Making an Imprint on Startups, a Cancer-Fighting Nonprofit, and a Large Medical Device Company

photo of Chris Condit speaking behind podium

“There are so many jobs out there for biomedical engineering graduates, but they won’t fall in your lap. You have to work for them," Chris Condit (M.S.E. 2011) said, addressing future leaders in the fields of medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and industry. He spoke to the 2014 graduating class on May 16 during the Department of Biomedical Engineering’s Graduation Reception.

Condit, who has worked in a variety of capacities, including startups to a nonprofit and large medical device company, speaks from his own experience. 

He grew up in Lake Charles, Louisiana and chose to get his bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin.

“It was the best engineering school for thousands of miles,” he says.

When Condit entered, UT Austin didn’t yet offer undergraduate degrees in biomedical engineering, so he chose to major in electrical engineering with an emphasis on BME, and dove into research with Professors Tom Milner and A.J. Welch.

Like so many motivated UT students, Condit made the most of his undergraduate career. He developed patented intellectual property with Tom Milner and his startup CardioSpectra.

Not strictly satisfied with making a mark on scientific research, Condit found the time to start a nonprofit organization that helps fight cancer. Partly inspired by his own battle surviving Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a child, Condit founded Texas 4000, at the age of 22, with his wife Mandy, a UT chemical engineering alumna. Texas 4000 is an annual charity bike ride beginning in Austin and ending in Anchorage, Alaska. Cyclists raise money to participate in the ride that ultimately supports cancer research.

After graduating he joined the staff of CardioSpectra as a R&D engineer developing endoscopic laser imaging systems for minimally invasive diagnosis of cancer and heart disease. He worked there for two years while simultaneously serving on the board of Texas 4000. Right around the same time that Condit was writing a job description for the open executive director position at Texas 4000, Volcano Corporation acquired CardioSpectra.

“I realized I was writing a job description for a job I wanted,” says Condit, who took the job as Texas 4000’s Executive Director in part to fully give vision to the charity.

After two years of leading the nonprofit and charity bike ride, Condit stepped down from Texas 4000 and returned to The University of Texas at Austin to get a master’s in biomedical engineering. 

He worked with Professors Milner and Rylander in the area of optics. Much of his time was spent developing optical methods for a glucose monitoring device for another startup, Spectraphase. The device, intended for medical professionals, could be used to monitor glucose levels more efficiently in patients. Rather than pricking the skin multiple times to measure glucose level, the device Condit worked on would use an existing catheter port allowing medical professionals to easily check a monitor rather than needing to test blood.  

Upon earning his MS, Condit moved to Dallas to take a job with St. Jude Medical. There, he worked on a medical device for neurosimulation of the brain.

The device, intended for those with Parkinson’s, is implanted near the collar bone and helps restore a patient’s ability to walk and balance. 

“My engineering education helped me understand all aspects of a complex product—the characteristics of microelectronics, the software that controls the simulators, and the rechargeable components.”

Although Condit enjoyed working at St. Jude, the allure of Austin pulled him back. Condit and his wife recently returned to the startup world in Austin, this time with their two-year-old daughter, Raquel, who’ll be joined by a sibling soon.

Condit took a position with Xeris Pharmaceuticals, a drug formulation company that has created a drug/device combo product that allows diabetics with low blood sugar levels to boost sugar more quickly than the glucose solution that is used currently. Condit is the technical program manager and is leading product management and systems engineering.

“Being in Austin also means I’m closer to Texas 4000.”

Condit is a board member of Texas 4000, which recently awarded the Department of Biomedical Engineering a $100,000 gift, $50,000 of which will provide seed grant money for two BME faculty members working on cancer research. Texas 4000 has previously funded cancer research conducted by BME faculty, including Aaron Baker, Amy Brock, Andrew Dunn, Stanislav Emelianov, Mia Markey, and James Tunnell.