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May 04, 2021 | Tom Ballard

There’s more good news for the team at Winter Innovations

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

You’ve no doubt heard the saying, “When it rains, it pours,” and that’s certainly the case in a good way for the team at Winter Innovations.

It was less than a month ago that we posted this article reporting on significant progress at the start-up co-founded by Lia Winter and Preston Dishner. “Over the past week, things have blown up – in a good way,” Winter told us in an email.

The start-up received word that it had been awarded its first ever Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant, Co-Founder Winter was selected for a prestigious program for women-led companies, and good progress continues on the 510(k) application for U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance of the EasyWhip™ suturing needle for orthopedic procedures.

It is an absolute honor to have received our first SBIR grant,” Winter said. “We worked extremely hard on putting the application together, and we are so happy that it paid off. We felt fortunate to have the support from members of our network who reviewed our proposal and provided advice to strengthen the submission, including Ballad Health, Launch Tennessee, Tampa Bay Wave, and ZeroTo510.”

The $256,000 SBIR grant, awarded by the National Science Foundation, is for research and development on Winter Innovations’ two-part needle technology, which fundamentally changes how stitching can be performed and is the basis of the EasyWhip™ product. This will allow the company to advance the two-part needle technology toward commercialization in orthopedics and provide a basis for additional research for other surgical applications that rely on stitching.

Founded while both Winter and Dishner were graduate students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), Winter Innovations’ first product is EasyWhip™, a fast, simple, versatile stitching needle for orthopedic tendon and ligament repair surgery. Winter holds the record for most prize money won in student-focused pitch competitions by a UTK student.

She also started this week as one of 10 participants in the latest cohort of the Springboard’s “Health Innovation Hub: Life Science” accelerator. Operated by Springboard Enterprises, the program is targeted at women-led life science and healthcare companies seeking growth funding and connections to experts and strategic partners for product development and expansion.

The bootcamp runs most of this month before Hub companies are matched for the next six months with a personal advisory team, tasked with providing a meaningful impact on the company’s next stage of growth. The program, while virtual, engages advisors and investors in a variety of in-person presentation sessions throughout the year and beyond.

Winter says Kayla Graff, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Memphis-based SweetBio Inc., nominated her for the program after being a participant in 2019. Graff is one of Winter’s mentors and role models.

“My goals for the program include developing a comprehensive launch and commercialization plan for EasyWhip™, creating strategies to work with potential strategic partners or acquirers, preparing to raise venture capital funding, and initiating product expansion efforts,” Winter says. “The specific focus of this cohort is Women’s Health, so I am really looking forward to the opportunity to deepen our understanding of how EasyWhip™ can address orthopedic problems, like ACL tears, that disproportionately affect women more than men.”

The other nine participants are:


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