An innovator’s journey from idea to market can be challenging and complicated—but also rewarding. Our Innovator Spotlight series explores how inventor-entrepreneurs in our network have evolved since they started their journey. Our goal is to share key learnings and best practices with early-stage science and technology inventors embarking on a path of innovation and entrepreneurship. Our latest Innovator Spotlight is Maricely Ramirez Hernandez, founder of E-Team Burnflex. Her team also won the first place prize of $3,000 at the OPEN Minds showcase during the OPEN 2019 conference. Burnflex is creating a novel burn wound dressing using a film-forming foam that is portable and easy-to-apply, and enables more patient mobility, protects against outside elements, and accelerates healing.
What challenge did you seek to solve with your innovation and why?
Burn victims must use many different items to treat wounds and burns. Depending on the severity, these must be changed constantly, increasing the chance for pain and leaving the patient vulnerable to infection from outside sources. We wanted to invent a solution that takes the pain reliever, bandage, tape, and antiseptic and consolidates it into a sprayable film that forms a long-lasting, protective barrier that conforms to awkward areas in the body.
What have you learned along your innovation and entrepreneurship journey?
As an engineer, I used to think about how cool it would be to create something, but I didn’t always think about the bigger picture, or who would use it. My team members with business backgrounds have shown me the importance of understanding the user’s problem when inventing a product. I’ve changed how I think about inventing by first listening to the customer’s pain points and challenges.
On a more personal note, I feel like I have come out of my shell since starting my entrepreneurship journey, which has helped me in my first year of grad school. I can better communicate with faculty and industry mentors.
Tell us how you’ve integrated environmentally responsible practices into your innovation or process?
By potentially eliminating the need for several products and streamlining it into a single product, we will minimize the amount of waste that comes with packaging for traditional first aid components. Also, the ingredients in our formulation are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA. We always keep in mind where these materials may come from and how they can impact the environment when it’s time of use expires. We also like to operate at low to moderate temperatures and carry out experiments with the fewest number of steps possible to save resources.
How has support from Venture Well impacted your innovation and venture?
I consider VentureWell as the catalyst for our project’s development and commercialization journey. By participating in the E-Team program, we were able to more clearly visualize milestones and step out of a strictly engineering mindset. VentureWell also allowed us to network with great mentors, and through the network our team was able to apply and participate in the GIST APEC Startup Training in Brisbane Australia, where we won 2nd place in the pitch competition.
What’s next for you?
We are working on improving our prototype based on the customer discovery feedback we have received and plan to apply for additional funding.