Tag: FastForward


Acute Kidney Injury: A Startup’s Solution for This Silent…

Acute Kidney Injury: A Startup’s Solution for This Silent Killer


A disturbing fact stuck with Aaron Chang throughout his rotation in cardiac surgery. On average, 15 percent of cardiac surgeries result in acute kidney injury (AKI), a condition which greatly impacts life expectancy. Even more disturbing, patients who sustain a stage 1 kidney injury, the least severe of the three stages before kidney failure, become 2.2 times more likely to die within five years.

“Acute kidney injury is the silent killer nobody talks about,” says Chang, a 2015 master’s graduate of the Johns Hopkins School of Biomedical Engineering.

In addition to their serious health detriments, acute kidney injuries drive up health care costs, as patients who suffer stage 1, 2 or 3 kidney injuries typically spend an extra 3.5 days in the ICU.

The rate of acute kidney injuries is so high, Chang says, because doctors can’t adequately identify the optimal blood pressure for individuals during surgery, a level that varies based on patient size, fitness, medical history and many other variables. The current gold standard of care in detecting AKI is observing a rise in serum creatinine, a blood biomarker, but this doesn’t happen until 24 to 48 hours after the injury has occurred.

“In cardiac surgery, doctors rely on generalized guidelines to set people’s blood pressure, but every person is different,” Chang says. “If these guidelines don’t fit the individual, the patient’s kidneys essentially hold their breath for the entire one- to three-hour procedure. There’s currently no way to see in real time how the kidneys are doing during surgery.”

Chang founded Renalert in 2015 to develop a real-time urine analysis device for the prevention of acute kidney injury. Currently operating out of Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures’ (JHTV) FastForward 1812 innovation hub, Renalert’s device sits beneath operating tables and monitors patient urine in real time, providing more precise measurements than the visual analyses typically used, while also incorporating additional correlations to other real-time vital signs.

A recent 30-patient pilot study Chang organized at Johns Hopkins Hospital showed observational significance between low urine flow during surgery and higher rates of acute kidney injuries.

“If doctors knew of potential injury earlier, there’s plenty of ways they could ensure the patient’s kidneys are perfused,” Chang says. “If at a certain blood pressure no urine is coming out, the doctor would know to increase it.”

With more studies currently underway at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chang hopes to optimize the device’s algorithm and validate these results.

Chang has also begun discussions with Johns Hopkins’ Technology Innovation Center to allow Renalert’s device to feed information into EPIC, Johns Hopkins’ integrated medical record system, to uncover other potential areas where Renalert could improve outcomes. After initial analyses, Chang has identified orthopaedics, liver transplants and minimally invasive surgeries as potential areas to examine.

Renalert’s efforts have received support from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, TEDCO’s Maryland Innovation Initiative and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Dean’s Faculty Innovation Award.

Though his vision for Renalert is clear, navigating the startup landscape is challenging. That’s why he has sought the support of JHTV, which provides Baltimore-area startups with the resources they need to reach their potential.

In addition to FastForward 1812’s proximity to the hospital, the support Renalert received in licensing technology, setting up a corporation correctly and building relationships with potential investors has made Baltimore an attractive place for the startup.

“FastForward provides pro bono legal services, connections with investors and affordable space in a beautiful building on the Johns Hopkins medical campus,” Chang says.

Want to learn more about FastForward? Click here.


Maryland Startups Sweep Finals at National Competition

Maryland Startups Sweep Finals at National Competition

A national field of about five dozen shrunk to 16 and then to four, and by that point only Maryland teams remained. It may sound like a hometown fan’s March Madness basketball bracket, but that’s the outcome at the Association of University Technology Manager’s (AUTM) national business plan competition.

AUTM officials selected the finalists as part of a blind panel process, and, on March 14, LifeSprout claimed the top prize of $10,000 at the Pitch and Play Venture Challenge, edging out fellow Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures (JHTV) startups Pathovax and Multisensor Diagnostics and University of Maryland startup Grip Boost.

LifeSprout - AUTM Award Winner
LifeSprout’s Director of Operations Kevin Colbert (left) and CEO Sashank Reddy (right) accept the $10,000 prize from AUTM.

“Winning the AUTM competition is terrific. It is a validation of our team’s efforts to build something of great value for patients, partners, and investors,” LifeSprout CEO Sashank Reddy says.

“It is also a validation of the great work of JHTV, TEDCO and the Abell Foundation in supporting local startups. It is no accident that three of the final four teams in this national business plan competition were from JHTV and all four had TEDCO support.”

LifeSprout is developing a suite of minimally invasive products that can be used to restore missing soft tissues, particularly for those who lost soft tissue due to cancer surgery or as a result of trauma. The award money will allow the company to scale up the manufacturing of its composites as it looks toward clinical trials.

At the event held in Hollywood, Florida, each team made a 10-minute presentation and then fielded questions from a panel of five seasoned venture capitalists from across the country.

“The VC panel has been asking me how we help our startups,” says JHTV’s Technology Transfer Director Hassan Naqvi, who attended the event. “They are very impressed with the quality of the business plans going into the session.”

“This success is a testament to the work and drive of the startup companies in the competition as well as proof positive of Christy Wyskiel’s vision and Brian Stansky’s translation of that vision into FastForward,” Naqvi continues, referring to the head of JHTV and its director of FastForward, respectively.

Sonavex, a JHTV startup currently operating out of FastForward Homewood, won the competition in 2015, and the success of one could have played a role in what happened this year.

“When someone sees someone else be successful, there’s an ‘If they can do it, I can do it,’” Stansky tells The Daily Record. “You’re thickening the soup in which things can come together and grow.”

Here’s an overview of each of the finalists:

  • Multisensor Diagnostics: Based in Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood, Multisensor Diagnostic is developing a portable handheld device designed to quickly and easily gather an individual’s key vital signs. CEO: Sathya Elumalai


  • Pathovax: A startup leasing shared lab space at the FastForward 1812 innovation hub, Pathovax is developing a universal HPV vaccine. The pilot pipeline vaccine promises to provide protection against all 15 oncogenic HPV types and many others that cause warts. Earlier this year, Pathovax won the 43North startup competition and $500,000. Co-founders: Weijie Poh, Joshua Wang


  • Grip Boost: A part of UM Ventures, Grip Boost has developed chemically modified grip solution for football gloves and other sport grips that is legal and easy to use. It currently sells grip products for football, baseball, softball and golf.


Click to watch a powerful video about LifeSprout’s technology.


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