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IDEA Labs expands beyond St. Louis, seeks to create innovative solutions to medical problems

Sandor Weisz | Flickr | http://bit.ly/1VkvzmF
IDEA Labs is a bioengineering design and entrepreneurship incubator that sets university students solving real-world clinical problems.
Stephen Linderman, Ian Schillebeeckx and Erica Barnell of IDEA Labs joined "St. Louis on the Air" host Don Marsh.
Credit Alex Heuer
Stephen Linderman, Ian Schillebeeckx and Erica Barnell of IDEA Labs joined "St. Louis on the Air" host Don Marsh.

  By the end of this year, the American Cancer Society estimates that more than 49,000 people in the United States will die from colorectal cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths.

In 2015, Erica Barnell, the CEO of Geneoscopy, helped start a company that seeks to reduce the number of colorectal cancer deaths by expanding preventive screening through noninvasive methods.

“This past year we have successfully completed a pilot study where we evaluated 10 patients with colorectal cancer and 10 patients without colorectal cancer and we were able to identify a subset of biomarkers that are associated with the disease,” Barnell said.

The company is filing a utility patent to protect the screening technology.

Barnell and her team are just one of several companies that have come together with the help of IDEA Labs, a nonprofit started in 2013 at Washington University in St. Louis. IDEA Labs brings together “students, faculty, staff, and local entrepreneurs to tackle unmet needs in healthcare delivery and clinical medicine.”

On Monday, entrepreneurs will highlight their innovations at IDEA Labs Demo Day at CIC @4240 in the Cortex Innovation Community. Among many of the IDEA Labs’ companies is one that involves helping patients with PTSD with anxiety treatments. Another company is working on a more mobile EpiPen the size of a credit card. An EpiPen is a device that can reverse the effects of a variety of symptoms including some allergic reactions.

“IDEA Labs has really been growing far faster than anybody anticipated over the last three years,” said Stephen Linderman, the President of IDEA Labs National Network.  “We started out as medical students basically listening to clinicians complain about things that weren’t done very well in the hospital. We would have ideas for ways to improve it but no traction or ability to prototype and develop these designs that we were thinking of,” he said.

The president of the St. Louis chapter, Ian Schillebeeckx, said about 150 students are both leading and running the nonprofit.

IDEA Labs brings together teams of medical, engineering, and business students and the organization has expanded beyond Washington University. It is now a national network that also operates in Boston, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis.

With companies and areas such as the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Cortex Innovation Community, and Monsanto, it’s no secret that St. Louis is one of the country’s hubs for biotech development. That fact isn’t lost on Linderman.

“Being in a city that didn’t have nearly as much biotech entrepreneurial presence five or eight years ago has been a great feeding ground for IDEA Labs to be able to form and grow with the city and the entrepreneurial community,” Linderman said. “If we were to start in Silicon Valley or in Boston, I don’t think that IDEA Labs would have gotten off the ground.”

Related Event

What: IDEA Labs Demo Day
When: Monday, April 25 from 6:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Where: CIC, 4240 – 4240 Duncan Ave. - St. Louis, MO 63110
More information.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.
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