Three undergraduate teams design creative new devices focused on global health and point-of-care technologies
Three unique projects focused on improving global health won the National Institutes of Health’s Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams (DEBUT) Challenge. The winners showed exemplary initiative in designing tools for a less expensive, portable device to monitor HIV treatment, a new surgical clamp to treat drooping eyelids, and a low-cost patient monitor. DEBUT is a biomedical engineering design competition for teams of undergraduate students, managed by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), part of NIH. The judging was based on four criteria: the significance of the problem being addressed; the impact on clinical care; the innovation of the design; and the existence of a working prototype. The first place team will receive $20,000, second $15,000 and the third $10,000 in a ceremony at the annual Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) conference in October.
The third place prize was awarded to the RESONAIR, a portable, wearable, vibrating device—discretely contained within a backpack—that is able to quickly dislodge mucus from the airway, caused by cystic fibrosis (CF). CF is a severe, genetic disorder that that leads to an overproduction of thick mucus in a patient’s airways, resulting in respiratory problems, lung infections, hospitalizations, and decreased life expectancy and affects 30,000 people in the U.S. and 70,000 people worldwide. CF is a chronic disease that requires constant treatment to effectively manage the symptoms. However, low treatment compliance is a huge issue among the CF population. This leads to respiratory problems and chronic lung infections, resulting in hospitalizations, decreased quality of life, and lower life expectancy. RESONAIR is easy to use and optimizes therapy by allowing the patient to control the force while staying in the lungs’ resonant frequency range. This customizability is a feature not readily available in current devices. RESONAIR was developed by a team of students from Stanford University and attempts to increase compliance, reduce time spent on active treatment, improve quality of life, and lower overall healthcare costs.
“It is our hope that by focusing this competition on undergraduate students, we can encourage them to recognize their own talents and skills, and instill in them confidence to lead the next generation of innovators,” said NIBIB’s Zeynep Erim, Ph.D., who manages the DEBUT competition. “Many past winners of the DEBUT competition have gone on to patent their devices and some have even founded biomedical start-ups.”
There were 59 eligible entries received from 30 universities in 18 different states.
“The next decades of biomedical engineering will produce incredible advances; and the students of today are the creators of tomorrow’s transformative innovations,” said NIBIB Director Roderic I. Pettigrew, Ph.D., M.D. “These students prove that they are capable of thinking about problems in new ways, generating more cost-effective and better technologies that will improve health globally.”
Complete project descriptions from the winning student teams along with a list of honorable mentions can be found here.
Update, September 11, 2015: “This story has been updated to reflect a change in the winners”
About the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering: NIBIB’s mission is to improve health by leading the development and accelerating the application of biomedical technologies. The Institute is committed to integrating the physical and engineering sciences with the life sciences to advance basic research and medical care. NIBIB supports emerging technology research and development within its internal laboratories and through grants, collaborations, and training. More information is available at the NIBIB website: http://www.nibib.nih.gov.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 institutes and centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.