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Medical device and tech experts share lessons and encouragement

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Medical device and tech experts share lessons and encouragement

Seven undergraduate bioengineering seniors and two graduate students from the Master of Bioengineering (M.B.E.) track in Global Medical Innovation (GMI) track will travel on April 15 to Palo Alto, CA for the third annual Bioengineering Design Showcase of Innovative Medical Technologies.

The event, which will be held at the Garden Court Hotel in Palo Alto, provides a unique opportunity for students to present the devices they built during their year-long capstone bioengineering, global health technology, and GMI design courses to San Francisco Bay Area venture capitalists, technology-focused experts, and esteemed Rice alumni.

“Medical technology innovation today requires diverse perspectives and the ability to find the funding and resources required to bring a product to market,” said Jane Grande-Allen, Rice’s Isabel C. Cameron Professor and chair of the Department of Bioengineering. “This showcase is part of a growing effort by Rice and our department to find and build collaborations with industry through initiatives in research and education.”

Co-hosting the showcase with Grande-Allen is Mark Zdeblick, chief technology officer and co-founder of Proteus Digital Health, and Melanie Smitt, medical director of Genentech. Also facilitating the event are Junghae Suh, associate professor of bioengineering and biosciences, and Eric Richardson, associate teaching professor and director of GMI.

“We are grateful to Mark, Melanie, and all the judges, who for the past three years, have provided avenues to bridge academia and industry, and have advanced our corporate affiliate program,” said Grande-Allen.

At the showcase students will demonstrate their devices to event judges and participate in a poster competition. The devices on exhibit by undergraduate students will include a uterine contraction monitor, a urethral sphincter for pediatric patients, a component for AED defibrillation pads, a device to split and control oxygen flow for preterm infants on oxygen therapy, an at-home screening and monitoring system for Type 2 diabetes patients, an at-home monitoring device of jugular venous pressure, and a visual and auditory walking aid for patients with Parkinson's disease. All devices were designed and built at Rice's Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK).

The two implementation projects that will be presented at the showcase by GMI students Ryan Jones and Siri Manam include a diagnostic teledermatology platform and REDCap mobile application that captures pictures of potentially cancerous skin lesions, and an at-home system designed to improve peritoneal dialysis for low-income patients with chronic kidney disease who live in remote locations.

The teledermatology platform, called Claroscope, is advancing to clinical trials through joint efforts between Jones, Rice GMI students Anna Toner and Josh Raju with the Barretos Cancer Hospital in Brazil. The DialOasis dialysis system is being scaled and tested through efforts by Manam, GMI students Abby Brooks, Callie Carpenter and Tasha Aboufadel, and Costa Rican collaborators at Invenio University. Clinical testing will continue into the 2018-2019 academic year though Hospital Liberia in Costa Rica.

Bioengineering senior Catherine Schult, who will demonstrate the inexpensive uterine contraction monitor at the Bioengineering Design Showcase, said she is excited for the opportunity to, “Raise awareness of the need for automated monitoring in Malawian hospitals, and to speak directly to companies and individuals that have the resources to affect change in areas lacking crucial medical technologies.”

Schult will represent team Contractionally Obligated, which also includes bioengineering seniors Shannon Fei, Aniket Tolpadi, Leah Sherman, Patricia DaSilva, and Mildred Antwi-Nsiah. They plan to validate the contraction monitor's accuracy this spring in Houston with the help of their Rice faculty advisers Maria Oden, a full teaching professor in bioengineering and director of the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, Rice bioengineering research scientist Jennifer Carns, and faculty at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

Billy Jeon, a bioengineering senior on team Zfib, is an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to work in the medical device industry, possibly with a start-up company. “Presenting at showcases and at conferences provides great experience that will add to our laboratory-based research efforts in the development of our device,” Jeon said, whose fellow teammates Natalie Bolton, Sylvia Cai, Jamie Leong, and Alexander Lu will demonstrate their AED defibrillation pad component at the Johns Hopkins University Healthcare Design Completion for Advanced Health Systems track while Jeon is at the Rice Bioengineering Design Showcase.

“When patients undergo sudden cardiac arrest, the electrical signals that control the heart beat become irregular and prevent normal blood flow. This condition can be treated by delivering electricity to the heart using an automated external defibrillator, or AED,” said Jeon. “Our project looked into methods to overcome the skin impedance barrier, which is the most resistive and protective layer of the body.”

Working under the direction of cardiologist and research scientist Mehdi Razavi of Baylor College of Medicine, Professor Gary Woods of electrical and computer engineering, and Professor Richardson, team Zfib redesigned one component of the defibrillator pads to bypass skin impedance and more effectively deliver energy to the heart.

“Throughout the academic year, students have poured their time, energy, and passion into their design projects. This showcase provides wonderful exposure to communicate the value of that work,” said Grande-Allen.

Shawn Hutchins, Bioengineering Communications