April 2010


Stanford University School of Medicine, 2009 - $17,495

Over the last ten years, the number of patients seen in emergency departments (EDs) has grown rapidly, topping 120 million patients in 2008. Thus, efficient and accurate evaluation and diagnosis are essential to preventing overcrowding and ensuring high levels of patient care. Among the controllable causes of ED inefficiency, laboratory delays due in part to hemolysis are cited as one of the most prevalent and significant.

Hemolysis is the rupture of red blood cells and the release of their intracellular contents into a blood sample. It is by far the leading cause of unsuitable lab specimens, responsible for up to 70% of failed samples, and can delay the ED process by up to one hour: from drawing the blood to laboratory hemolysis analysis itself is approximately half an hour, and communicating the presence of hemolysis and redrawing the sample takes another half hour.

This E-Team is developing a user-friendly and cost-effective device that eliminates this delay. The device detects hemolysis of a blood draw immediately at the bedside, eliminating the delay associated with hemolyzed blood samples, thus increasing patient turnover in the emergency room, decreasing crowding, and increasing hospital revenue.

Medici Medical Technology

Duke University, 2009 - $11,850

Urinary incontinence (UI) affects twice as many women as men, primarily between the ages of 30-60, due to complications of childbirth, pregnancy and the configuration of the female urinary system. Despite the large number of women who suffer from UI, the current treatments are far from optimal, and no solution provides the control and convenience that patients need. Pharmacological therapies, pelvic muscle rehabilitation and surgery are most frequently used to treat UI. However, the non-invasive treatments (e.g., diapers) are stigmatized and uncomfortable. Surgical procedures are often ineffective, with failure rates as high at 50% for some treatments.

This E-Team, calling itself Medici Medical Technology, is developing two devices to treat stress UI in women. (The project started at an NCIIA funded program at Stanford). Stress UI is characterized by leakage that occurs during a quick (approximately one second) increase in pressure on the bladder during coughing, sneezing, hiking, sports or climbing stairs. The team’s time-delayed valve system addresses this issue by ensuring that such a short pulse of high pressure will not be sufficient to open the valves. However, when the patient does want to void, she can essentially do so normally by controlling the pressure in the abdomen for approximately three seconds, allowing each of the valves to open in series, one after another. Once all valves are open and urine is flowing, the patient will no longer need to bear down, as the pressure of the flow will keep the valves open. This device allows patients to regain their freedom and lifestyle by giving them back control of their own bodily functions while also providing convenience, requiring device changes only at each semi-annual checkup.

Cortical Concepts

Johns Hopkins University, 2009 - $20,000

The human spine is composed of vertically stacked vertebrae that form a protective canal for the spinal cord. Instability of the spine caused by vertebral fractures, deformities and other spinal disorders often requires surgical intervention, in which two metal screws are placed into parts of the vertebrae called pedicles and joined at adjacent vertebral levels with metal rods. However, patients with osteoporosis (and thus poor bone quality) are susceptible to screw pullout during the procedure. At the same time, osteoporotic patients stand to gain the most from the procedure.

Rather than reinvent the effective and well-established procedure of pedicle screw fixation, this E-Team is aiming to rebuild the strength of screw fixation in the pedicles by shifting the forces experienced by weak inner bone to strong outer bone. They call this method Corticoplasty™, and the device used in this approach will act as an intermediary between the bone-screw interface and provide a strong interference fit for existing screws in osteoporotic patients.


Johns Hopkins University, 2009 - $18,000

Every day as clinicians perform their morning rounds, patients are asked whether they have been using their incentive spirometer, an inexpensive bedside device that promotes deep breathing with a visual feedback mechanism. Current clinical protocol suggests performing deep breathing exercises using the incentive spirometers ten times per hour as a preventative measure to reduce postoperative pulmonary complications that include atelectasis, pneumonia, and bronchitis. As a testimony to their efficacy, incentive spirometers are provided to every single patient who undergoes general anesthesia. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell if a patient has actually been using the spirometer, forcing clinicians to rely on patient memory, which is neither objective nor accurate in the post-operative period.

This E-Team is designing an electronic, disposable incentive spirometer that will quantify when a patient uses it. The device is designed to allow hospital staff to monitor patient usage and lung capacity performance—features not possible with current embodiments. Ultimately, the team hopes to expand into the full spirometry market to help diagnose non-hospitalized patients for conditions such as pneumonia.

Fuel from the Fields

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2009 - $17,793

Cooking fuels are problematic in Haiti: while almost half of the population uses wood or agricultural residues as their primary cooking fuel, breathing the smoke from the fires leads to persistent respiratory lung infections, mostly in women and children. Most of the remainder of the population uses cleaner-burning wood charcoal, which can be prohibitively expensive (often 25% of a family’s income). Both options contribute to deforestation in a country that is already 98% deforested.

This E-Team, calling itself Fuel from the Fields, has developed a method over the last seven years of producing cleaner-burning, inexpensive charcoal made from agricultural waste. Supported by a number of grants from different organizations, the team has validated the viability of the technology and established three training centers and sixty workshops in Haiti producing charcoal for their own use and to sell. The team is now looking to establish centers for training, research, and business throughout Haiti (and eventually worldwide) that will teach farmers the process of making the charcoal, how to create micro-enterprises around the technology, how to innovate/improve on it, and document the technology’s influence.

Charcoal offers Haiti’s small farmers a way to create successful micro-businesses that produce alternative charcoal, generating new income and providing local employment opportunities while reducing deforestation and improving air pollution associated with cooking.

Lochlorine Chlorine Producer and Doser: Saving Lives Through Safe Water

University of California - Berkeley, 2009 - $20,000

Chlorination is a cheap and safe method to disinfect water that actively continues to disinfect for several days, unlike other methods that cannot guard against biological recontamination. Programs in the developing world using chlorination at the household level have seen water-borne illness decrease by 22-84%, but have faced logistical issues in reaching every home with a regular supply of chlorine and dosing errors that have led to under-chlorinated or over-chlorinated water. In Kenya, simple community chlorine dosers increased chlorine usage from 8-61%; however these dosers were limited in their ability to adapt to different volumes of water.

LoChlorine has developed two products, the LoChlorine Producer and LoChlorine Doser, both of which aim to safeguard family health by improving access to and the performance of chlorination. The LoChlorine Producer is a method that uses human power to produce chlorine locally that yields a reliable concentration of chlorine for pennies. The LoChlorine Doser is unique in its ability to automatically and appropriately dose arbitrary volumes of water. The design has no moving parts, uses no electricity, and could be mass-manufactured for less than ten dollars.

The team plans to implement the project initially in West Bengal, India, in partnership with the Aqua Welfare Society.

BMEidea Competition Deadline EXTENDED!

There is still time to apply! We have extended the BMEidea competition deadline to Thursday, April 8, 2010.  Complete an application today for your chance to win up to $10,000!  For more information, read the competition guidelines.