Hawkeye Surgical Lighting wins $100,000 at InnoVenture Challenge

neurosurgery resident David Christianson and medical student Anthony Piscopo founded Hawkeye Surgical Lighting which developed a light worn by surgeons that lights up tumors during a surgical procedure. CREDIT UNIVERSITY OF IOWA.

University of Iowa startup Hawkeye Surgical Lighting, founded by neurosurgery resident David Christianson and medical student Anthony Piscopo, won $100,000 at the first InnoVenture Challenge on Dec. 7. 

Hawkeye Surgical Lighting’s development of the first voice- and motion-controlled surgical headlight that works with an iOS through Bluetooth earned it the funding.

InnoVenture Iowa invited the best early-stage entrepreneurs to participate in its challenge, a pitch competition that brought together three startup companies to compete on-stage for the $100,000 award. 

Mr. Christianson and Mr. Piscopo identified and addressed the need of surgeons for a light, bright, and comfortable pair of surgical eyeglasses. The two built Hawkeye Surgical Lighting with Mr. Christianson taking the technical lead and Mr. Piscopo the entrepreneurial lead.

When a surgeon shines a light toward a patient’s brain or spine, the tumor lights up in a bright red color, allowing the surgeon to carefully remove the entire tumor.

“You want to get a clean margin because if you don’t, it is going to grow back,” said Mr. Piscopo in a statement. “If you are too aggressive and take too much out, you can damage the brain or spine. This technology to fluorescently visualize tumors is currently only available in big surgical microscopes. It has never been incorporated in a headlight before.”

Now, there is a brighter, lighter, and more comfortable solution that can also be controlled in a unique, hands-free way.

“The thing that is novel is the way you are able to control it with your voice and body position,” Mr. Christianson said in a statement.

Hawkeye Surgical Lighting was named the 2021 Student Startup of the Year by the University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.

InnoVenture Iowa is a $30 million co-investment fund designed to support early-stage startup companies in biosciences, advanced manufacturing, and information technology. Eligible companies must be headquartered, or have significant operations, in Iowa.

Other finalists were The Hummingbirds, a platform that enables businesses and organizations to find and work with hyper-local content creators to drive revenue and recognition, and Clayton Farms (formerly Nebullam), which builds vertically integrated, direct-to-consumer indoor farms serving customers first in Ames, before expanding to Eastern Iowa.