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IDEA Labs develops culture of innovation at Washington University

Host Don Marsh was joined by (from L to R) Erica Barnell, Cliff Holekamp and Ian Schillebeeckx.
Alex Heuer
St. Louis Public Radio

Founded in 2013, IDEA Labs is a bioengineering design and entrepreneurship incubator at Washington University in which engineering and medical students work on unmet needs in healthcare to present entrepreneurial solutions.

Some of their primary objectives are to develop a culture of innovation at Washington University School of Medicine, and to teach engineering and medical students the skills and processes needed to invent and implement new biomedical technologies.

IDEA Labs was created by students at Wash U. Students are not paid or given academic credit for the program. It’s funded by partnering corporations and assistance from expert entrepreneurs.

Cliff Holekamp, director of the Entrepreneurship Platform at the Olin School of Business, explained that a group of five or six students from different schools at the university form teams that address a specific health care need. Each student provides his or her specific skill set, such as engineering or medical expertise, to address the problem.

Ian Schillebeeckx, vice president of IDEA Labs, said that the entrepreneurial market in St. Louis is supportive of student projects.

Erica Barnell, a medical student and team leader of IDEA Labs, is working with a team to create a non-evasive method for detecting colon cancer.

“Currently, we have an internal review board, which allows us to conduct clinical trials at Washington University,” Barnell said. “We’re developing our pilot study right now to differentiate between people with cancer and people without cancer.”

In the last two years, IDEA Labs has been responsible for creating nearly 35 companies, Holekamp said. A list of IDEA Labs’ current projects on can be found on their website.

Related Event:

IDEA Labs Demo Day Showcase

  • When: Friday, May 1, 2015 6:00p.m.-10:00 p.m.
  • Where: CIC in Cortex Complex, 4240 Duncan Ave

More information

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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