BioDesign Innovation: Medtech startup success for Melbourne School of Engineering alumni

By Kristen Goodgame

NAVi Medical Technologies, a startup co-founded by Melbourne School of Engineering and Melbourne Business School alumni, has received more than $200,000 in support for its development of a medical device that aims to improve health outcomes for critically ill newborns.

Their device, called the neoNAV, aims to increase the accuracy of umbilical venous catheter (UVC) placement in newborns by providing clinicians with accurate, real-time information on the location of the catheter tip. The procedure is used to deliver vital drugs and nutrients to newborns in neonatal intensive care.

“Current techniques are inadequate, with 40% of attempts resulting in a misplaced catheter, which often harms the newborn and reduces hospital efficiency,” says Shing Yue Sheung, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of NAVi Medical Technologies and Master of Engineering (Biomedical) alumnus.

Shing Yue Sheung working on the neoNAV protoype.
Shing Yue Sheung working on the neoNAV protoype.

The technology’s potential has been hailed across the medtech industry, with the startup receiving first prize in the Startup Vic HealthTech Pitch Night and the US National Capital Consortium for Pediatric Device Innovation competition in San Jose, as well as second prize in the Sunan Cup Startup Competition (Australian Division) in Suzhou.

NAVi Medical Technologies has also gained entry into the Texas Medical Center Medical Device Accelerator Program (TMCx), a four-month program that helps develop high-potential medtech startups into established companies.

The recent funds and opportunities awarded to NAVi Medical Technologies are helping the startup make exceptional strides toward commercialising their technology.

“We are currently in the product development phase and are working towards getting a fully-functional prototype completed in the next 12 months. Following this, we aim to perform clinical trials and refine the effectiveness of our device,” says Shing.

Shing says the success of NAVi Medical Technologies has been possible thanks to the team’s involvement in the BioDesign Innovation subject, a unique subject available to Master of Engineering (Biomedical) and Master of Engineering (Biomedical with Business), as well as and Master of Business Administration students.

neoNAV prototype
neoNAV prototype

“We formed NAVi Medical Technologies while undertaking the BioDesign Innovation subject, which guided our team through the key steps in creating a medical device for commercialisation. The subject taught us how to scope an unmet need for a product market fit, effectively brainstorm solutions, create prototypes and develop a strong business strategy that navigates the complex healthcare landscape,” says Shing.

The subject is highly interdisciplinary, with teams formed of students from the Melbourne School of Engineering and the Melbourne Business School working with clinicians from local hospitals.

“As someone who has mostly worked with engineers, it was a remarkable experience to work with students from the Melbourne Business School and take part in interactive workshops,” says the Chief Technology Officer of NAVi Medical Technologies and Master of Engineering (Biomedical) alumnus, Mubin Yousuf.

“I visited hospitals around Melbourne and worked with clinical staff and patients, who shared the problems they faced and gave us good insight into unmet medical needs. I realised that looking at problems from this perspective went a long way when it came to designing a solution and transforming it into a viable product.”

“For students considering a start-up career my advice would be to start with identifying an important problem that needs solving, then building a team around developing a solution to that problem. Finding an important problem means talking to potential customers and really understanding the pain points in what they do.” says Shing.

“As an engineer, I found that sometimes it is easier to stay inside and write code and build hardware, but harder to go outside and find and listen to potential customers. But even now we are still talking to customers to continually iterate product features and validate product market fit.”