Laparoscopic surgery is a growing surgical technique in which operations in the abdomen are performed through very small incisions (0.5-1.5 cm) compared to the larger incisions needed in traditional, open surgical procedures. Patients that undergo laparoscopic surgery enjoy shorter hospital stays and reduced instances of surgery-inflicted morbidity.
This E-Team is taking laparoscopy a step further, developing a set of laparoscopic tools that enable surgery with extremely small incisions leaving no visible scars by enabling assembly of complex tools inside the patient. Existing scar-free techniques are burdened by steep learning curves and high costs, but the E-Team’s device, called ENGAGE™, requires minimal surgeon re-training and aligns with current insurance reimbursement plans.
This E-Team is developing software to make the technology transfer process from academia to industry in the bio and pharma space more efficient. Calling themselves Relay Technology Management, the team is developing software that provides industry in-licensing and corporate strategy groups with competitive intelligence on specific research happening inside universities, and also enables university technology transfer offices to manage their IP portfolios and market the right technologies to the right industry partners.
Specifically, the software will: 1) enable faculty members to enter invention disclosures in a secure, online system; 2) generate an actionable report to the technology transfer office; and 3) market the opportunity to the right industry partner based on licensing needs and sponsored research initiatives.
The business model will be based on a subscription fee to industry partners. The product will be marketed to companies in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, diagnostic, medical device, chemical, physical and clean technology industries. Large players in this space have already confirmed a need for such a service, and have begun pre-ordering subscriptions.
Approximately two million babies die each year from acute respiratory infections (ARI), almost all in developing countries. Many neonatal ARI patients in the developing world do not receive proper treatment because hospitals can’t afford ventilators, which cost $6,000 on average.
To combat the problem, this E-Team, calling itself infantAIR, is developing BabyBubbles, a low cost ventilation system for use in developing countries. The device uses a continuous positive airway pressure system, which works by maintaining positive airway pressure during spontaneous breathing, increasing lung volume at the end of exhalation, preventing the collapse of the airway structure, and improving oxygenation. The device helps to keep a baby’s lungs fully inflated so he or she can breathe naturally.
The team is aiming to implement the device in Rwandan hospitals first, followed by worldwide dissemination.
Update: In the summer of 2012, the infantAir team won $2m in funding through the Gates Foundation.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2010 - $16,500
While the world’s small-scale rural farmers have traditionally been overlooked in global markets, they’re gaining increased access to essential services including financial tools (banking, loans) and IT resources (mobile, internet). At the same time, there has been a global spike in demand for organic, fair-trade products, and small-scale farmers are well positioned to take advantage of the opportunity while at the same time generating employment and income. The challenge for most small-scale farmers is getting their goods to market.
This E-Team is developing the Mobile Information Aggregator (MIA), a mobile application/tool that farmers can use to gain access to global markets. Though a text message on a simple cell phone, the MIA tracks the frequency, quantity of production, and prices that farmers sell via a text message, which then links into a central database system. The MIA provides historical and real-time data to farming cooperatives so that they can make better business decisions, and will help this E-team to understand what cooperatives are producing and help farmers aggregate demand, connect with markets and increase their income.
The team has launched a company, Supply Change, a fair trade, organic fruit company which uses fruit that would otherwise be wasted, processing it into high-value, high-quality products to provide income for farmers and nutritious food for consumers. Individual farmers send their harvest information to their cooperative on a weekly basis via a simple text message. This harvest information is then fed into a central database, producing real-time data that cooperative managers access to make better business decisions to maximize farmers current production, matching supply and market demand. All of this before the food rots and is wasted.
The laparoscopic cholecystectomy, a minimally invasive surgical procedure to remove the gallbladder, is one of the most frequent surgeries performed in the United States, with an estimated 922,000 performed annually. Although laparoscopic removal significantly decreases surgical risk and recovery time, difficulties can arise when removing a gallstone-ridden gallbladder through a twelve-millimeter port. An important step in the surgery occurs when the physician puts the gallbladder into a laparoscopic retrieval bag (endobag); gallstones bulge at the bottom of the bag and can become wedged in the removal site.
