"We're just trying to make a product that's more safe and controlled," Bruton said.
The result is the Breathe Easy Mat, a thin, perforated pad that fits inside a baby's crib and releases oxygen only near his or her head. The idea landed Bruton and his team in the final round of the 2017 Utah Entrepreneur Challenge, which offers the top 20 contestants a chance at more than $100,000 worth of cash and prizes.
Bruton's idea exists only in computer models, he said, and he hopes to nab some cash through the challenge to develop a prototype, obtain patents and prepare for the Food and Drug Administration approval process.
The challenge is managed by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah's David Eccles School of Business. The top 20 groups will face judging next month, but there also is public voting — open from 8 a.m. Tuesday to 5 p.m. April 14 — on online videos that are available at lassonde.utah.edu.
To make the top 20 list, groups either won an event at their college as part of the Opportunity Quest competition series or entered an open round and were judged by professionals across the state. More than 200 teams competed for a chance to grab a spot in the top 20. Only a few of the finalists have female group members.
Another team competing in the challenge is XLynk Surgical, led by University of Utah student Brody King.
Studying biomedical engineering, King was shadowing a surgeon about two years ago and questioned the current method to prevent adhesions — internal scar tissue that forms between tissues and organs — after surgery. Many doctors apply a clear film to internal tissues during pelvic and abdominal surgeries to prevent adhesions, King said, but they often form anyway and cause the patient pain.
"The best product on the market right now only prevents adhesions 45 percent of the time," King said. "We want it to be easier to use and apply."
So, King and his teammates are developing a gel — and a system to deliver it.
King brought Ari Hassett on to the team last fall after taking a class with her. Hassett, who is majoring in dance and biomedical engineering, said she hadn't considered exploring entrepreneurial projects until she spoke with King. Now, she said she expects to do this after graduating.
The entrepreneurial track, she said, gives her a way to "bridge both my passions: business and entrepreneurship can go into both arts and engineering."
Though the initial idea was King's, Hassett said she's been helping him develop ways to improve the prototype.
The group is mentored by Ram Nirula, University Hospital's chief of trauma, who said in a January YouTube video that he is looking for a product that works better than the current method.
"The standard product for adhesion prevention ... is cumbersome to apply and must be done in open surgery," Nirula said. "While [it] does help to reduce the risk of bowel obstruction, it is not as effective as it needs to be."
King's team is still exploring different ways to spray the gel into the body and testing the gel's chemistry to ensure it cures at the right speed. The next step is cadaver animal studies, he added, but all of this requires money.