Carnegie Mellon University

Doug Bernstein, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, PECA Labs

Patching Holes in Children’s Hearts

Co-founder and chief executive officer of PECA Labs Doug Bernstein (ENG 2012) was born with a congenital defect in his heart.

So when he saw an ad for a research position working on optimizing technology for pediatric patients with similar issues, he knew it was where he was meant to be.

In the role, Doug and fellow CMU alumnus Arush Kalra explored a synthetic material that functioned like a patch or a stent to address congenital heart defects. Then with Arush and his CMU roommate Jamie Quinterno, both Tartans on the Rise, he founded PECA Labs. The trio focuses on pediatric cardiovascular implantable technology that has the potential to revolutionize heart surgery for the hundreds of thousands of children living with congenital defects. The new materials that PECA Labs refined make pediatric cardiovascular surgery more efficient, less invasive and provide an array of options to address the issues faced by critically ill children.

With PECA’s innovations, as a child grows the material inside them can be easily expanded with a balloon catheter. This option is far less taxing on young bodies than the current standard of multiple open heart surgeries. Compared to previous options, their materials are also more durable and less prone to complications over a patient’s life.

“We have a focus on these markets that have a high need but not many patients,” Doug says. “When I was starting the company most of what we were hearing was medical devices are a space for people with gray hair.”

While it’s true that his valves and conduits help a limited number of cases each year, these conduits and valves are the difference between life and death for newborns with holes in their hearts.

“We want to be able to make impacts now in a space where you have kids dying or undergoing repeated surgeries every year,” Doug says.

Story by Elizabeth Speed