2007

2007 BMEidea Winners: What are they up to?

The 2007 BMEidea Winners: 1.5 years later

The third round of BMEidea competition winners featured technologies with the potential to revolutionize how we deliver vaccines, how we treat Parkinson's disease and how we repair peripheral nerve injuries. We caught up with the teams a year and a half after the competition to see what they were up to, how their projects were going, and how participating in the BMEidea competition influenced their careers.
 

First prize: Rotavirus Vaccination via Oral Thin Film Delivery, Johns Hopkins University 

A big part of innovation is thinking about problems in a different way. Changing your point of reference can lead to creativity, and creativity can lead to originality.

An example is the Rotavirus Vaccination team from Johns Hopkins University, winner of the 2007 BMEidea competition. Rotavirus, a disease that causes severe diarrhea and vomiting in children, kills 600,000 people in the developing world each year. While there is a vaccine for the disease, few children in the developing world end up getting it due to problems with cold chain storage: the vaccine has to be kept refrigerated, often an impossibility in rural areas where refrigeration is scarce. 

The innovative solution? Change the vaccine itself. While the liquid form of rotavirus vaccine requires refrigeration, the Johns Hopkins team is developing a dry form derived from thin film technology, similar to Listerine's quick-dissolving breath strips. The team's dissolvable strip is seeded with the vaccine, then coated with a special material to protect it in the child's stomach. That same coating disintegrates in the small intestine, releasing the vaccine, triggering an immune response and preventing future infection. All on a little strip that requires no refrigeration and is light and easy to ship.

The Rotavirus project began at Aridis Pharmaceuticals, a San Jose firm that invented a rotavirus vaccine stable at room temperatures. Aridis approached Johns Hopkins professor Hai-Quan Mao about coming up with a drug delivery vehicle for its novel vaccine. Mao brought the challenge to one of his undergraduate lab assistants, Chris Yu, who became co-leader of the team that tackled the project.

They faced several obstacles right out of the chute. For one, they couldn't copy the manufacturing process that Listerine uses to make breath strips, since the harsh solvents and high temperatures it requires ended up destroying the live vaccine. They also had to devise a protective coating that would remain intact when exposed to stomach acid but dissolve in the small intestine. Said Yu, "Our technology is geared toward delivering a live attenuated virus for a vaccine, not just freshening breath. We quickly found out that in order to get it to work, we'd need to take a different approach--use more advanced technology.

They got through the challenges with hard work and research. They developed a room-temperature production and drying process to fabricate the strips and identified an FDA-approved biocompatible polymer coating that would protect the vaccine in the stomach and release it in the small intestine.

Much more work remains before the vaccine is a finished product, however. Since winning BMEidea funding the team has continued research. And while most of the team has graduated and moved on, Yu is remaining on the project while pursuing his masters at Johns Hopkins. "Aridis is still very interested in the product, of course," said Yu. "They're very happy with our progress, and have hired a post-doc to work with me in the lab."

"The foundation of the system has already been laid: how we're going to deliver the vaccine to the small intestine, what kind of release profile it will have. Now we need to optimize the system. We need to optimize the film formulation, and ultimately add as many components as possible to make it easy to ship and make sure it's easy to use for inexperienced healthcare providers."

Yu is honest about the biggest benefit of winning the BMEidea competition: the money helps. "NCIIA has given us a lot of the financial backing for what we're doing. A lot of the components that are needed to formulate and test our design are actually quite expensive. We wouldn't be as far along as we are without the funding."

Beyond that, Yu says that participating in BMEidea gave him a better grasp of the business issues surrounding rotavirus. "Even though the rotavirus vaccine is abundant in the US, virtually none of it is making it to developing countries that need it," he said. "Science aside, the business end of this project--getting the vaccine into the hands of people who need it--is extremely important and will need to be addressed as soon as our prototype is ready to go."
 

