Carnegie Mellon University

Arush Kalra, Co-Founder and Chief Science Officer, PECA Labs

Engineering Better Surgical Options

Arush Kalra’s motivation to improve health outcomes has a personal angle.

“My mother was suffering from a congenital cardiac defect,” he says. “While she seemed healthy, the question always was if her aorta could burst at any point.”

Arush (ENG 2013) started out pursuing medicine but came to CMU after receiving some insightful advice while training in pediatric surgery as a resident.

“I was constantly bickering with my boss because I asked too many questions,” says Arush, the co-founder and chief science officer of PECA Labs. “He told me I should probably make things rather than practice using them, and I was like that was a great insight.”

Arush brought his surgical background to CMU and trained as an engineer with the goal of inventing in the medical space. His research in a lab working on a material that held promise to fix heart defects led to meeting Doug Bernstein and Doug’s roommate Jamie Quinterno, both Tartans on the Rise.

Together, they formed PECA Labs, based on their research and the new material.

Today, the company produces the first expandable vessel for grafts within the heart — especially in babies — and the first synthetic valve for pulmonary artery reconstruction. In children, the material used for the devices can be expanded to grow with children over time which offers another layer of benefits.

“We’re moving toward a future where you would not require surgery at all,” Arush says. “As a surgeon, I realize it's the most brutal medical field with the most intentional fracture to the human body.”

“So the whole goal going forward is to give you a valve in an outpatient department. That valve will outlast your age. That’s truly the legacy PECA Labs is designing and working toward.”