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Dialysis researchers
Drs. Cindy Christiano (left) and Paul Bolin helped develop technology used in a winning business plan. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

ECU Dialysis Technology Earns Top Spot in Competition

By Doug Boyd

A business plan for a kidney dialysis technology devised at ECU was one of two winners at the 12th annual $10K Business Plan Competition managed by the Entrepreneurship Education Initiative at the North Carolina State University College of Management.

The technology, designed to help reduce the number of hours people with end-stage renal disease spend in dialysis, was developed by a team led by Dr. Paul Bolin, associate professor of internal medicine and chief of the nephrology division at the Brody School of Medicine.

Working with Bolin on the technology was Dr. Craig J. McCotter, now chief cardiology fellow at the University of Virginia and a former ECU medical student, and Dr. Cindy Christiano, a clinical assistant professor of medicine at ECU.

NCSU students Matt Hallam, David Hodl, Eric Hulsey and Nocha van Thielen developed the business plan for Pulse Filtration Technologies, a company that would bring the technology to market. They assessed a variety of ideas before settling on the ECU dialysis concept, made available to the students through the ECU Office of Technology Transfer. All four medical schools in the state submitted biotechnology product ideas for the competition, according to Bolin.

Their plan netted them a $6,000 prize. Hodl said team members haven’t decided what they’ll do with the money or what’s next for the proposed firm. “The company is in its infancy,” Hodl said.

Bolin’s group built prototypes based on the operation of a heart-lung machine, which delivers oxygen to the brain in a pulsing manner similar to the natural heartbeat. They then tested their prototype and found it was up to 35 percent more efficient than a normal dialysis pump. The benefit works two ways: dialysis patients who typically reach their target level of urea and salt removal during dialysis could reach that target in one-third less time, and patients who have a hard time reaching their target at all could come one-third closer to reaching it.

Bolin said pursuing a National Institutes of Health grant to further study the idea and detail its benefits would be a good next step. Christiano, also a former medical student and resident at ECU, received a national resident research award for her work already on this technology.

The business plan competition drew nearly 150 participants with a total of 50 business plans submitted. Awards were presented at the Capital City Club in Raleigh, May 4.

This page originally appeared in the July 15, 2005 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at