Second prize: enLight: Enabling Life with Light, Stanford University

Parkinson's disease is a degenerative central nervous system disorder that causes a breakdown in muscle function and speech. The disease affects 1.5 million patients in the US alone--a number that will likely rise as the population ages--yet there remains no definitive treatment for PD. Current therapies run the gamut from drugs to surgery all the way to qigong, a traditional Chinese breathing exercise.

One of the most promising new approaches to treating PD is deep brain stimulation (DBS). Since a main factor involved in causing Parkinson's is the insufficient formation and action of dopamine, DBS involves placing an electrode deep within the brain to stimulate the parts of the brain responsible for dopamine production. DBS has been shown to alleviate some of the motor tremors in Parkinson's patients and can lead to an improvement in quality of life. 

The drawback? DBS is only effective in a very small percentage of PD patients (~5%) because electrode-based stimulation is highly nonspecific. During DBS, many more brain cells other than those responsible for PD pathology are stimulated, which can lead to a number of severe side effects including apathy, hallucinations, compulsive gambling, hypersexuality, cognitive dysfunction and depression. Clearly there is a need for a better device--one that can specifically target only the neurons involved in PD, lessening the side effects.

This Stanford University team, winner of second place in the 2007 BMEidea competition, believes it's found the solution. The team is developing enLight, a remarkably forward-thinking, novel treatment for PD that enables the effective and reliable control of neural activity using light.

Here's how it works: instead of implanting an electrode, the team implants a thin optic fiber in the brain. Then, using gene therapy techniques, they introduce a genetically coded protein that makes the neurons specifically involved in Parkinson's sensitive to light. The optic fiber shines light into the right region of the brain, and voila, only the neurons associated with Parkinson's are activated. The ability to directly and specifically control neurons represents a major step forward and has the potential to revolutionize the field.

It all started with algae--or, more specifically, the algae-related lab work of Feng Zhang, a graduate student at Stanford. "When I first joined the lab in January 2005," says Zhang, "I started working on technology that would allow you to take protein from green algae and transfer it to neurons to make them light sensitive. Algae have light-sensitive neurons that they use to find sunlight for photosynthesis; by transferring this algal protein into animal neurons we figured we would be able to very precisely control neural firing."

Zhang was right. After establishing the validity of the technology, his team started developing genetic techniques that would allow them introduce the protein into specific neurons. They do this through lentiviruses, a genus of viruses that can deliver a significant amount of genetic information into the DNA of a host cell. Thus the biological basis of the technology was formed.

Soon enough they began to think about ways to use the technology for therapeutic purposes, and hit upon Parkinson's as the most likely first target. "We looked into diseases that could be treated using our approach, and, largely because of the body of research that has already been formed on Parkinson's and deep brain stimulation, we chose Parkinson's."

The team has made solid progress since winning BMEidea funding, filing several patents and moving toward pre-clinical animal testing. According to Zhang, the next steps are getting the biological reagent produced and ramping up to clinical trials. On the device side, refinements need to be made to the optical fiber "to make sure we're bringing in enough light, but not too much light. It's a tough technical challenge."

Other challenges involve finding the right animal model to use for testing, and making sure their virus doesn't cause damage to the brain--that it infects the right neurons. But despite all the obstacles to overcome, Zhang sees this product hitting the market in five to eight years, and making a big impact.

As far as the impact of winning BMEidea is concerned, Zhang strikes a familiar chord: winning gave his project credibility. "First of all it gave us validation--maybe our idea isn't so crazy after all!" he said. "Plus the events that we've attended as a result of winning BMEidea have been very helpful. I've been able to network with people who work in the medical device industry and gotten insight on basic things, like how to think about medical devices, how to manufacture a device, etc. They were very helpful."
 

Third prize: Bioactive Nanopatterned Grafts for Nerve Regeneration, University of California, Berkeley

Peripheral nerves are the extensive network of nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. Like static on a telephone line, peripheral nerve injuries distort or interrupt the messages between the brain and the rest of the body, affecting a person's ability to move or feel normal sensations. This is a common problem affecting about 800,000 Americans each year.

