Q&A with MEng candidate Jeff Chininis

Jeff Chininis, who will graduate this month with a master's in engineering in biomedical innovation, recently received Honors in Entrepreneurship at the 2018 Skandy Awards. We asked him about the work that earned him that recognition.

Jeff Chininis

What was it like to be honored at the Skandy Awards? The Honor in Entrepreneurship award was very exciting to receive. Since coming to WashU a year ago, I have been active in the entrepreneurial community, and I think the award was a culmination of all the things I have done. The entrepreneurial resources at WashU are really amazing, and it was an honor to be recognized as someone who stands out in the community.

What device are you working on? The project that I am have been mainly focused on this past year is the innovation of a device that we have named the LIVO (Laparoscopic Intra-Organ Vessel Occluder). The LIVO's purpose is to better control bleeding in liver surgery, thus making the surgery safer and hopefully available to more patients with liver cancer.

Who will it help? The device will specifically help patients who have liver cancer and are in need of a surgery. Liver resection surgery is widely accepted as the best curative options for patients with liver cancer, but only about 7 percent of patients are getting the surgery often because of risks, such as high-volume blood loss and intraoperative hemorrhage. The LIVO will help to reduce these risks which will help both patients and surgeons.

How did you get your idea? My co-founder on the project is Chet Hammill, MD, hepatobiliary (pancreas, liver, bile duct) surgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Dr. Hammill identified the idea for a device that could better control patient bleeding in liver surgery, especially laparoscopic liver surgery. He needed someone with the time and engineering expertise to help develop the idea, and I had a real interest working in this area after seeing a family member battle a similar type of cancer. In addition, I have always had an urge to get involved with entrepreneurship in some way, and this was a perfect opportunity to do that.

You recently presented at the Rice Alliance for Technology & Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition. What did you present, and how did it go? I presented the business plans we have developed to commercialize the LIVO. It was an honor being at the Rice Business Plan Competition, and it was an amazing experience. We were one of 42 finalists out of about 1,000 applicants, and every team I met or saw present was working on an amazing innovation. Unfortunately, we did not win any of the top prizes, but we did learn a lot and met some really great people who want to help us develop the LIVO going forward.