Undergraduate wins $25,000 prize at Tuck competition

The Dartmouth

April 16, 2012

By James Peng

At the Greener Ventures Entrepreneurship Contest at the Tuck School of Business on Saturday, first-place finisher Alison Stace-Naughton ’11, who developed what was initially a prototype for an introductory engineering course into a practical tool to prevent tissue damage in endoscopic surgery, received a prize of $25,000.

The prize awarded to the company came from a pool of $50,000, which was split between the first, second and third place winners, as well as six honorable mentions, according to Stace-Naughton.

Stace-Naughton’s product is a vacuum-assisted tissue stabilization tool to help prevent stomach movement during endoscopic surgery. The device uses vacuum-driven suction to grab and stabilize organs while doctors perform surgery, according to Stace-Naughton.

Spiral-E is specifically designed for natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery, a minimally invasive procedure in which surgeons operate through orifices such as the mouth.

“We’re going to have less failures and better outcomes in the fastest growing area of minimally invasive surgery,” she said.

Stace-Naughton originally designed an initial prototype of the device with three other students for her Introduction to Engineering course, after which she consulted professors at Dartmouth Medical School for advice on how to improve the device’s design.

The product has already been tested in vitro on pig stomachs at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, though the device must also undergo in vivo testing inside live organisms to gain regulatory approval.

Stace-Naughton plans to raise around $400,000 to create a medical-grade prototype of the product, gain regulatory clearance and complete intellectual property filing.

“We are pursuing a highly capital efficient development strategy and looking for an early exit,” she said. “I know I’m not going to be competitive around the big players on my own.”

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