Eugene Malinskiy ’08 and his innovation and design company solve health-care related problems
By Alyssa Giannirakis ’14
The majority of entrepreneurs in the U.S. are arts and sciences majors. Eugene Malinskiy ’08, a chemistry major, is one of them. The creative and critical thinker founded DragonID, an award-winning, health- care innovation and design company based in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. When Malinskiy saw a need for a device in the medical industry, he used what he learned during his undergraduate studies, assembled a group to solve the problem, and grew the company from there.
After graduating from Carroll, Malinskiy studied in a pharmacology/toxicology master’s program in Denmark because he thought he wanted a career in the pharmaceutical field. Although he decided not to pursue that route, his time spent in that field exposed him to how the health-care industry works.
About a year and a half ago, Malinskiy was studying in a biomedical engineering graduate program at Cleveland State University while doing work at the Cleveland Clinic when he learned from doctors that patients were having strokes while undergoing a transcatheter aortic valve replacement. During the procedure, surgeons insert an artificial valve into a patient’s heart through an artery or small incision while the heart is still beating. A clinic researcher approached Malinskiy about the cardiac problem. At the time, there was no device on the market to solve it, and now only a few options exist.“I had a good idea about how the problem could be solved, so I quit everything I was doing,” says Malinskiy, who witnessed about 10 of the procedures.
DragonID’s first product, EuCliD (an acronym for emboli capturing device) is a filter that catches pieces of matter, called emboli, which break off into the bloodstream during heart surgery. If emboli are left to travel in the bloodstream, they can cause strokes. Malinskiy and his staff created a meshlike device to capture emboli.
The product is made from various advanced metals – including nitinol, a lightweight metal used in the medical industry for its shape- memory property – and proprietary polymers. All parts are produced in the United States. EuCliD is a few centimeters long when closed and looks like a miniature inverted double- umbrella when open. When heated to about 500 degrees Celsius, shape set to a form, and then cooled, the nitinol will remember that shape. The nitinol can be flattened to fit the artery. Reheating it will trigger the transformation back to the shape that was preset. The product, which is still in the preliminary, experimental stages, went through animal trials this past winter. The company, which is finishing some product testing, plans to take it to market within three years.
During the development of EuCliD, DragonID received a grant from the Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network and $25,000 from the Innovation Fund, based in Elyria, Ohio. Typically, it takes about five years to bring a new medical product to market, and Malinskiy and his staff are working diligently to make the product available to those doctors who need it most as soon as it’s ready.
The right people
Starting a business isn’t easy, but Malinskiy is dedicated to finding solutions to problems in the health-care industry.
“I found a group of people who shared my passion,” he says. “We tried to solve the stroke problem and did it quickly. After we did that, we realized we could work together.”
Malinskiy, DragonID’s CEO, needed to assemble a versatile group of people to work for his company because professionals from all areas of the health-care industry approach the company with their problems. He gathered a group that possessed various technical skills – from bioengineers to chemists to physicists to computer scientists to aerospace engineers – with one goal in mind: “That when someone comes to our door, the answer could always be, ‘Yes we can,’” he says.
The health-care innovation and design company originally was housed in LaunchHouse, a seed capital funding business accelerator in Shaker Heights, Ohio, that provides support and workspace to startup companies to help them thrive. DragonID, which since has moved to the Rockefeller Building in Cleveland Heights, is comprised of about 15 full- and part-time employees, plus interns. When Malinskiy started the company, there were only four staffers.
David Vodolazkiy ’13, director of communication, joined the company without much knowledge about the health-care industry. He reflects back on his years at John Carroll as an English major and found one course with associate professor Tom Pace, Ph.D., especially prepared him to succeed in the fast-paced world of a health-care startup. The composition and rhetoric course strengthened his technical research skills, which he found necessary for his job.
“Without that introduction, getting into a superscience company would’ve been so much more difficult,” he says.
It took Vodolazkiy two months of immersion and research to acclimate himself to the ins and outs of the industry.
Not your typical business
Originally, the group focused solely on the one cardiac device, EuCliD, but the company has grown considerably during the past year. Employees have the freedom and flexibility to work on other projects as they see fit. DragonID employees usually don’t work a typical day at the office because the company doesn’t operate from 9 to 5, which is a unique aspect of the startup. The business ebbs and flows as the direction and focus of the company is shaped.
“You can have a short day, or you can be here for 14 hours,” Malinskiy says.
“I’ll have a three-day lull where I’m trying to keep myself busy and then three days of not sleeping because there’s a deadline we just heard about and have to meet it,” Vodolazkiy says.
The 29-year-old Malinskiy encourages employees to work from home as long as they can accomplish their work with the same quality they would in the office.
“We do a lot of things remotely because of the nature of what we do,” he says.
On a typical day, four to five people work in the office, but other employees are working with a physician or visiting a hospital. Employees do everything from programming to research to experimentation. Scientists on the staff have experience in the medical field, so they can sit in on procedures and help physicians with problems they encounter. The staff also includes engineers who have industrial experience, which helps them understand what’s happening at manufacturing sites.
Vodolazkiy’s role is much different compared to what the science-based employees do, but he still serves an important role in the daily function of the company. Aside from grant solicitation and research, one of his projects involved composing a science-focused curriculum for the nonscience employees and interns – a 30-day crash course that helps prepare people to learn the necessities of the health-care industry.
Malinskiy is constantly moving the company forward. As a CEO and scientist, he handles and oversees every aspect of the biotech startup. His passion is working on science and engineering daily, but that’s not always the case. He also manages the company’s finances, relationships with partners, and product development. DragonID’s concepts include software tools to make child immunizations easier to track, a device for knee and shoulder surgeries, and a new plastic that could affect millions of procedures.
This past fall, Inside Business magazine named DragonID, which is almost 2 years old, one of Northeast Ohio’s Top 25 Tech Companies and the Coolest Start-up of the year.
Christine Fleig ’14, a senior at John Carroll, is interning with the company. Fleig is inspired by the company’s energy and enthusiasm.
“There’s something in the water where most people I’ve met at JCU want to change the world, and that attitude is found with those who work at DragonID,” she says. “They really are going to.” JCU