Students and university faculty who found startups to develop new medical devices often find costs and access to facilities to test and prototype the technologies are prohibitive once they leave academia. Further, few manufacturers will build devices in small batches for development, testing and further iteration.
Draper is working with startups to address these needs through its Sembler initiative, by providing access to its facilities as well as offering up its more than 80 years of multidisciplinary engineering and development expertise. On the Sembler website, startups can run a free manufacturability analysis of their designs and subsequently purchase a small batch of prototypes at an affordable cost. Users can now also acquire the mold for their device, enabling them to build additional devices without buying expensive clean room equipment.
Sembler customers include SQZ Biotech, which was founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professors Klavs Jensen and Robert Langer, as well as MIT graduate student Armon Sharei. SQZ spun out of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research in 2013, and it used Sembler to build an initial run of prototypes for research and development. SQZ is continuing to work with Draper on additional runs of devices with materials typically used in operational hardware.
Entrepreneurs can receive prototypes within a few weeks after signing up on the Sembler website, which features an interface that has been streamlined since launch last fall. New Sembler users receive a discount if referred by existing customers, who also receive a discount on their next set of devices. Each user’s intellectual property is protected throughout the process.