The gold standard approach to fixing it is the nerve autograft--removing a segment of nerve from one part of the body and suturing it in place at the site of injury. While this is effective in some cases, the approach comes with a number of risks and drawbacks: the donor nerves tend to be small, usually requiring the doctor to stack a bunch of them together to make an implantable graft; two invasive surgeries are required, one for harvesting the donor nerves and one for implanting them; sometimes the graft simply doesn't work; some patients don't have any nerves suitable for donation; and the donor site can react badly, causing more pain than the nerve injury itself.

A different approach to the problem gaining in popularity is the world of synthetic grafts. Made of various polymers wrapped into a sturdy tube shape, a handful of grafts are currently on the market. But the current designs come with limitations as well: none can outperform the nerve autograft in clinical trials, they don't provide cues for regeneration the way a normal nerve would, and they can't bridge gaps longer than four centimeters. There is a clinical need for a synthetic graft that better mimics the nerve autograft and has the ability to regenerate damaged nerves of all sizes, and this UC Berkeley team is looking to provide it.

The team, winner of third place in the 2007 BMEidea competition and now incorporated as NanoNerve, is developing a novel synthetic graft that enhances and guides nerve regeneration across a range of peripheral nerve injuries. The tubular graft is composed entirely of nanoscale polymer fibers loaded with bioactive molecules that provide growth cues for regenerating. The technology is also capable of spanning large gaps.

Altogether, this makes a product that is "simply better than what's out there," according to team leader Shyam Patel. "We can heal longer nerve injuries, we can provide growth cues, and we'll be proving that through human trials taking place next year."

The key to the technology has to do with how the grafts are fabricated. The most common method of fabricating polymer nanofibers is to use an electrical field to "spin" very thin fibers. This technique, called electrospinning, can be used to make nanofiber scaffolds in various shapes. The key innovation allows the team to fabricate grafts composed entirely of nanofibers aligned along the length of the tubes, allowing for customization of the length, diameter and thickness of the grafts. Combine that innovation with a way to make the nanofibers bioactive by attaching chemicals directly to the surface, and you've got a technology that mimics the nerve autograft by providing both physical and biochemical cues to direct nerve growth.

Armed with a potential breakthrough technology, things are moving quickly for NanoNerve. After graduating from Berkeley, Patel and a handful of others licensed the technology from the university and formed the company around it. They're currently in the development phase of the product, but according to Patel they're "actually very far along in the process. We hope to file for FDA 510k clearance by the end of the year, which will allow us to start marketing the product in 2009."

Assuming all goes well in human clinical trials, Patel sees NanoNerve taking off. "We'll be able to sell the product as something that is functionally better than what's currently available, something that will serve as an effective alternative to the autograft. Our technology takes full advantage of the fact that the shortest distance between damaged nerve endings is a straight line. It directs straightforward nerve growth and never lets them stray from the fast lane."

NanoNerve may very well be in the fast lane itself. And according to Patel, participating in the BMEidea competition has helped put it there. "The press and publicity as a result of winning third in BMEidea was very helpful in terms of getting the word out about what we're doing," he said. "It's helped the company since it shows that the project has scientific merit, shows that is has value to the medical community. It's helped us impress the people we've been talking to about it and has definitely validated what we're trying to do."

Solar Turbine Group

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2007 - $20,000

This E-Team is developing an inexpensive solar generator for powering off-grid communities in the developing world. Unlike standard photovoltaic panels, which only produce electricity, the team's device meets the entire range of commercial and residential energy needs: heating, cooling, and electricity. Using common, inexpensive auto parts and plumbing supplies, the generator works by using sun-tracking parabolic mirrors to focus the sun's rays on a pipe containing liquid anti-freeze. The refrigerant is heated and vaporized through a heat exchanger, driving a turbine-alternator assembly to generate electricity. Wasted heat is captured by a condenser and used to heat water. Altogether, the system costs about $3,000 and produces enough energy to power an off-grid school, health clinic or community center in the developing world.

Update

The team is continuing to pursue the scaling and commercialization of this technology. There are two seprate ongoing efforts: a for-profit venture named Promethean Power (focus in India), and a non-profit named STG International (focus in Southern Africa).

