Aggie team wins coveted Rice Business Plan Competition

Texas A&M M.D. Plus and engineering students won the grand prize at the Rice Business Plan Competition for their 3-D printed prosthetic leg devices
April 26, 2016

A student team from Texas A&M University won the grand prize at the Rice Business Plan Competition for its startup company TriFusion Devices. The startup has developed customizable, 3-D printed prosthetic leg devices that can be manufactured in hours instead of weeks, and would cost far less than anything on the market.

The TriFusion Devices team included Britton Eastburn, a medical student at the Texas A&M Health Science Center’s College of Medicine and Mays Business School, as well as engineering Ph.D. students Blake Teipel and Charles “Brandon” Sweeney. Eastburn is part of a select group of students participating in the M.D. Plus program at the Texas A&M College of Medicine that combines the M.D. degree with several other masters programs from across Texas A&M University.

They pitched their inexpensive, customizable 3-D printed prosthetic device technology to four separate panels of judges that included venture capitalists, angel investors, entrepreneurs, service providers and local business executives. The team developed a carbon nanotube-coated printer filament and a microwave welding process to fuse 3-D printed parts together, making them strong and durable. They can go from scans of a patient geometry to a finished device in less than 48 hours.

The Aggies collected four checks totaling nearly $400,000 at the competition, including the $300,000 Investment Grand Prize from the GOOSE Society of Texas; the $60,000 TiE Angel Investment Prize; the $25,000 Medical Device Accelerator Prize and the $10,000 Pearland Spirit of Entrepreneurship Prize. This was the first time a Texas A&M team won the competition.

More than $1.69 million in prize money was awarded to 42 companies at the event, which is the largest student-centered business plan competition in the world. The TriFusion Devices team beat out student startups from Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Dartmouth College, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Michigan, and multiple teams from international universities.

“Teaming up with Blake [Teipel] and Brandon [Sweeney] to compete at Rice and to launch TriFusion was arguably the best decision of my life (other than coming to Texas A&M of course),” Eastburn said. “I can’t imagine any better way to take what I learned through the MBA program and apply it to a future in medicine…in my eyes, this experience is a perfect example of why the dual degree program exists.”

— Katherine Hancock

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