To solve the problem, this E-Team is designing an endobag that employs cross-linked synthetic fibers nestled between pieces of polyurethane to create a structure similar to a novelty finger trap. When the surgeon pulls up, the contents inside the endobag lineate (form lines) due to the resulting radial force, preventing bulging of the gallbladder during extraction. The device integrates with the current procedure and tools; no new techniques or equipment are necessary.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2010 - $16,500
This E-Team is developing the Leveraged Freedom Chair (LFC), a lever-propelled wheelchair designed specifically to meet the mobility needs of people with disabilities in developing countries. Any wheelchair designed for developing countries needs to be both maneuverable in the home and able to travel long distances on rough roads; the LFC meets the requirements with a lever drive train that allows the rider to use mechanical advantage to efficiently traverse virtually any terrain.
The LFC looks like a normal wheelchair, but with tall levers pointing up from the wheels and a bike-like third wheel attached the to axle. Placing your hands high on the levers and pumping them back and forth generates high torque and an effective low gear; placing your hands low on the levers creates high angular velocity in the drivetrain and an effective high gear.
The E-Team will design and test the LFC in partnership with the largest disability organization in the world, the Indian organization Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS), Jaipur, also known as Jaipur Foot.
The team will produce 200 chairs in June 2012 and have capacity to make 500/month. In a small test of ten users in India, four individuals with LFCs gained employment as a result of their newfound mobility.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2010 - $17,517
Over one billion people worldwide lack access to clean water, the most basic need for human survival. Within that number, many spend up to eight hours per day walking to the nearest water source, collecting water in heavy buckets, and making the long journey home. According to the UN Millennium Goal Report, forty billion work hours are lost in Africa each year due to time spent transporting water.
This E-Team is developing the Aqua Port, a water transporter that consists of several large plastic cylinders with wheels. The units are threaded onto a horizontal axle and rolled from the water source to the user’s home.
The team is relying heavily on research, testimonials and data from NGO workers, professors, and consumers throughout Africa in designing the device. It fulfills the three major needs they’ve identified for a water transporter: easy to transport, lift, fill, and pour; affordable for people living on less than two dollars per day; and able to transport large amounts of water.
University of California, Berkeley, 2010 - $18,400
Middle-income families in emerging markets around the world would like to have the same hot shower their counterparts in wealthier countries experience every morning. Demand for comfort technologies like water heaters is growing quickly in these markets, but the current options for water heating are either very expensive (tank heaters) or low quality (biomass burning), and all emit significant amounts of carbon. Both the upfront and ongoing energy costs of water heating technologies in, for example, Mexico, make hot water a well-guarded comfort.
The CalSolAgua (CSA) team has developed a low cost solar water heating system capable of reducing energy costs for households in developing countries while also reducing carbon dioxide emissions. CSA’s solar water heater can retail for about $100—one-fourth of the price of competing water tank heaters.
University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign, 2010 - $20,000
This E-Team is developing IntelliWheels, an after-market addition to off-the-shelf wheelchairs that significantly decreases the effort it takes to propel manual wheelchairs. IntelliWheels uses a gear shifting system to make pushing a wheelchair easier: the user moves forward, backward, and turns by pushing on the hand rims on either side like normal, but two automatic transmissions continuously change gears to keep the user operating in the most efficient way possible. This happens automatically, without the user thinking about it or needing to do anything.
The team built one prototype already, but it did not perform well. The team is now looking to build on what was learned from the first prototype and continue the development of IntelliWheels into a viable product and business focused on the US market.
Cardiac pacemakers save lives by restoring and maintaining a normal, safe heart rate for patients with heart rhythm disorders such as bradycardia (a pathologically slow heart rate). But despite their effectiveness, most patients with bradycardia do not need a permanent implanted device because their problem is temporary and reversible: the heart rhythm disruption stems from a procedure or as a side effect of medication. The options for short-term, temporary pacing to overcome bradycardia are, however, flawed: intravenous medications work only for a subset of patients and have limiting side effects; external pacing pads placed on the chest are ineffective and prohibitively painful to the patient. The placement of a temporary pacing electrode through a large vein directly into the heart is the most effective method, but, unfortunately, it is also known to cause potentially fatal complications, including perforation of the heart wall (1-2%) and dislodgement (10-30%).
To meet the need for a safer method of temporarily supporting patients who have or are at risk for bradycardia, this E-Team is developing a temporary pacing system that eliminates the majority of adverse events due either to perforation or dislodgement.