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NIH grant to support commercialization process for noninvasive pediatric ureteral stent removal device

By Kendall Schoemann
Rice News Staff

The work of Rice Outstenting, a co-recipient of the top prize at the 2016 George R. Brown Engineering Design Showcase, has the potential to move closer to commercialization, thanks to a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant awarded to Rice University, Fannin Innovation Studios and Texas Children’s Hospital by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The $225,000 grant will be used to conduct further development of an electromagnetic device for removal of ureteral stents in pediatric patients.

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The Outstenting team in April 2016, from left: faculty adviser Eric Richardson, Valerie Pinillos, John Chen, Margaret Watkins, Allen Zhao, Eric Yin and clinical adviser Dr. Chester Koh of Texas Children’s Hospital. Photo by An Le/Luxe Studio Productions 

In collaboration with Texas Children’s, Baylor College of Medicine and Fannin Innovation Studios, Rice Outstenting is aiming to redesign the pediatric ureteral stent removal process by creating a method that is less invasive, less painful and more affordable.

Their invention was created in 2015 under the guidance and support of Dr. Chester Koh, a pediatric urologist and surgeon at Texas Children’s and Baylor College of Medicine. The Ureteral Stent Electromagnetic Removal Bead, is part of a stent inserted into the ureter, the duct that allows urine to pass from the kidney to the bladder. The stent keeps the passageway open after a pyeloplasty procedure to remove an obstruction. The stent removal method is less painful, requires no anesthesia, costs two-thirds less than the standard procedure and can be completed in minutes.

Eric Richardson, the team’s faculty adviser and a lecturer in bioengineering and director of the Global Medical Innovation (GMI) professional master’s program, said one of the team’s greatest challenges is the small pediatric medical device market.

“Many medical device companies are unwilling to make devices for kids simply because the market is not there,” Richardson said. “Unfortunately, a lot of kids get devices that are designed for adults.”

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 A student pulls a magnet attached to a stent from a test device. A new $225,000 NIH grant will be used to conduct further development of an electromagnetic device for removal of ureteral stents in pediatric patients. Image by Jeff Fitlow

The grant will allow the team to implement design modifications to further refine the device as well as perform bench top and preclinical studies.

Tasha Aboufadel, a graduate student currently working on the project, said collaboration with Fannin Innovation Studios and physicians at Texas Children’s Hospital has greatly accelerated the project toward commercialization.

“I was ecstatic to learn we had received an SBIR grant,”Aboufadel said. “This funding will drive the expansion of possibilities available to us as the project moves forward.”

Michael Hart, a graduate student who worked on the project last year, said it was unique to design a device for young patients.

“It made the project more meaningful knowing that the product I was working on would be used to help infants and children who are so young they might not even be able to fully understand why they have to receive medical attention,” Hart said. “It’s quite interesting developing a medical product for a customer who can’t be asked for input or their opinion largely because they are so young they have not developed language skills yet.”

 Richardson, who previously created devices for a large medical company, said the device will next move into animal, cadaver and eventually clinical studies.

“I have loved working as the team’s faculty adviser, "Richardson said. “It’s fun to see what I did in industry be done by the hands of students. This will be a big success once we get it across the finish line.”