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Spartan Story: Nurturer

  • Author:
    Paula Davenport
  • Published:
    Fall 2017

A Cuddlier Cure

We check in with Alexa Jones as her medical device startup prepares to launch its first product--a treatment for infant jaundice

Q. The last time we caught up with you was in 2014, your senior year. Your team was showcasing a new idea for treating newborn jaundice at the College of Engineering’s Design Day. Are you still pursuing it? A. Yes. We’ve created a company called TheraB Medical Products and are developing our first product—SnugLit. It’s a wearable device that treats infant jaundice through embedded blue light phototherapy. It’s used within the first week of an infant’s life both in hospital and at home.

Q. Hospitals have long treated jaundiced newborns by placing them in incubators under bright, blue light. How is SnugLit different? A. In addition to being wearable, SnugLit is portable and battery operated. This allows for uninterrupted maternal-infant bonding and breastfeeding all while a newborn is undergoing continuous phototherapy. Additionally, it covers all sides of the infant’s body, instead of just one side. The product makes at-home phototherapy much less stressful. My mom said she would have loved a product like this when I was born, since I had to stay in the nursery alone for several days after she was discharged. We believe SnugLit will be a more soothing solution for many families in similar situations.

Q. Where is SnugLit on the entrepreneurial timeline? A. We are currently in our final stages of product development with our engineering partner. Within the next six months, we’ll complete development and testing to prove efficacy and safety. We’re classified as a Class II medical device, which means the SnugLit will require FDA approval. But we don’t have to go through years of clinical trials like a new drug would.

Q. You’ve obviously invested a lot of time and energy on this over the last three years. Give us an idea of what you’ve done so far. A. The initial idea was inspired by an engineering course at MSU. While enrolled in the class, our team decided to also participate in a business boot camp for tech products. Since then, we’ve worked relentlessly to create the best product for future customers. In addition, we consulted with more than 200 nurses across eight Michigan hospitals on our design. More recently, we’ve been pursuing partnerships to eventually be able to distribute our product outside of the U.S.

Q. I understand you have a manufacturer working on the final SnugLit prototype. What else do you need to move forward? A. Well, we’re fortunate to have had support from Red Cedar Ventures and Quantum Medical. Now we’re seeking an additional $750,000 of investment capital to get us through testing, FDA approval, and launch.

Q. Do you ever get discouraged? A. At times, but it helps to speak with moms or nurses who have experienced phototherapy and can passionately talk about how our product will benefit them.

Q. What advice would you give students who are curious about entrepreneurship? A. Go for it! Use the resources available to Spartan entrepreneurs—both on campus and through the vast network of alumni. And even if you don’t have an idea yourself, you can partner with other people looking for co-founders.