‘A Great Formula for Success’: Booth Alum Jennifer Fried Named CEO of Another UChicago Startup

Flow Medical cofounders Jonathan Paul, Jennifer Fried, and Osman Ahmed.

An early-stage healthcare investor, founder, and operator, Chicago Booth alum Jennifer Fried, MBA ‘15, has taken on a new role – with a familiar path – at the helm of University of Chicago startup Flow Medical.

“Jennifer’s track record as the CEO of Explorer Surgical, another UChicago startup, speaks for itself,” said Jonathan Paul, associate professor of medicine at the University and chief scientific officer and cofounder of Flow Medical, speaking to the announcement. “Jennifer started in a consulting capacity for us, but it became apparent very quickly that her passion and drive, as well as her incredible network, made this the perfect fit for us.”

As the former CEO and cofounder of Explorer Surgical, Fried led the company from ideation through commercialization, raising more than $10 million in funding and onboarding several dozen major medical device customers. She took the product global and successfully exited the business in 2021 to GHX. Both the company and Fried received numerous industry accolades, including being named one of the Top 50 Healthcare Technology CEOs of 2021.

Flow Medical, which is developing a novel thrombolytic catheter to treat pulmonary embolism, is on a similar path as Explorer Surgical so it’s one Fried knows well: It began in the lab and was commercialized with support from the Posly Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

>> Read more: UChicago Doctors Wanted a Better Medical Device to Treat Pulmonary Embolism. Here Is How They Made Their Own

Initial prototyping was supported by a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I grant and the idea was then vetted through the Polsky Center’s I-Corps program, which enables UChicago scientists, researchers, and students to test the commercial potential of their research. The next step was participating in Compass deep tech accelerator after which the team went on to participate in the George Shultz Innovation Fund and was awarded a $200,000 co-investment to further develop the technology.

“There is a really nice formula that the University has figured out in terms of multi-disciplinary collaborating and taking leading physicians and researchers and partnering them with talent from the business school,” said Fried. “It’s a really great formula for success.”

From participating in I-Corps through Compass and now with the addition of Fried, Paul said Flow Medical has benefitted tremendously from the Polsky Center network. “We have been able to leverage an incredible depth and breadth of knowledge, from technical to big picture and everything in between,” he added. “We would not be where we are today without this incredible resource.”

Osman Ahmed, associate professor of radiology, Flow Medical’s chief medical officer and fellow cofounder echoed the sentiment: “We are particularly appreciative of the sequence of programs that allowed us to really take our efforts from an idea on a napkin all the way to a company with a full-time CEO.”

‘Here We Go Again’

After selling Explorer Surgical in 2021, Fried stayed on as general manager to help guide the company post-acquisition – and was not looking for new roles. But the Polsky Center’s Steve Gould, consulting director of ventures, knew Fried was an entrepreneur at heart.

“As a successful entrepreneur with an outstanding exit at a young age she was in a small club, particularly as a female founder,” said Gould, who has known Fried since she was a student at Booth since which time they have become good friends. “I told her that if she did this again, and she was more than capable of doing so, that she would join a rarefied club.”

Gould described Fried as “relentless, resilient, resourceful, but realistic” – the characteristics of a successful founder and entrepreneur he also saw in Ahmed and Paul, whom he met as part of the Compass accelerator program.

“I was extremely impressed with the two of them as bright, creative, and entrepreneurial young faculty,” said Gould. A former vascular surgeon who has dealt with the treatment of pulmonary embolism, he also saw the transformative potential of their novel approach.

While Fried quickly was asked to be the CEO, she first moved into an advisor role to spend some time “digging in” before making a commitment. As part of this, she asked Gould if he thought that the startup’s technology was going to change the field. The answer was yes and her interest was piqued.

The decision also was deeply personal, as Fried’s father a few years ago was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer that makes him predisposed to blood clots. Pulmonary embolism, a sudden blockage in the pulmonary arteries, is the third leading cause of cardiovascular death. The market is huge and it’s ready, Fried said. Though if anything had come up in her research to suggest it wasn’t the best option for patients – and her father – she would walk away.

“So,” said Fried, “here we go again.”

Both Ahmed and Paul gave Gould a special thanks for being their matchmaker. “We are deeply indebted to his guidance and support over the past few years,” Ahmed added. 

The company is currently working toward an FDA 510(k) submission slated for 2024 and planning a fundraising round while continuing to work on the device. Additionally, it is building out its clinical and business advisory boards and working on designing the first-in-human clinical trials. Said Ahmed, “It’s going to be a busy but exciting time for Flow.”

Article by Melissa Fassbender, senior associate director of external relations and science communications at the Polsky Center. Melissa is a former journalist and has held the role of editor at various global publications in the drug development, clinical trials, and design engineering space. Reach Melissa via email or on Twitter at @melfass.

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