 

 

Solar Water Purification Bottles With Dye Indicator for Developing Countries

University of Massachusetts, Lowell, $17,500

Almost one billion people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water, most of them in the developing world. To combat the problem, this E-Team is developing a water purification process in which contaminated water is put into a recycled plastic bottle coated with titanium dioxide and placed in the sun for several hours. This kills not only bacteria but other harmful substances such as arsenic and herbicides.

The team received a 2006 NCIIA grant to test this method and to develop a dye that turns clear when the water is fully disinfected and ready to use. They are now looking to bring the product to market by setting up microenterprises in villages in the Peruvian Andes and by partnering with a large bottled water company for manufacturing the bottles for sale.

Method to Close Laparoscopic Fascial Trocar Sites

Stanford University, 2007 - $15,820

Laparoscopic surgery, also called minimally invasive surgery, is a surgical technique in which operations in the abdomen are performed through small incisions (usually 0.5-1.5 cm), as compared to the larger incisions common in traditional surgical procedures. The key element in laparoscopic surgery is the use of a telescopic rod/lens system, usually connected to a video camera, called a laparoscope. Using carbon dioxide, the abdomen is blown up like a balloon, elevating the abdominal wall above the internal organs and giving the surgeon room to operate. This approach has a number of advantages, including reduced blood loss, which means less likelihood of needing a blood transfusion; a smaller incision, which means shorter recovery time; and less pain, which equals less pain medication needed.

The approach isn't without drawbacks, however, as one of the most frustrating and time-consuming parts of the surgery is closing the small port sites in the abdominal wall that are made when accessing the operative site. If the port sites are closed improperly, the patient is at increased risk of hernia or bowel problems, requiring further treatment. This E-Team has developed a solution to automatically, safely and reliably close the port sites. The 10mm device has two opposing wings that open when placed into a port. An indicator on the device alerts the surgeon when the wings are in their final position, and the surgeon locks the device into position by pushing a plunger that drives two flexible needles from the shaft into the wings. The surgeon then releases the wings and pulls out the device, leaving a looped suture around the port site opening.

 

2009/10 updates

The team has formed the company SurgSolutions.

uBox

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2007 - $19,930

Though many of the world's worst diseases can be treated with drugs, the problem of adherence--patients correctly following the timing and dosage of long, complex prescriptions--remains a major challenge in public health, especially in the developing world. To combat the problem, this E-Team has created uBox, a cheap, rugged, "smart" pillbox designed for rural communities in the developing world.

UBox is a palm-sized plastic container with sixteen compartments. The user rotates the top handle clockwise to expose a new compartment, and pulls down a small lid at the base of the device to retrieve medication. A simple electronic timer records each time the lid is lowered to remove pills, creating a log of when the patient takes the medication. Further, healthcare workers who are assigned to ensure patients take their pills are given a USB-like modified audio plug and insert it into a port on top of the uBox when visiting a patient. The uBox records the time and date of this action, allowing for healthcare worker tracking as well.

2011 Update

The team has formed Innovators In Health, Inc., a 501c3 working actively in eradicating TB. IIH runs two successful programs in India. In Delhi its biometric technology developed with Microsoft Research and Operation ASHA is now in a 600-700 patient trial. In Bihar, it works with India's national TB program and the Government of Bihar to improve access to TB for 50,000 rural residents in 19 villages.

Second product:
Innovators In Health has started development of a biometrics platform called uPrint, which is now in a 700 patient trial in Delhi. The business model is that government agencies pay IIH for use of IIH technology.

Development of a Prosthetic Vein Valve

Georgia Institute of Technology, 2007 - $15,650

Over seven million Americans suffer from Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI), a painful and debilitating disease that affects veins in the lower extremities. Veins in the legs have one-way valves that usually function to prevent blood from pooling at the feet, but malfunctioning valves can cause leg swelling, ulcerations, varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal. Current treatments for CVI include anti-coagulant drugs, bed-rest and compressive legwear, but these target the symptoms of the disease rather than the cause. The standard surgical treatment is valve transplantation, but it's difficult to find suitable donor valves, and the surgery is highly invasive.

