Student Profile

Translational health technology student Allison Kipling launches her own company to turn a class project into a real product.

For some students, an assignment ends with the final grade. For Allison Kipling, the assignment was just a place to start—she’s parlaying her graduate school education into a real-world business.
Kipling is a second-year student in Case Western Reserve University’s master’s degree track in translational health technology within the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Earlier this year, she and her classmates launched a company to take what started as a class project into the medical marketplace.
From Project to Product
Kipling and classmates Vickie Hau and Ming Wang developed the original model for their Imprint app for their Clinical Information Systems class. The original assignment was to create a digital system that would allow doctors to access information—medical journals or scientific articles—quickly and efficiently at the point of care, while they’re preparing for surgery or seeing a patient.
So that’s what they did—they came up with their own user interface and design that fit the concept. But they didn’t stop there. “We enjoyed the challenge and each other’s company,” Kipling says. The trio was also taking a course in entrepreneurship the following semester, so it seemed natural to build on their momentum.
They worked closely with James Rowbottom, a doctor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine at University Hospitals in Cleveland, and medical residents who told them they didn’t really need that kind of access to medical journals. Instead, what they could really use was a better way to take notes on that information.
“Residents use notes they pass down year after year,” Kipling says. “These sheets were made so long ago, and they’ve been copied over so many times that there are mistakes in them. And instead of correcting them and distributing new versions, students just keep their own mental notes on what’s correct.”
So the team revamped the project, creating Imprint, which creates digital study guides that medical students and doctors can use to review for exams or medical procedures. They drafted a business plan to get their idea to market and entered the Brien Holden Vision Competition at Case Western Reserve University in March, where they took top prize. Kipling and her teammates used their $10,000 winnings to launch 306 LLC—named for the classroom where they started the project—to keep developing Imprint.
“Once we won that funding, we were sort of at a crossroads: do we split the money and go on our own separate ways, or do we invest that money into the concept and really make something happen here?” Kipling says. “After learning the theory of entrepreneurship, we were all really motivated to put it into practice. So at that point it was an easy decision to funnel the money into an LLC.”
Student, Employee, Entrepreneur
While she hadn’t exactly envisioned herself starting her own company in the middle of graduate school—while still working full time at Case Western Reserve’s Case Comprehensive Cancer Center—Kipling always knew she was interested in the entrepreneurial side of engineering, of putting scientific discoveries into the hands of the people who can benefit from them.
“In the lab, you have the potential to hit on something life-changing for sure,” she says. “ But for me, I need to have the satisfaction of knowing I’m directly helping someone.”
That drive to transform promising ideas into life-changing products is what drew Kipling to the translational health master’s program in the first place. She earned her bachelor’s degree in bioengineering—with a double major in German studies just for a bit of extra challenge—from Rice University in 2012. She was always drawn to science and math, with a keen interest in medical devices and the businesses that produce them.
“I knew I wanted to move toward industry, and this program is a good marriage of engineering and business aspects of that world,” she says. “I’m getting good insights into office dynamics, how to manage different types of personalities, how to motivate other people, and even the financials.”
In fact, Kipling says her classes were instrumental in helping her write her team’s award-winning business plan.
Kipling plans to finish the program in the summer of 2015, and she has no plans to put 306 LLC on hold until then. Two new team members have come on board since the LLC launched, and the company is working to develop the prototype. Kipling says they hope to begin beta testing with residents at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in the next few months. Which means for the time being, she’ll be leading something of a triple-life—that of an employee, student and entrepreneur.
“It is a lot on my plate,” she says. “I’ve just gotten used to longer days."