Stevens Alumni Win Funding for Start-Up Venture Built Around Medical Device Invention

Music, Killen Turn Senior Design Invention Into Business Venture

11/20/2012

As a senior Biomedical Engineering major at Stevens, Samantha Music ’12 set out to find a solution to the problem of radiation exposure to spinal surgery patients.

Little did she know, just a few months later she’d have invented a successful diagnostic device, secured funding for a start-up company, and be deep into an entrepreneurial venture with tons of promise in the market.

It all started with Music’s capstone senior design project. With fellow Stevens alumni Kerri Killen ’12 and Justyna Zielinska ’12, she designed a battery-powered medical device made of a lightweight chest harness and belt that accurately measures the range of motion of the spine without an x-ray.

The device is more accurate, less invasive and less expensive than an x-ray. It takes less than two minutes to get a reading.

“People see the hazards and radiation and want an option for something else,” said Music.

The value of such a device for surgeons, physical therapists and clinicians who need to evaluate patient recovery before and after spinal surgery was immediately evident, and the trio had soon won several contests, including first place in Stevens’ 2012 Elevator Pitch competition and first place in the undergraduate division of the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) 2012 New Jersey Regional Poster Competition.

Recognizing the opportunity before them, Music and Killen took their invention to the next level when they graduated from Stevens this May. Stevens, which owns the intellectual property on their original prototype, helped them file a provisional patent application on the device. While the application is pending, they have been working full-time on the project and have now incorporated and launched a start-up company around the product called Versor Inc.

“I have great expectations for us,” Music said. “Our device provides more accurate and immediate results than an x-ray, and it is easy to use. It provides benefits for both the patient and the surgeon using it.”

Expectations for Versor are sky-high from outside observers as well. Most recently, Music won $7,500 in backing for Versor in the Start Something Challenge, a statewide business pitch competition for entrepreneurs and small business owners held by the nonprofit Rising Tide Capital.

Music and Killen will use the winnings to buy parts to build at least six prototypes of the original device to test within the medical industry. 

“Our goal is to get these prototypes out there to different sites to start testing, which will provide great headway into getting FDA approval,” Music said.

Music is taking a long-term view of Versor’s future, hoping hopes to introduce a product in the market in about two years.

For now, she’s enjoying the journey.

“How many people can say they started up a company and got a patent right out of school?”

Stevens student Sean Coyle ’12, now a master’s degree student, was also a finalist in the Start Something Challenge.