This E-Team has fabricated a prosthetic vein valve that can be implanted in a lower-risk, minimally invasive procedure. The valve is flexible, biocompatible, does not form blood clots, and can be manufactured cheaply. The team has shown that the valve is operationally functional; they are now performing pre-clinical tests in preparation for FDA approval.

Sproxil

Dartmouth College, 2007 - $18,466

According to the World Health Organization, 25% of the medicines sold in the developing world are inauthentic copies containing little or no active ingredients. When fake drugs are laced with lethal ingredients they can lead to mass fatalities, as was the case in a 1995 outbreak of false meningitis vaccine in Niger that killed 195,00 people. To fight the problem, this E-Team is developing an SMS protocol called UPAP. UPAP is a labeling system for drug manufacturers that allows customers to use their cell phones to text message covert, one-time alphanumeric codes to the drug company's back-end database for verification. The system verifies whether or not the drug is genuine, allowing the customer to get information on what they're buying right at the pharmacy.

A number of competing drug-verification technologies exist, such as RFID and colorimetric/holographic signatures, but none combine UPAP's low cost and high effectiveness. The team plans to focus initially on Ghana, where 40% of the drugs are counterfeit.

Update: a member of the original team has incorporated the venture as Sproxil, which has several partners, including the World Economic Forum Technology Pioneers Program, Ashoka, Nokia, and a number of telecoms carriers and pharmaceutical regulators in Ghana, Nigeria, and India.

Extremely-Low Frequency Seismic Detector - ELF-SD

Virginia Military Institute, 2007 - $12,390

This E-Team is developing the Extremely Low Frequency Seismic Detector (ELF-SD), a device designed to allow miners to communicate with rescuers on the surface in the event of a mine collapse. The device consists of an underground, battery-powered transmitter, a portable receiver, and custom software installed on a laptop. When a disaster occurs, ELF-SD transmitters located in predetermined safe rooms within the mines will send low frequency signals through the earth. By correlating the signals from these transmitters with specific safe rooms, rescue officials will get precise data on the location and condition of the workers, making rescue easier and possibly saving lives.

A number of miner tracking and mine communication products are on the market, but all depend in some way on an electronic network, which a mine collapse would obstruct and disable. The team believes their competitive advantage lies in the fact that their system would continue to function in the event of a collapse.

Update: Technology is licensed (July, 2011). The ELF team successfully negotiated a license with Strata Products Worldwide, LLC, to commercialize a low-frequency seismic detector that will enable miners trapped up to 2,000 feet underground to be located in a matter of hours. U.S. Mining companies have a legal mandate to retrofit all of their life refuge chambers starting in 2013, and as a result, the VMI device will soon make its way into almost every mine in the U.S.

Visit the ELF team's site and listen to a NPR broadcast on the project.

Expandable Fusion Cage

Johns Hopkins University, 2007 - $17,000

Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure in which two or more vertebrae are fused together to relieve pain stemming from degenerative disc disease, spinal fractures, and other sources of back pain. The preferred surgical method is Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF), where the disc is removed through an incision over the lumbar spine and a structural titanium cage and bone graft are inserted in its place. While this approach is less invasive than others and leads to lower trauma and complication rates, the small space in which to work and the vulnerability of local nerves make the surgery time-consuming and difficult to perform. Further, traditional cages have fixed dimensions and must be coaxed into the spine, possibly causing nerve damage.

This E-Team is developing a new approach to the procedure with an expandable fusion cage. The flexible titanium cage will be compressed during insertion and expanded during the positioning phase of the procedure. When the device is fit into the spine, a balloon will be inflated, expanding the cage to the exact size necessary and filling in all available space.

