Eight teams involving UW BioE undergraduate and graduate students were among 22 teams competing in the 2019 Holloman Health Innovation Challenge (HIC), held March 6 on the Seattle campus. Of these teams, Nanodropper and Pulmora captured the first and third place prizes, respectively, and Insulin Anywhere took home a “Judges Also Really Liked” award. Learn more about the competition at the UW Foster School Blog and a recent Geekwire article. Some of the teams were also featured on King 5 News.
The HIC, held by the UW Foster School of Business Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, encourages student entrepreneurs who work to solve important health-related problems, and gives them the chance to win seed funding to advance their ideas to the next stage. It also provides students with basic prototype funding, and the opportunity to network, collaborate and build entrepreneurial skills.
In the first HIC in 2016, two teams from BioE took home the second and third place prizes, in 2017 one BioE team won second place, and in 2018, two BioE teams received the first and second place prizes. The HIC is one of three Buerk Center innovation competitions; the other two are the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge and its signature event, the Dempsey Startup Competition, formerly the Business Plan Competition.
Grand Prize – Nanodropper
Nanodropper, a team of current and former Department of Bioengineering, pharmacology, and medical students, won the $15,000 IntuitiveX grand prize for their affordable universal eye dropper that saves patients money and wasted medication. They also won a new prize this year, the M&M Consulting Medical Device Prize, which includes a full-day commercialization workshop (valued at $2,500).
Mackenzie Andrews, a BioE master’s degree student in the Program on Technology Commercialization, and teammates Jennifer Steger, Ph.D. student in UW Pharmacology, Allisa Song, medical student at the Mayo Clinic and UW alumna (Biology ’15) and Elias Baker, a Seattle University graduate, created a universal adaptor for any eyedrop bottle that decreases the volume of oversized eyedrops to reduce cost, waste and side effects. Eye drops are often bigger than the eye can absorb, and much of the medicine ends up running out of the eye. For glaucoma patients, who spend hundreds of dollars each month on eye medicine to perverse their vision, the excess is a costly waste. The team’s invention screws on to the top of bottles and creates a droplet of medicine big enough to get the job done without all the waste. Their invention was recently cleared by the FDA, and a patent is pending. With a focus on increasing access to expensive medications, the Nanodropper team is working together with insurers and healthcare professionals to make medicines more affordable, Mackenzie says.
Third Place Prize – Pulmora
Pulmora, a team of Master’s of Applied Bioengineering (MAB) students and a bioengineering undergrad, was awarded the WRF Capital $5,000 prize for their emergency ventilator that aims to be so easy to use that the average person could grab one to help someone who has stopped breathing.
MAB students Alex Brandt, Jake Nazarian and Kendall Ruggles, and BioE undergraduate Nick Wasserman teamed up to create a life-saving device for people who need external help breathing – the equivalent of a heart defibrillator, or AED, for the lungs.
Jake, who is also an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), notes that providing manual ventilation for a patient requires skill in first getting a tight seal around the nose and mouth, and carefully inflating the lungs to just the right level without overinflating – repeatedly. The EMT’s hands are tied up with “breathing” for the patient until more help arrives. The Pulmora team designed a self-sealing face mask and a pillow that correctly angles the head to open the airway. At the press of a button, an oxygen regulator equipped with a biosensor begins inflating the lungs. A built-in pressure sensor provides feedback to the device so it automatically adjusts the inflation rate as needed. The system frees up the EMT to take other life-saving measures. In addition to use on ambulances, the team envisions the Pulmora device being used by search and rescue operations, in hospitals and assisted living facilities, and by the military.
Judges Also Really Liked Prize (JARL) – Insulin Anywhere
One of two $1,000 JARL awards went to Insulin Anywhere, a team of UW Bioengineering undergraduates, who developed a portable device so Type I diabetic patients can treat themselves for up to a week or longer following a natural disaster. Peter Beidler, Katie Thien and Jackson Chin designed the device to be easy to use, familiar and low-cost.
“We’re going for continuity of care,” Peter says. “It has the same user interface, and everything you need.” Insulin is required for Type I diabetics. “People don’t realize the stress that diabetics can be under in these difficult situations,” Katie says. With no access to electricity, uncertain access and schedules for food and water, and often having to travel far distances to reach an aid station where diabetic medicines are distributed, maintaining blood insulin levels is a major challenge. The team’s simplified design provides temperature-controlled medicine for 7-10 days, and gives both aid organizations and users a way to bridge a crisis until an area can stabilize and get access to supplies. A second potential market is campers and travelers who want a convenient, self-contained dosing system.
Other UW BioE-affiliated teams competing in the HIC’s final round:
An adjustable, above-knee prosthetic socket specifically designed to accommodate changes in the residual limb of people with lower limb loss in low- and middle-income areas. (Graduate Bioengineering, Engineering, Rehabilitation Medicine)
CORE Patient Monitoring An exhaled CO2 monitor designed to overcome challenges with basic patient monitoring during surgery and in other situations in low-resource settings like Malawi and other countries. (Undergraduate Bioengineering, Electrical Engineering)
An assistive tool to streamline time-intensive measurements physical therapists take and provide incentive to patients to complete their treatment plan by allowing them to visualize their progress. (Bioengineering – Master’s of Applied Bioengineering)
Enabling remote access to ophthalmology care and patient-doctor interactions outside of the clinic by building tools to make photo communication easy for patients and standardized and quantifiable for doctors. (Bioengineering – Master’s of Applied Bioengineering, Business)
A reinvented system for negative pressure wound therapy and fluid removal that detects infection, promotes movement and allows patients to live their daily lives uninhibited. (Bioengineering – Master’s of Applied Bioengineering)