In developing countries worldwide, infant mortality rates remain extremely high: out of the 3.7 million neonatal deaths and 3.3 million stillbirths in the world each year, 98% occur in developing countries. Among these numbers are newborns that are unresponsive upon delivery, but which still have a faint heartbeat. Unfortunately these infants are often declared stillborn and left to die, as the absence of reliable medical devices to check for heartbeat and the lack of training in using them prevent attempts at resuscitation.
The International Business Ventures Enterprise team is developing the Infant Heart Annunciator (IHA) to address this problem. The IHA can quickly detect the heartbeat of an unresponsive infant by using electronic impulses; the device is placed on an infant’s chest, and two electrodes detect the infant's electrocardiogram (ECG) within three seconds. If the infant’s heart is beating, the device will flash a light and beep for each heartbeat, indicating that resuscitation is required. Healthcare workers, midwives and other medical professionals are trained to resuscitate, so if the infant is identified as being alive, the chances of them surviving increase dramatically.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2011 - $18,500
One of the greatest challenges facing the solar industry is the high cost per kilowatt hour for solar power. Even with government subsidies and incentives, the price of solar power is still much more expensive than traditional energy sources. For it to become widely adopted, cost reductions need to be accomplished that increase the energy output of solar cells and reduce manufacturing costs.
Effimax Solar is developing technology that addresses both of these challenges. Currently, crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar cells comprise over 85% of the solar cell market share. Among all of the c-Si solar cell manufacturing processes, texturing is one of the most significant in determining cell efficiency. Conventional texturing processes have several drawbacks, but Effimax Solar’s new process, called Omni Black, ameliorates the disadvantages, enhances efficiency, and lowers the cost of c-Si cells. Omni Black is a nanotexturing process that creates high density and high aspect ratio nanostructures on silicon solar cell surface to lower the surface reflectance and improve the light trapping. This results in more light being collected and converted into electric power. Further cost savings are realized by reducing the silicon loss in the texturing process and migrating to thinner wafers with almost no loss in efficiency.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2011 - $18,800
While approximately 80% of the world’s amputees live in developing nations, only 2% of the people in that segment have access to appropriate prosthetic care and rehabilitation. This is because developing the custom-fit socket for the prosthetic is extremely labor-intensive and expensive. The socket must be fabricated by a trained prosthetist after taking measurements of the individual amputee, and typically costs around $5,000 to produce.
Illini Prosthetic Technologies (IPT) is a nonprofit organization founded in 2008 by engineering students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to develop and deliver an affordable prosthetic arm. The paradigm behind IPT’s below-elbow prosthesis is the elimination of the custom-fit in the socket. This allows for a rapid-fitting, off-the-shelf device that is both affordable and appropriate for the developing world. See the current prototype at http://vimeo.com/33997864.
The term “complex communications needs” (CCN) is commonly used in hospitals to refer to the problems severely disabled patients can have in communicating their needs to staff. Barriers to communication can occur, for example, when a patient has new physical disabilities caused by traumatic injury. Hundreds of thousands of patients experience this every year, and it can create dangerous situations: a recent Joint Commission survey identified communication failures as a top underlying cause of events resulting in death or serious injury to patients while under hospital care each of the past eight years.
Augment Medical is developing PatientLink, a novel wireless communication platform accessible to disabled patients that enables them to call the nurse, turn lights on and off and control the TV. It consists of a patient input controller, a wall adapter, Bluetooth wireless technology, and software for user interface. This allows a patient to call a nurse with voice activation or by squinting, and to communicate by capturing signals from facial movements.
The General Population Census of Cambodia in 2008 found that 76.8% of the rural population still practices open defecation. As a result, diarrheal diseases are the number one cause of sickness and death amongst Cambodian children, with 20% of children under five years old suffering from diarrhea. At the same time, most Cambodian fields are under-fertilized, with UN estimates suggesting that only 30% of rice fields receive even minimal fertilizer application. Too often, poor farmers fertilize their fields with raw human waste, leading to widespread illness.
This team has designed the EZ*PZ, an inexpensive (~$4) device that converts urine into a safe fertilizer. Essentially half a toilet that goes on the front part of a latrine squat pan, the EZ*PZ ensures that urine, feces, and blackwater are separated at the point of collection. The urine ends up in a clear plastic jug, where it’s treated immediately with direct sunlight. This pathogen-free fertilizer can then be combined with water and applied directly to vegetables and other crops. Preliminary tests indicate that users of the device will see rapid increases in crop yields and improvement in public health.
Since being selected to attend this year's Open Minds showcase in March, the Antenatal Screening Kit E-Team from Johns Hopkins University has earned a growing media following.
The team's invention, a suite of pens that can be used to screen expectant mothers for treatable diseases and health problems, has been featured in Popular Science's 'Invention of the Year' issue (June 2011, page 62).
The JHU team has developed a screening kit - delivered through a pen - to provide low-cost healthcare to women in even the remotest villages. The kit includes a variety of custom markers pre-filled with reagents for screening tests for conditions including pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, malnutrition, and anemia.
Selected from more than 65 video entries submitted by university students internationally, the JHU team will be awarded $10,000 and will be provided mentoring and support from The Lemelson Foundation.
The current gold standard treatment for forearm fractures includes a period of full immobilization of the site of injury (typically six to eight weeks) followed by routine physical therapy to regain muscle strength and range of motion. However, each year approximately 6.8 million Americans experience immobilization-induced muscle atrophy, which increases recovery time and vulnerability to further injuries.
This team’s solution is a modular cast design dubbed the PuzzleCast. It consists of several interlocking thermoplastic components that have the ability to unlock degrees of freedom while still maintaining immobilization of the injured area. By increasing range of motion during the healing process, blood flow is increased, muscle atrophy is reduced, and overall healing time and physical therapy are shortened.
Epidemics of recent emerging infectious diseases, such as the H1N1 pandemic, demand cost-efficient and scalable production technologies that can rapidly deliver effective therapeutics to clinics. Traditional vaccine manufacturers have trouble meeting these needs, as their manufacturing processes are slow and not economically scalable. Developing world populations are especially burdened by lack of access to effective and inexpensive therapies.
This team is developing SwiftVax, a plant production platform that produces animal and human vaccines efficiently and affordably. The technology can rapidly produce large amounts of therapeutics with minimal investment compared to traditional vaccine production infrastructure.
This grant will help in developing a proof-of-concept that will bring SwiftVax-produced vaccines closer to market. The team’s initial target product is an animal vaccine for Newcastle Disease, a devastating and highly pathogenic disease in poultry. The disease threatens commercial poultry in developed countries as well as the livelihood of disadvantaged populations in Africa, to whom chickens represent the main source of food and income.
Shikimic acid is an essential component in the manufacture of the anti-pandemic influenza drug Tamiflu and a valuable precursor in many other chemical syntheses. However, the low availability and high cost of shikimic acid limits the global ability to either stockpile or ramp up Tamiflu production in a pandemic emergency.
The Marlee Tech team is seeking to cost-effectively supply shikimic acid from a renewable wheat source using an environmentally benign bio-enhancement process. The proprietary method involves a chemical treatment process to induce the plant into producing very high levels of shikimic acid that can then be readily extracted in economic quantities.
The team won the 2009 OSU business plan competition and incorporated as Marlee Tech, Inc. The company is now looking to demonstrate technological feasibility and scalability and secure IP to move toward commercialization.