The Georgia Tech Alumni Association has launched a new 40 Under 40 awards program that highlights Tech alumni who have innovated industries and positively impacted communities across the globe. More than 250 individuals were nominated by colleagues, peers, and Georgia Tech faculty this April. Ten biomedical engineers made the list, and we applaud all the work they are doing to make the world a better place.
Arnab Chakraborty, BME 13 - Chief Technology Officer, Co-Founder | Flow MedTech International Corp.
Coming into Georgia Tech, Arnab Chakraborty wanted to be a cardiovascular surgeon. But it was through Tech’s biomedical engineering program that he realized an even bigger calling. Now, he’s developing medical devices with the potential to save thousands of lives. After graduation, he co-founded Flow MedTech, which led to the development of a heart implant that reduces the risk of stroke in atrial fibrillation patients. The biomedical startup has been recognized internationally for its innovations in the field. Arnab and his team decided early on to seek out and learn from other entrepreneurs. “Our team has found out how rare it is to find people who’ve grown their businesses from nothing and truly had to learn, experience, and assemble each piece of the business puzzle to succeed. I’ve loved learning from them,” he says.
Allen Chang, BME 08 - Project Engineer | NuVasive
The bionic man of the future may be closer than we realize thanks to Allen Chang. Allen co-founded Vertera Spine, the first company to develop a patented process for creating a porous biomaterial similar to bone. In 2017, Vertera Spine was acquired by NuVasine. Since then, Allen has continued his work as a project engineer. To date, three spinal fusion product families have launched featuring the synthetic bone that he created. He is continuing to develop the technology with new products that are transforming spine surgery and improving patients’ lives.
Christopher Hermann, BME 06, MS ME 11, PhD BioE 12 - Founder & CEO | Clean Hands-Safe Hands
Christopher Hermann knows that engineers and healthcare providers don’t always speak the same language. The result can be a well-intentioned medical product that gets lost in translation and fails to deliver for the end-user. The first example that Christopher saw of this was as an undergrad at Tech. He was working closely with a surgeon to develop a new technique for a total knee replacement. “I remember the first time he performed the new procedure and quickly discovered the surgical implants that the engineers designed would not even fit in the incision,” he says. Christopher became a physician with an engineering background to help him provide solutions to bridge that disconnect. In 2008, he turned to healthcare-associated infections and learned that hand hygiene was a major contributor. He started and led a multi-intuitional research consortium (Georgia Tech is a member) that developed the core technology used in Clean Hands – Safe Hands. Using sensors in badges and on sanitizers and soap dispensers, the technology gathers data about handwashing and helps improve hand hygiene in healthcare facilities. Over 10 years, the research team has secured more than eight state and federal research grants totaling more than $3.2 million.
Shawna Khouri, BME 12, MBID 14 - Managing Director, Biolocity | Emory University & Georgia Institute of Technology
Shawna Khouri helps unlock the potential of innovative medical technologies by ushering them from idea to commercialization. As the managing director of Biolocity, a joint incubator from Emory University and Georgia Tech, Shawna has screened more than 250 technologies in devices, diagnostics, therapeutics, cell manufacturing, and health IT. Under her leadership, the organization has funded 42 technologies resulting in 22 startups, two licenses to industry, and three products currently on the market. She also coaches national clients in commercialization including the National Institutes of Health, and she has mentored NIH-backed projects in business development and strategy. “For every project and startup I work with, I get inspired by the patients…whose lives will be saved, and pain alleviated by bringing these innovations into the clinic,” she says.
Chris Lee, PhD BME 12 - Founder | Woodbridge Foundation & Chairman & CEO | Huxley Medical, Inc.
Early in his career, Chris Lee turned down a six-figure consulting job to work at a startup. In the short-term, he says it was a terrible financial decision. But in the long-term, the learning experience was exactly what he needed when he started his first company, Vertera. Now, Chris is a serial entrepreneur in the medical technology field with two successful companies (Vertera and Huxley Medical), which he started with Georgia Tech professors. Beyond his ventures, Chris mentors others who aspire to start their own companies. He serves as an advisor and seed investor for seven healthcare technology startups, four of which were founded by fellow Tech alumni. After the acquisition of his first company, Chris founded Woodbridge Foundation to support students and researchers with starting their own healthcare companies. His advice for students is to study what interests them. “My success started when I ignored the expectations for me and focused only on the opportunities that excited me. It has made all the difference in the world,” he says.
