Tompkins ties for first in Medical Device Entrepreneur’s Forum

July 20, 2018

 Landon Tompkins was awarded first place in the 7th Annual Medical Device Entrepreneur’s Forum at the American Society of Artificial and Internal Organs conference in June. The competition entails the development and presentation of a new product, which was then pitched to a panel of judges in a 'Shark Tank' style competition.

Tompkins is a student in the Interdisciplinary Studies in Translational Bioengineering (ISSTBE) PhD program. Through his research in cardiovascular technology, he developed the Uniti Connect, a suture-less anastomotic device, which was presented at the conference. Uniti is a less-invasive, cost efficient, quick connect system to attach an outflow graft to the aorta during a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) implantation procedure.

“They’ve used the same implantation techniques for a long time," said Tompkins. “This device quickly attaches the outflow graft onto the aorta without sutures. Uniti was developed to satisfy an unmet clinical need in LVAD implantations. It allows for a shorter, less-invasive, and overalls after surgical procedure.”

He was tasked with writing a short, 250-word, business plan that summarized the technology, it’s use, market size, and clinical need, etc. The top three submissions were selected for presentation at the conference. Tompkins gave a 10-minute presentation in front of a panel of judges, which ended with a question and answer session in front of the audience. The panel included an employee from the FDA, a cardiothoracic surgeon who has developed a lot of technologies, and a venture capitalist that specifically invests in medical devices.

Tompkins has primarily worked to build more efficient techniques for pre-existing treatments, and his work with the outflow connection on the LVAD is no different.

“The first thing really is to make a repeatable procedure. All you have to do is cut a hole and deploy this thing," Tompkins said. "The big selling point for a company or a hospital, is that it reduces operation time. It reduces any potential adverse effects and it will lead to better clinical outcomes for patients.”

Tompkins helped develop a company, titled MAST Inc., to help pitch the product. The company includes Tompkins' PhD chair Dr. Steve Koenig, Bioengineering Professor and Endowed Chair of Cardiac Implant Science and Dr. Mark Slaughter, from Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery. His pitch tied for first against a company from California developing a method of alleviating migraine headaches.

Initially planning to get into aviation, his educational and professional careers took a turn towards medical technology through his co-ops. Tompkins earned bachelor's and master's degrees in Mechanical Engineering. After graduation, he was employed by SCR Inc. Working with mechanical circulatory assist devices, Tompkins looked to the next step in his career, joining the Advanced Heart Failure Research Group at the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute in 2015. It was through his relationships there, primarily with Koenig, that he was encouraged to return for his doctorate in Bioengineering.

“The plan was to form a new company with Dr. Koenig and Dr. Mark Slaughter, who will be on my PhD committee, and a few other individuals," said Tompkins. "This is kind of the reason that I came back to get my PhD, so that I could continue the work that I did at SCR, but in a new venture.”

“Growing up, I was all about aviation. I wanted to be a fighter pilot. I was going to go into aerospace engineering. I ended up going into Mechanical Engineering, because someone told me it was a broader field of study,” said Tompkins. “I thought I was going to work for UPS in their Airlines division following my co-ops there, but my buddy was at SCR and they were looking to hire part-time help. I started working over there and got to know Dr. Paul Spence. We worked really well together. It turned into a great career in device development. I'm excited to continue that work after graduation.”