When a class project challenged five senior biomedical engineering students to find and solve a medical problem, they decided to focus on newborns suffering from necrotizing enterocolitis — the most common and most dangerous intestinal disease among premature infants.
On a mission to save lives, the students quickly evolved the project into something more than just a graded assignment. It became one of UNC’s most recent student startups, Watchdog Medical.
“The startup originated out of the biomedical engineering senior culminating project," Watchdog co-founder Dhruv Shankar said. "All students have to go through this class and essentially everyone picks a specific area of medicine and shadows clinicians in that field."
The group chose to focus on neonatology and shadowed clinicians and nurses at UNC School of Medicine's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The concept for Watchdog Medical developed as the team spent time at the NICU researching the problems that kept newborns there the longest. After they brainstormed a list of different diseases and distilled possible solutions, the group decided to focus on necrotizing enterocolitis and began designing a device that would track the first signs of the disease.
“It took roughly four or five months for us to even narrow it down to this niche in health care," Shankar said. "It took, in fact, less time for us to design our product than it did for us to decide that this was the problem we wanted to focus on."