Penn State

They want to help doctors save lives. How a State College competition gets them closer

With the help of $10,000 from Ben Franklin Technology Partners, two Penn Staters will be able to take the next steps with their startup.

Medulate — co-founded by Scarlett Miller and Jason Moore, who are both professors and engineers at the university — won the top prize out of seven startup pitches at the TechCelerator@State College’s fall graduation ceremony on Dec. 6, according to a press release.

The TechCelerator program is a “pre-business accelerator,” where “Ben Franklin deploys a team of at least six experts with colleagues from the Small Business Development Center in order to mentor and guide students though the steps to starting a company,” the release said. The TechCelerator is held twice a year in State College and three additional times during the year in Altoona, Johnstown, Somerset, Erie, Lancaster, Indiana, Bedford, Huntingdon, Harrisburg and Clearfield.

Medulate grew out of research that Miller and Moore have been doing at Penn State “working on developing haptic, or touch-based, simulations for medical education” in order to reduce the learning curve for surgeons from practicing on static manikin-type devices to performing procedures on patients, Miller said.

“We have the chance to actually change and save people’s lives through our products through the better, more effective and efficient training of surgeons,” she said.

The $10,000 prize is going to be a “huge help” in moving their products from being near-final prototypes to a realm where they can begin sales, Moore said.

Even more so than the money, though, Miller said, “winning it made us realize that not only do we have faith in ourselves, but other people do.”

Without the guidance they received in the TechCelerator program, Moore said, there’s no way they would have been able to pursue creating this company.

“The TechCelerator this semester has an exceptional group of ‘townies,’ undergrads, grad students, and professors. Having a front row seat to see these new startups launch is really thrilling. On top of that, I get to work with some of the most inspiring economic development people I have ever met .... . Invent Penn State is a world class organization and I feel very lucky to be part of it,” Bob Dornich, director of the TechCelerator, said in the press release.

The TechCelerator is a partnership of several of the area’s economic development providers, including Invent Penn State.

In six years, according to the release, 92 teams have started companies after completing the TechCelerator program, raised more than $35 million in funding, hired 196 employees and earned a combined $14 million in revenue.