Joe Landolina, inventor of Veti-Gel. (Photo: Courtesy of Joe Landolina)
Stephanie Haven, USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent
New York University junior Joe Landolina, 20, used an unconventional process to develop Veti-Gel, which has been approved for use in veterinary practices this summer.
New York University junior Joe Landolina, 20, has invented a gel that instantly stops mass internal and external bleeding.
Available for veterinary practices this summer, Landolina first pitched the concept in 2011 as the sole freshman in a NYU business competition against MBA and PhD candidates. He won.
Connective plant and synthetic tissue that grow and hold organisms' structure, called the extracellular matrix (ECM), compose Veti-Gel. Such a configuration solidifies and sticks blood platelets together to close and begin healing wounds without applying pressure, Landolina says.
Landolina says he didn't know how the process would work to create the gel, called Veti-Gel. But this perspective allowed him to develop Veti-Gel faster and in an unconventional order, says Marisa Tricarico, 30, an associate at the NYU Innovation Venture Fund.
"Naiveté really helped us move forward," Landolina says. "As a freshman, if I knew how hard the process would be I don't think I would've stuck through it. Not knowing what would happen next helped us push through it."
It was a gradual research process based on trial and error. Unlike scientists who have attempted and failed to replicate the human ECM, Landolina developed cells that are similar to the body's ECM, but not an exact match.
This approximation hasn't hindered the success of Veti-Gel - there's immediate recognition. But Landolina says he doesn't know why.
"It's very difficult to isolate exactly how it works," Landolina says. "You can isolate that this is the best mechanism to be an immediate solution to trauma care."
Veti-Gel has successfully closed wounds to rats' liver and carotid arteries, but further tests are necessary for FDA approval and distribution for humans, Landolina says. For example, it remains unclear whether the gel is safe to leave in the body for extended time periods.
Cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Herbert Dardik, based in Englewood, N.J., will supervise these additional tests on larger animals.
Little about his age has hindered Landolina. Rather, because he is a student, Landolina frequently brings new information to experiments that better Veti-Gel, says Isaac Miller, 23, who co-created their company, Suneris Inc.
"It's Joe's ability to have a deep understanding of creating the technology, but also to think creatively about new ways the science can be conceived and put together," Miller says.
A bimolecular and chemical engineering major, Landolina partnered with Miller after the business competition, where they were the only undergraduates. Miller, then a junior, was a member of the audience and attended because of interest in entrepreneurship.
"It's common that graduate students and professors have their own technology and patents, but it's interesting when you meet undergraduates at that level," Tricarico says. "The fact Joe came up with this at such a young age is impressive."
Miller says he's responsible for commercializing Veti-Gel to surgeons, emergency medical services and the military within the next year and a half. The plant-derived ECM will be the same in these three sectors, but there will be other product variations to accommodate different needs, Landolina says.
The duo created Suneris to foster not only Veti-Gel, but medical technology that Landolina says he plans to make later in his career. That is after he graduates with a bachelor's and a master's in biomedical engineering before he's 25.
"I know where I want to go, but I'm really enjoying the ride right now," Landolina says.
With night NYU classes and daily Suneris work, Landolina says it has become normal to live with a busy schedule. Though it was difficult to manage it all at first, as long as he produces medical technology that makes life easier, Landolina says he's happy.
Stephanie Haven is a Spring 2013 USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent. Learn more about her here.