While the contest traditionally focuses on energy, waste and climate change, it was Aruga CEO and Pitt alum Joseph Pugar’s 20-minute pitch on the company’s unique synthetic vascular graft implant technology that won second prize among 12 competitors.
The graft imitates the natural wrinkling that prevents platelets from clumping and blood from clotting inside blood vessels, making it more long-lasting than typical grafts.
The Aruga technology is the product of a series of collaborations between Pitt and the UPMC vascular surgery group. Luka Pocivavsek, a vascular surgeon, is the primary inventor of the technology and worked through Pitt’s Innovation Institute to begin commercializing it.
Pugar, who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at Pitt in 2017, joined the team as a student, initially helping to prototype the technology's surface mechanics.
The company was spun out of Pitt in 2018 and is a portfolio company of LifeX Labs, a Pittsburgh-based life science startup accelerator.