Stu­dent class project cat­a­lyst for cre­ation of inno­v­a­tive biotech instru­ment company

Boston, Mass. – Stu­dent projects that attract ven­ture cap­ital money and launch startup com­pa­nies are rare. A group of North­eastern Uni­ver­sity stu­dents have defied the odds when they helped to invent a biotech instru­ment that two years later turned into a com­pany. Cry­oX­tract Instru­ments, LLC, backed by invest­ment firm Allied Minds, Inc., has been launched based on tech­nology invented by North­eastern Uni­ver­sity stu­dents and Har­vard Med­ical School.

The tech­nology, called “Coring System for Extracting Frozen Bio­log­ical Sam­ples,” included the con­tri­bu­tions of four engi­neering stu­dents and their advising pro­fessor, as part of the Col­lege of Engineering’s Cap­stone Design Pro­gram, a two-​​semester pro­gram where stu­dents are assigned a project based on a problem pre­sented by an out­side sponsor and are expected to design a solution.

In this case, the problem was pre­sented by Dr. Dale Larson of Har­vard Med­ical School who devel­oped a frozen aliquotter instru­ment to extract small quan­ti­ties (aliquots) from vials of frozen biospec­i­mens in a high throughput manner without exposing the sam­ples to freeze-​​thaw cycles that can damage the bio­log­ical integrity of the sam­ples. Dr. Larson needed addi­tional coring tech­nology to per­form the extrac­tions at a high speed while pre­serving the integrity of the samples.

Under the tute­lage of Dr. Jef­frey Ruberti, Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Mechan­ical and Indus­trial Engi­neering at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, stu­dents John Slusarz, Erin Rush, Trevor Ehret and Nicholas Goulas designed and cre­ated a spe­cial drilling appa­ratus based on the project’s spec­i­fi­ca­tions. North­eastern and Har­vard worked together to pro­tect the inven­tion by filing an inter­na­tional patent appli­ca­tion that is cur­rently pending. Har­vard then approached Allied Minds with the idea of cre­ating a startup to com­mer­cialize the tech­nology. In order to fur­ther develop the tech­nology, bring it to market and pro­vide its ben­e­fits to the research com­mu­nity, North­eastern and Har­vard part­nered with Allied Minds to create CyroX­tract Instru­ments, LLC.

This Cap­stone project exem­pli­fies trans­la­tional research and col­lab­o­ra­tion using an inte­grated and cre­ative approach which incor­po­rates mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary resources and meets mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary needs,” said Dr. Ruberti, director of the Extra­cel­lular Matrix Engi­neering Research Lab­o­ra­tory at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. “I am proud of my stu­dents and hon­ored to be a part of this exciting project.”

It is very sat­is­fying to know that the arduous design work we put into this project, along with the long nights spent in the Cap­stone Lab, will be rewarded by enhancing the ability of med­ical researchers to dis­cover and develop new cures for dis­eases afflicting people around the world,” said Nicholas Goulas, now a Mechan­ical Engi­neer II at MKS Instru­ments, Inc. in Andover, MA.

The Cap­stone Design Course, directed by Pro­fessor Greg Kowalski of the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Col­lege of Engi­neering, is a senior-​​level team project design course that requires the stu­dents to use the knowl­edge they have accu­mu­lated from all of their engi­neering courses to solve a “real-​​world” engi­neering problem or to develop a viable product. With the men­toring and instruc­tion of the entire School of Engi­neering fac­ulty, this course con­cludes the engi­neering tech­nology Capstone’s aca­d­emic studies by solving an engi­neering problem that does not have an “answer in the back of the book”. Rather, the answer is deter­mined from the appli­ca­tion of good engi­neering analysis and judg­ment borne of Co-​​op and class­room experience.

This project is a prime illus­tra­tion of bridging the gap between prac­tice and class­room learning and research and devel­op­ment,” said Jef­frey L. Kosiba, Intel­lec­tual Prop­erty Man­ager in Northeastern’s Divi­sion of Tech­nology Transfer. “We are delighted to see the work and knowl­edge of our stu­dents used in a novel com­mer­cial endeavor, and to see them enter the work­force with such out­standing training and accomplishments.”

For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact Samantha Fodrowski at 617–373-5427 or at s.​fodrowski@​neu.​edu.

About North­eastern

Founded in 1898, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity is a pri­vate research uni­ver­sity located in the heart of Boston. North­eastern is a leader in inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research, urban engage­ment, and the inte­gra­tion of class­room learning with real-​​world expe­ri­ence. The university’s dis­tinc­tive coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion pro­gram, where stu­dents alter­nate semes­ters of full-​​time study with semes­ters of paid work in fields rel­e­vant to their pro­fes­sional inter­ests and major, is one of the largest and most inno­v­a­tive in the world. The Uni­ver­sity offers a com­pre­hen­sive range of under­grad­uate and grad­uate pro­grams leading to degrees through the doc­torate in six under­grad­uate col­leges, eight grad­uate schools, and two part-​​time divi­sions. For more infor­ma­tion, please visit www​.north​eastern​.edu.