project. And now we’ve got more Iowa students working on the marketing side and the production side of things. So I think one of the cool things about is, not only is it an economic commercial adventure, but it’s also an educational one.”

The program’s second product, the Sindt Opthalmic Spatula, is an improved spatula device for ophthalmic use, was introduced just a few weeks ago.

The Sindt Opthalmic Spatula. Photo courtesy of IowaMade.

Future plans?

Kaufmann says they hope to release a new product about every six months depending on the type of technology coming though.

“We would like to expand beyond medical devices and include more of campus research that’s going on,” Kaufmann said. “So we have plans to expand out and include other areas such as nursing, and engineering and art as well.”