University of Memphis Magazine
University of Memphis Photo
Spring 12 Features


Earning His Stripes
Walkin' in Memphis
Class of His Own
Pieces of Home
Blasts from the Past

Make it your Biz
Virtual Symphony
Lambuth Campus enrollment
100 Women
Planting Seeds
Johnson leaves impact
Sherrod's feats
Blending the Blues
'Up-and-down' Career Ride
New U of M Center wants to make it your 'biz'

University of Memphis student Carlos Ortiz has a personal stake in finding a more efficient way for likely heart attack victims to get emergency medical treatment in a hurry.

"My grandfather, he was about 80 when he had a heart attack," said the Herff College biomedical engineering major. "My grandmother called my mom who drove an hour to her house. They then called 911, but by that time, he had massive heart tissue damage and eventually died. From that moment, I always thought of what I could do to help heart patients."

Now, with the help of the cleverly designed U of M Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Ortiz has started a new company. REGEN-X Corp. is developing a device — one that Apple Inc. has expressed interest in — that may save lives.

Ortiz and his business partners, which include U of M students Tin Nguyen, Rina Nguyen and Marsalas Whitaker, are working on an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) that includes a tracking device that will provide a GPS location to point emergency medical personnel to heart patients who may be experiencing life-threatening conditions without the patient having to do anything.

U of M engineering students
U of M engineering students (from left) Tin Nguyen, Rina Nguyen, Carlos Ortiz and Marsalas Whitaker are using the University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to help develop a unique heart-monitoring device that may save lives. The Center is open to potential entrepreneurs on and off campus and is a free service.

"The concept is similar to ‘OnStar’ technology," Ortiz said. "An ICD is placed under the skin of a heart patient and it communicates wirelessly with a home receiver or wristband worn by the patient. When that person has an episode, which violates our proprietary algorithms (high or low parameter), it will send an emergency signal directly to our first-response team, who will contact emergency responders and forward the details of the episodes to the patient's doctor. The patient can be anywhere in the world, something never before offered in similar devices."

If not for the Center, located in the FedEx Institute of Technology, Martinez's start-up company might not have had the expertise to be on the verge of producing the innovative heart-monitoring device.

The Center provides entrepreneurs — young and old alike — the tools they need to turn a business idea into reality. Funded by the Small Business Administration, it provides the business and legal expertise needed to start a company. It is free and open to students as well as the public.

"Our motto is, ‘Making it Real,’" said program manager Kelly Penwell. "There are a lot of organizations out there doing what we are doing, but very few of them make it understandable.

"We develop a program that entrepreneurs can genuinely follow — not just people with an EMBA, but people from all walks of life who have the enthusiasm and have the dream to start their own businesses."

Penwell said the Center has helped 80 clients begin to develop business plans since it opened last summer.

"We have had veterans, established businessmen, PhD candidates, students — even a 16-year-old — come through our doors looking for help."

The Center can even help those who aren’t exactly sure what type of business they want to launch.

"Some people walk in and say, ‘I don’t know what I want to do. I do know I want to start a business though,’" said Chad Holmes, a graduate assistant with the Center. "Our program manager is sitting on a ton of ideas that we can provide them, or we can find out what their passion is and make them an idea right on the spot."

"We then help them design and develop their idea," adds fellow graduate assistant Jerry Ivery. "We connect you with the people who can help you along the way."

Penwell said students should not shy away from the Center simply because of their age.

"This gives students another pathway to create their career plan, to take the things they have learned at the U of M and put it to work," she said.

It just takes a phone call or visit to the Center to get started.

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Last Updated: 4/6/12