Kamil Makhnejia, MBID 15 - Co-Founder, COO | Jackson Medical
Starting from an early age, Kamil Makhnejia saw his mother, a skilled nurse, selflessly care for her patients. She set the example for hard work and purpose that led Kamil into the healthcare field and inspired him to find ways to improve healthcare and make the industry safer for patients and staff. In 2016, he helped start Jackson Medical, which grew out of the startup ecosystem at Georgia Tech. Their flagship product, GloShield, has made operating rooms safer for more than 15,000 surgeries and is expected to be involved in 30,000 more this year. With their offices located in Tech Square, Kamil has maintained close connections to campus as a mentor to Tech startups, a guest lecturer at BME Capstone courses, and as an employer offering students internships and full-time positions.
Idicula Mathew, BME 17 - CEO & Founder | Hera Health Solutions
Idicula Mathew was drawn into Tech’s entrepreneurial community from the start. Although he was an engineering student, he spent much of his time at Tech at the Scheller College of Business soaking in the entrepreneurial spirit of like-minded students. Nearing graduation, he took a senior class project and helped turn it into a medical startup with fellow Tech alumni. As CEO of Hera Health Solutions, Idicula is bringing a first of its kind biodegradable implant for long-acting drug treatments to markets in the U.S. and abroad. The biodegradable implant does not need to be removed, thereby eliminating the expense and complications from removal procedures, which are an issue in the U.S. as well as in countries with fewer healthcare resources. Idicula and his team have already identified several areas where the technology could be useful including in contraception, cancer treatments, and veterinary care.
Ignacio Montoya, MBID 18 - Executive Director | HINRI Labs
Ignacio Montoya wants to find the cure for paralysis and get every person in a wheelchair walking again. And, he’s starting with himself. Seven years ago, Ingacio was in a car accident that caused a total spinal injury leaving him physically paralyzed. He woke up three months after the accident determined to walk again despite a bleak prognosis. But, Ingacio has beaten the odds before. At 6 years old, he escaped from Cuba with his family and nothing but the clothes on his back. He beat the odds again becoming a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force. And now, with a biomedical engineering degree from Tech, he’s leading HINRI Labs in the research of spinal cord injuries and testing, experimenting, and developing biomedical devices using his own body as a test subject. Ignacio recently became the first person to walk 650 miles in an exoskeleton-orthosis device suspended over a treadmill. He also recently drove the first-ever wheelchair adapted Ford Explorer with a one-handed double-piston joystick from Atlanta to L.A. Through his own body and indomitable determination, Ignacio is proving that recovery from a total spine injury is possible.
David Sotto, BME 09, PhD BioE 15 - Senior Strategy Officer | Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
At the Gates Foundation, David Sotto has helped shape the design of new and existing strategies across $6 billion in annual investments in service of the world’s most vulnerable populations. David’s focus has been on shaping the design of global health systems in areas of the world with the greatest need and advocating for policies and practices in the U.S. that create upward mobility and economic opportunities for the working class. David offers this advice for students: Learning for the sake of learning or doing for the sake of doing can only take you so far. “I often struggle with striking a healthy balance between seeking knowledge and taking action. However, my proudest moments in life have been when I've learned just enough to be dangerous and did something about,” he says.
Lauren Troxler, BME 12 - Staff R&D Clinical Engineer | Abbott
In five years, Lauren Troxler has already made a significant impact in the healthcare industry as a whole and in thousands of patients’ lives. In just that time, Lauren brought four life-saving products to the market that have led to treatments for more than 100,000 patients worldwide. Her work focuses on developing non-surgical treatment options for patients with leaky heart valves. When a diseased heart valve doesn’t close properly, it can allow blood to flow in the wrong direction causing life-threatening symptoms. At Abbott, her team works to bring devices such as a transcatheter device for patients who cannot undergo surgery and needs treatment to the market. She’s responsible for connecting real-life clinical needs to the product’s design and intended use. Lauren’s interest in cardiovascular health started at Georgia Tech as a researcher in the cardiovascular fluid mechanics lab. “Those four years gave me the confidence and expertise needed for my role at a leading healthcare company. They carved the path towards patenting designs and helping people in need by bringing about some of the world's first non-surgical treatment options for the forgotten tricuspid valve,” she says.
*All copy repurposed with permission from the Georgia Tech Alumni Association