Meet the Founders

Alex Ritchie

CEO and Chief of Marketing

Alex is a 2018 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering with minors in Chemistry and Mathematics.  She also completed the Premedical Graduate Certificate Program (CERT) from the VCU School of Medicine in 2019. She is the CEO of DuraSafe and team lead on the project since its creation in 2016. Alex will begin pursuing her master’s degree this fall at Virginia Commonwealth University before transitioning to medical school. Her end goal is to be a medical physician. She has led the team through the Da Vinci Pre-Accelerator Program where they took first place. Alex is also recipient of the OZY Genius Award. She is the director of marketing and lead project manager for DuraSafe.

Hilton Bennet

Vice President & Chief of Engineering, Research and Industrialization

Hilton Bennett is a Mechanical Engineering graduate with a Master’s Degree in Product Innovation. He interns for a Biomedical Engineering firm designing and analyzing Orthopedic Implants. Hilton has a passion for product development and rapid prototyping, with four years of experience in medical device and implant design. He is the Senior Design Engineer at DuraSafe, and though an early stage concept contributor didn’t become intensely involved in the Epidural Design until 3/17. He is also a rock-climber, and started his first company in 2016 designing Traditional Climbing Gear for indoor use. He hopes to start a PhD in Mechanical Engineering & Medicine at the onset of ’19, focusing on medical devices to improve patient care, and surgical procedures.

Jennifer Mak

Engineering Testing Officer

Jennifer received her Bachelor’s in Biomedical Engineering in May 2019 and was a student of the Honors College at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is currently attending the University of Pittsburgh for her PhD in Bioengineering. Since joining the team in Fall 2016, she has mainly been involved with the engineering and design of the needle. She also conducted pilot testing of prototypes at MCV West Hospital’s Simulation Lab. In Spring 2018, she followed this project to VCU’s da Vinci Pre-Accelerator Program where DuraSafe ultimately formed. This is her first experience in a university research team and she is excited to have seen how this project has evolved since nearly the beginning and to see where it will go next. 

Patrick Jones

Chief of Regulatory Affairs

Patrick is a 2019 graduate of the Biomedical Engineering  program at VCU and the VCU Honors College. He is currently a Masters student in Biomedical Engineering. He joined the pressure-sensing epidural needle project in the Fall 2016 semester while it was still part of the VCU Vertically Integrated Project group. Since then, he has worked as a part of the engineering and design team throughout the da Vinci Pre-Accelerator program and the formation of DuraSafe, LLC. He has enjoyed the real-world engineering experiences that he has gained throughout this process, and is excited to grow with the company as we continue to improve our product and begin making a positive clinical impact on patients and providers alike. 

Katelyn Shin

Student Advisory Board Member

Katelyn a VCU graduate and have been part of this project since August 2016. Her role is to investigate regulatory affairs, such as the FDA process. She was involved in this project because she saw the potential in the impact that it could make in medicine. As an aspiring physician, patient safety is Katelyn’s number one concern and this project would enable patients to lead a better quality lives.

Raihan Khandker

Student Advisory Board Member

Raihan graduated in May 2019 with a Bachelor’s in  Biomedical Engineering from Virginia Commonwealth University. He joined the team in the fall of 2016 as a sophomore, and has been working with the team ever since. He joined primarily because he was interested in medical devices and replacing an older subjective method with an objective device. Learning about the depth of the issue only made more reasons for him to continue working on this device. Currently, he is working on DuraSafe as part of the Regulatory Affairs team.

Our advisors include Dr. Bennett Ward, tenured professor from the VCU College of Engineering, Dr. Garret Westlake, Executive Director of the Da Vinci Center, Dr. Nickie Damico, Vice Chair of Academic Affairs for the VCU Department of Nurse Anesthesia, and Travis Massey, Strategic Initiatives Adviser for VA Biotech Park as well as Claudia Garcia, Current medical student at Columbia and mentor through the OZY Genius program and Dennis Cavender, VP of Sales for Cupron Medical and our industry mentor through the VCU Ventures Accelerator.  Dr. Eric Edwards and Evan Edwards, founders of Kaleo have been extremely helpful in assisting us with our long term company strategy and regulatory approach.