As part of a continuing series on Fall 2016 courses that relate to innovation and business law, this post spotlights the Iowa Medical Innovation Group

The Noddle is a medical device that allows bedridden patients who cannot speak or have impaired motor skills to more easily call for a nurse or adjust the temperature of their room. Over the past two years, Iowa Adaptive Technologies, the start-up company that designed the Noddle, has competed successfully in business plan competitions and received tens of thousands of dollars in seed money to continue developing the Noddle. Both Iowa Adaptive Technologies and the Noddle originated in the Iowa Medical Innovation Group (IMIG), a multidisciplinary course for students interested in learning more about how innovation works.

IMIG is a year-long simulation-style course that organizes students into five- to eight-person teams. Each team includes students from the colleges of business, engineering, medicine, and law. Teams are provided with medical problems by the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics staff and tasked with developing a technological solution to their problem.   In addition to developing the product, they also figure out how it could be commercialized.  “The law students’ role is to provide the types of support that lawyers provide in actual product development.  Just like in a real business, the law students' role is to help team members understand the law and its implications, plan to minimize future risk, and prepare relevant written work product” said Professor Jason Rantanen, the law school’s faculty representative in the group.  Furthermore, Rantanen added, "since actual medical device development takes years from conception to commercialization, everything that happens in the context of this course is really occuring a hypothetical world.  This gives students the opportunity to learn by doing, without the kinds of actual consequences that exist outside the classroom."  While it's exciting when student teams decide to continue on with their ideas after the conclusion of the course, the real goal is to teach students.  If teams decide to take concrete steps toward commercialization, they are transitioned over to practicing lawyers--some of whom may be former IMIG participants. 

Although there are no prerequisite courses, law students must pass an interview with Rantanen to participate. Once students are placed into teams, IMIG becomes a primarily student-directed course with support from each other and the faculty. “The faculty that are involved consult and supervise” rather than lecture, said Professor Herbert Hovenkamp, one of the founders of the IMIG program.

For the 2016-17 academic year, law students will participate both in the interdisciplinary component of the course as well as regular meetings of just law students.  At these meetings, students will discuss existing problems that they face and work as a unit to identify solutions.  "In-house attorneys both support their own client teams and operate as a team of attorneys.  It's a model that translates well to the learning environment of law school."

If you are a current Iowa Law student who wants to apply for the IMIG seminar, please submit your application here: