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ITC Assists Clients Who Seek to Save Lives

By John Masson


People in China and Ghana may never know it, but student lawyers from Michigan Law's International Transactions Clinic (ITC) recently put together deals that are destined to improve or save lives in both places.

In April, thanks to Clinic students and faculty, a startup created by recent U-M grads became the first for-profit corporation in Michigan to expressly state its social mission in its articles of incorporation.

That means company officers for Design Innovations for Infants and Mothers Everywhere—or DIIME—don't need to worry about extracting every last penny from medical clinics in Ghana that buy their invention, a syringe-like device called Hemafuse that helps save people who have internal bleeding.

In many remote villages in Ghana, the only supply of blood in cases of serious internal bleeding comes from the victim—often, women who've suffered ruptured ectopic pregnancies. The traditional method involved filtering the patient's own blood through gauze, when it was available, then re-infusing the blood into the patient. The process can lead to infection and other serious, often fatal, complications.

Hemafuse enables health practitioners to withdraw the blood, filter it, and immediately send it into a blood bag for reinfusion. The device uses no power and can be sterilized for re-use. Its only disposable component is an inexpensive filter system.

"We were excited to work for a client that had a cool design ... that would save lives," says Gabriel Katz, '13, an ITC student who worked on the deal under the supervision of Michigan Law adjunct clinical assistant professor David Guenther, '99. "It was great to see their product become a corporation and come to life."

Another ITC client, Pilus, has created a bacterial robot—a "Bactobot™"—that eats waste material in water and, as a side effect, creates energy. ITC students helped Pilus develop the ability to manufacture its product in China.

"As someone who wants to work in international law and do international transactions, I think embracing the diversity of the new global environment is important," says ITC student attorney Daniel Free, '13, who worked under the supervision of adjunct clinical assistant professor David Shaub, '60.

The ITC's results also pleased Pilus CEO Jason Barkeloo.

"As a result of David's work, and particularly with the University of Michigan (law) students, we are able to get on an airplane with the knowledge of the Bactobots in our heads, go into these other markets, and collaborate with the laboratories and universities there so they can domestically build the Bactobots ... and then distribute them," Barkeloo says. "We were able to determine that there was indeed a way we could move our technology across those borders almost in a reverse-technology transfer sort of way."

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