In the United States alone, due to complications related to spinal cord injuries or neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, 7 million people have limited bladder sensation.
While studying at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Jared Meyers and Stephen Kalinsky developed a passion for helping this population. Together, the two founded Augment Health, a company with the singular mission of improving patients’ lives through the development of innovative medical devices.
The first of these, the neurogenic bladder management device, greatly improves the experience of those using a catheter. With a noninvasive connection between the catheter and catheter valve, users can monitor their bladder levels using a smart device, giving them greater independence with more control over their bladder health needs.
“When my grandmother was much younger, she experienced a spinal cord injury,” Meyers said in an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF). “Over the past few years, I’ve seen how her care has changed from a bladder health standpoint.”
This experience, combined with a chance encounter he had with a urologist while on a plane, led Meyers and Kalinsky to explore how they could help improve the lives of people with conditions that cause urinary complications.
Gaining Insight From Great Inventors
As the two developed their idea, they learned about NIHF’s Collegiate Inventors Competition® (CIC), a graduate and undergraduate competition where student inventors can network and pitch their innovations to a panel of Judges including NIHF Inductees. After first applying for the competition in 2020, Meyers and Kalinsky were accepted in 2021.
“The application process requires you to put together a lot of materials, and I think that helped us formulate our idea,” Kalinsky said. “The process helped us formulate our idea because you can make something but not have a good way to communicate it. Looking back at our first application while writing our second application [for the 2021 CIC], I could see the clear growth.”
At CIC, the team was able to meet and network with NIHF Inductee Gary Sharp, co-inventor of the polarization-control technology used in projection televisions, front-projection displays and most 3D digital cinema installations in use today.
“It was really cool getting to hear his story and experience because it’s someone who’s been in your shoes and has been able to get to that next level,” Meyers said.
Throughout the 2021 CIC event, which ran in a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team gained valuable insights and strategies for continuing to develop their invention and grow their business.
The Augment Health team performed well, becoming the 2021 Undergraduate Runner-Up and earning $5,000 and a patent acceleration certificate that gives them priority timing on filing a nonprovisional patent within the United States.
Today, Meyers and Kalinsky live in Tennessee and Virginia, respectively. In 2021, they spent four months living in Memphis, Tennessee, where they completed the nationally recognized ZeroTo510 accelerator program. Through this experience, they received $100,000 in investment funding and made valuable professional connections within the medical device space.
“We were easily the youngest people in our group, and it was cool to have the additional support from others who have experienced careers in the medical device fields, who we can continue to bounce questions off of or go to for advice,” Meyers said.
Currently, the team members continue to fundraise to support the creation of their neurogenic bladder management device. They are also building an advisory board to help them navigate their eventual launch.
When asked what advice they had for younger inventors and entrepreneurs, the Augment Health team members stressed the importance of understanding potential users and building a network of knowledgeable supporters.
“We spent over a year talking to customers even before we started working on our invention,” Kalinsky said. “I just can’t stress enough how important it is to talk to the people who are going to be using what you’re making.”
“We’ve been so fortunate to have really exceptional people around us,” Meyers said. “It helps so much, when you have to make these hard decisions, to be able to shoot someone a text saying ‘Hey, can I talk to you about this?’ — I really do recommend building out a collaborative ecosystem.”
Learn More About CIC
To learn more about this year’s CIC event, and to be the first to know about how you can participate in the People’s Choice Award, we invite you to sign up for our NIHF Quarterly Newsletter.