Orestis Vardoulis, PhD

Mentor: Dr. James Wall

“It’s an interesting place to be—the space between academia and industry,” says Orestis Vardoulis, PhD. “It’s research, but it’s also innovation.”

As a postdoctoral scholar working in Dr. James Wall’s lab at the Division of Pediatric Surgery, Vardoulis is closely involved with the UCSF-Stanford Pediatric Device Consortium.

“I organize our monthly Innovators Forum, helping our tier one device developers get feedback from experts in the field,” said Vardoulis. “Our lab is also working on our own innovations; we’re currently designing a tool that can assist NICU physicians with vein catheterization to ensure it doesn’t migrate and delivers medication in the right place.”

Vardoulis has come a long way from a little boy, who dreamed of becoming a pilot.

“I grew too tall to fit in a cockpit, so I thought I’d try designing airplanes instead,” said Vardoulis. He decided to study mechanical engineering at Aristotle University Thessaloniki in Greece. “I learned that I could apply the same computational fluid dynamics as jet engines to understand—through the modelling of flow phenomena—how changes in local blood flow influence the progress of disease.”

Vardoulis ended up writing his doctoral thesis on novel non-invasive techniques for hemodynamic monitoring and earned his PhD in Biotechnology and Bioengineering at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

During his last few months there, Vardoulis was invited to Microsoft Research in Seattle to consult on a series of wearable devices related to monitoring vascular health. Up until this point, Vardoulis had been doing mostly basic research but now saw a future in the medical innovation space.

Vardoulis then received a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation and continued his research at Stanford University Chemical engineering working on flexible and self-healing electronics for health , wearable and IOT applications. Shortly after he was accepted into Stanford’s Biodesign Fellowship Program in August 2017.

“I liked being on a team that brought together people from different backgrounds to tackle a challenging problem,” said Vardoulis, whose group is developing a device that detects early onset of stroke with the aim of bringing patients as fast as possible to treatment.

Today, the resulting company—Zeit Medical—has raised more than a quarter million dollars.

“I want to continue identifying unmet medical needs, developing solutions, bringing them to productization,” said Vardoulis. “I want to develop medical devices that are actually are effective—that help patients and their families—without adding extra cost to the system and the out-of-pocket expenditure.”