AWAIR - BMEidea 2013 Finalist

Meet the Innovators

The team:
AWAIR

The team members:
Rush Bartlett II, PhD, MBA, age 26, from Tulsa, Oklahoma and Austin, Texas
Ryan Van Wert, MD, age 33, from Toronto, Canada

School:
Stanford University

The device:
AWAIR created the Wyshbone drug delivery catheter, which continuously applies topical anesthetic to the throat to reduce endotracheal tube discomfort.

The problem: 
The idea for AWAIR originated through Rush and Ryan’s participation as fellows in Stanford’s Biodesign Program. Biodesign fellows spend one year in medtech innovation courses and are then placed in a local hospital to identify medical and/or operational problems. Teams rank problems in order of need and build prototypes to provide solutions to the most pressing ones.

In their time visiting and observing in a hospital, Rush and Ryan noticed that ICU patients with breathing tubes were often heavily sedated, which led to a number of negative side effects, including increased length of stay, ventilator-associated pneumonia, deep vein thrombosis, pressure ulcers, and delirium. At the same time, patients without breathing tubes were not sedated and fared much better. Rush and Ryan saw an opportunity to eliminate or reduce sedation by providing a new solution for people with breathing tubes.

The solution:
Rush and Ryan created the Wyshbone drug delivery catheter, a device that continuously applies lidocaine, a topical painkiller, to the throat in order to reduce the discomfort of having a breathing tube inserted. AWAIR’s targeted approach allows clinicians to minimize IV sedation and allows the patient to be awake and comfortable during the process. 

Challenges encountered:
AWAIR has found the funding and regulatory environment for start-ups in the medical field to be extremely challenging, but are learning to navigate it. Even with experience, there remains a steep learning curve. By definition, there isn’t a playbook for being innovative. For example, not everything moves at the pace of a start-up like theirs; so it has been essential to plan far in advance in order to properly follow the processes and regulation guidelines. 

Accomplishments and progress to date:
So far, AWAIR has received $5,000 from NCIIA in a Phase One E-Team grant, and has applied for a Phase Two E-Team grant for additional resources. 

Their tip for other student innovators:
Three lessons, actually: Listen, be intellectually honest and persevere.