2013 BMEStart Winners

We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2013 BMEStart biomedical design competition for undergraduate students.
Winners were announced at the 2013 BMES Annual Meeting on Thursday, September 26, during the Town Hall Meeting. 

First place, winning $10,000:

Novel microflora isolation system for fecal microbiota transplantation, Dartmouth College

Clostridium difficile (C. diff) is an infectious intestinal pathogen, responsible for a rise in hospital-acquired diarrhea in recent years. At its worst, C. diff is drug resistant, highly virulent, and potentially deadly. While antibiotic treatment is the current standard of care, it leaves much to be desired – patients receiving this treatment have a recurrence rate of 35%, which can lead to $3.2 billion USD in healthcare costs per year in the US. One highly effective, yet frequently overlooked therapeutic option is Fecal Mircobiota Transplantation (FMT), which harnesses the power of the body's naturally protective microbiome against the toxic effects of C. diff. In FMT, a healthy donor provides a stool sample, which is homogenized into a liquid and then administered to the infected patient via enema or colonoscopy. The reintroduced healthy bacteria bring C. diff under control and restore the patient's health.

The team aims to bring FMT to the mainstream clinic by introducing a novel collection and isolation system that will optimize the process within a closed environment, mitigate cleaning difficulties, and reduce human exposure to fecal pathogens. Their novel device is a standardized filtration system that separates viable bacteria from the insoluble waste in stool within a closed system. It effectively packages its fluid product (for further use, centrifugation, and storage), and is compatible with a multitude of delivery systems, including enema bag, colonoscopy, and gel encapsulation.


Second place, winning $5,000:

Personalized monitoring of enzyme dynamics (P-MED), University of California Los Angeles

Medical treatments are often highly generalized. As a result, drug efficacy is hampered due to an inherent heterogeneity between patients and diseases. Therefore, to optimize therapeutic effects and minimize hazardous side effects, a personalized approach to medicine, where the treatment plan (i.e. type and dosage of therapeutic) is individually tailored is desired. This requires preliminary tests (known as companion diagnostics) to assess the efficacy of a drug prior to administration. For cancer treatment, there is a growing interest in targeting differential enzymatic activity with prodrugs (precursor forms activated by an intracellular enzyme). Understanding enzymatic activity of the tumor prior to prodrug administration will allow physicians to design a better therapeutic plan.

Currently, however, there exists no such method. Therefore, as a tool for personalizing cancer treatment, we have developed a novel and robust technology to accompany all prodrug treatment. This technology, termed “P-MED” (Personalized Monitoring of Enzyme Dynamics), provides quantitative information on enzymatic activity of single cells in a high-throughput manner by monitoring the turnover of fluorogenic substrate in a microfluidic device. Cells are manipulated using inertial effects that occur on the microscale. Fluorescence turnover measurements are made to calculate enzymatic activity. We have used this system to measure intracellular esterase activity (currently targeted for colon and rectal cancer therapy). Additionally, P-MED can monitor the response to enzymatic inhibitors. P-MED can be used to predetermine the success of a variety of drugs on a per-patient basis. This method has far reaching implications in cancer treatment and pharmaceutical drug testing.

Third place, winning $2,500

ShunTek, Johns Hopkins University

The ShunTek team has created a medical device to help minimize blood loss in Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) trauma prior to reconstructive surgery. The IVC, located behind the liver, is the largest blood vessel in the body, delivering all of the blood from the lower half of the body back to the heart.  This device provides a minimally invasive and cost effective way to buy time for surgeons trying to repair the injury; it isolates and temporarily occludes regions of IVC injury while allowing blood from the rest of the body to bypass the isolated region and maintain normal flow. The team intends to establish the device as a platform for intravascular procedures requiring simultaneous vascular isolation and venous return with potential applications in treating liver cancer and replacing veno-venous bypass needed for resection of IVC tumors. Eventually, the team plans to establish their device as a general bypass method to be deployed on other blood vessels as well.

TREAT* prize, winning $1,000

Slidetrak, Columbia University

Home exercise programs (HEPs) are integral to knee surgery rehabilitation; adherence to these HEPs is a major indicator of patient recovery. Full adherence rates to HEPs are shockingly low, with literature values around 35%. These low adherence rates can lead to increased recovery time and painful injuries like knee flexion contractures. The Slidetrak team created a smartphone application that addresses issues in patient adherence to HEPs by measuring the range of motion of a patient’s leg during the supine heel slide, which is one of the first and most important exercises a patient must do after knee surgery. This data is sent to a secure server where a PT can monitor patient progress and send messages to their patient via the app, allowing for real-time adjustment of the patient’s exercise regimen. Additionally, the app provides real-time auditory feedback during exercise to ensure the patient is performing their exercise safely and correctly.

*This year NCIIA is partnering with TREAT (Center for Translation of Rehabilitation Engineering Advances and Technology) to honor excellence in Assistive and Rehabilitation Technologies.

TREAT is a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional, collaborative consortium between corporate, educational and non-profit entities providing infrastructure support and expert consultation to researchers and innovators interested in the translation and commercialization of rehabilitation research applications.


For affordability and accessibility to improve care: Sparo Labs: Empowering Patients through Mobile Spirometry, Washington University at St. Louis

In recognition of design and validation: CannaLily: Novel Shoulder MI Port Access Cannula Device, Clemson University

Improving care in under-resourced environments: iNurse: Intelligent, Low-Cost Pediatric Vital Signs Monitoring System, Rice University

Congratulations to all!