Existing UTRF licensee launches new start-up to commercialize the TEL BOXX

A novel device to help hospitals address a critical problem they face has been licensed by the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) to TEL BOXX LLC, a new start-up launched by an existing licensee of other UTRF technologies.

The new entity was formed by Nima Tamaddoni and Graham Taylor, Co-Founders of T & T Scientific Corporation, the rapidly growing, North Knoxville-based pharma manufacturing company that recently reported a 10X increase in sales (see our late February article). The two own 90 percent of TEL BOXX, while UTRF holds the balance.

The device’s name says a lot about its purpose. TEL BOXX, which is short for “Tamper Evident Lock Box,” was designed to help hospitals combat a serious problem with drug addicted patients. It is focused on those patients with a history of intravenous drug use who either bring or have others bring illegal drugs into the facility to inject directly into their vascular access lines. This action, in turn, transports the drugs directly to their heart, a behavior that can cause an infection resulting in prolonged hospital stays, surgery, or even death.

How does the hospital prove that it was not at fault? That’s the role of the TEL BOXX which literally provides evidence of tampering by the patient or others, thanks to the way it is constructed. The TEL BOXX is a transparent box that closes around the vascular access line interface using a pin connection, making access to the vascular lines impossible unless there is tampering.

“There’s no way you can open it without leaving evidence,” says Matthew Mench, the inventor who was Head of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering at UT, Knoxville and also holder of a  Robert M. Condra Chair of Excellence when he invented the device. He is currently Interim Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement. (See photo of device at right.)

Mench says he first became aware of the problem that hospitals were facing through discussions with Mitch Goldman, Assistant Dean for Research at the UT Graduate School of Medicine. With the high incidence of opioid use in the region, this is not only a challenge for the UT Medical Center but also many rural hospitals which live on very low margins and cannot sustain extra expenses.

For the Co-Founders of T & T Scientific, TEL BOXX fits nicely into their long-term strategy.

“This is exactly what we like to do,” Taylor told us. “We like to license platform technologies from universities and take them to market in a variety of ways.” In the case of TEL BOXX, the product itself is similar in nature to T & T Scientific’s inaugural product – the NanoSizerTM.

“We have a lot of experience with single use plastic parts,” Tamaddoni said. “This is a good match.”

TEL BOXX also draws on Taylor’s experience working in the medical device industry before he helped co-found T & T Scientific. Contacts gained in that previous work will now be leveraged to quickly accelerate the new company’s growth.

Roughly a dozen hospitals in eight states tested the device when it was 3D-printed, but the ramp-up calls for an injection molding process for larger volume production. The TEL BOXX team is also completing all of the requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration related to Class I medical devices.

“We believe we can be in the market within six months,” Taylor said.

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