A Dynamic-Response Sling System for the Treatment of Stress Urinary Incontinence

Stanford University, 2007 - $16,550

Urinary incontinence is a common, often embarrassing condition affecting millions of Americans. The most common form of the condition is Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI), the involuntary leakage of urine when sneezing, coughing, or otherwise exerting yourself. While current surgical treatments are effective for most women with SUI, this E-Team believes there is a need for a reliable, minimally invasive treatment for patients with Intrinsic Sphinteric Deficiency (ISD), in which the urethra functions poorly despite normal anatomical support. Given the fact that all male cases of SUI are caused by ISD, the greatest unmet need lies in the male market.

The team has filed a provisional patent and developed an alpha prototype. With NCIIA funding the team will design and refine more prototypes, file for a full patent, and develop a business plan and marketing strategy.

Greensulate (Ecovative)

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 2007 - $15,815

Household energy use accounts for one-fifth of the total energy consumed annually in the US. Better insulation would lead to a reduction in energy consumption, but today's most popular forms of insulation have significant drawbacks in the form of health risks, high cost, and large environmental footprints.

This E-Team developed Greensulate, an environmentally friendly home insulation material. Greensulate is a composite board made up of insulating particles suspended in a matrix of mycelium-growth-stage mushroom cells. This mushroom-based insulation is biodegradable, low cost, produces no pollution in the manufacturing process, and insulates as well as competing products.

They've since focused on developing and selling Ecocradle, a green alternative to polystyrene/Styrofoam packaging.

Update: the team is now incorporated as Ecovative Design. The company won 500,000 euros at Picnic Green Challenge 2008, the world's premier green ideas conference, in Amsterdam, received SBIR Phase I funding from the EPA, and won the DoE's Renewable Energy Laboratory's Clean Energy Venture Awards. Click here to visit their website.

 

E-Team for Carbon Nanotube Development

Taylor University, 2007 - $20,000

A carbon nanotube is a one-atom-thick sheet of graphite rolled up into a seamless cylinder with a diameter on the order of a nanometer. The unique molecular structure and high tensile strength of these tubes can potentially be used to make extremely strong and lightweight building materials (vehicle frames and more) and their ability to conduct heat also makes them ideal for superconductor electrical wiring. The drawback at the moment is their expense: current manufacturing processes create carbon nanotubes for about $100 per gram, too expensive for mass production. The challenge is to reduce production costs to a level where the tubes can become economically viable.

This E-Team, incorporated as Tiergan Technologies LLC, believes it can meet the challenge with a production process that creates nanotubes for nine cents per gram. Focusing on single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNTs), the team uses a method that utilizes ethanol as the carbon feedstock. While ethanol is more expensive than the standard carbon monoxide feedstock, it operates at much lower temperatures and is easier to scale up. The ethanol-based process allows for significant reduction in production cost.

Plastic Microneedles for Drug Delivery

Georgia Institute of Technology, 2007 - $20,000

Over sixteen billion hypodermic needle injections are given annually in developing countries, but, due to frequent needle reuse and inappropriate disposal, half of the injections are deemed unsafe. Each year, millions of new cases of hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV are introduced in this way. In 1999 the WHO mandated that all conventional syringes used in its programs be replaced by auto-disable (A-D) needles that make reuse impossible, but this has not yet happened.

To combat the problem, this E-Team is developing an entirely new system of drug delivery based on plastic microneedles. The needles, which are about .5 mm long and feel like sandpaper on the skin of the patient, are made from bio-compatible, tough, and recyclable polymers. The drug delivery system consists of a flexible container (about the size of a fingertip) that contains the drug to be delivered, and, underneath, an array of microneedles that sits on the patient's skin. The drug seeps through the needles into the skin, and the device is put into recycling.

Ultrasound-Guided Noninvasive Measurement of Central Venous Pressure

Johns Hopkins University, 2007 - $12,220

Central Venous Pressure (CVP) is the pressure of blood in the thoracic vena cava, near the right atrium of the heart. CVP reflects the amount of blood returning to the heart and the ability of the heart to pump the blood into the arterial system, and is a key parameter used in diagnosing serious conditions like heart failure and monitoring patient fluid levels. Currently the only method of accurately measuring CVP involves surgically inserting a catheter through a major vein, which is costly, highly invasive, and can lead to complications. For these reasons, CVP measurements are usually only taken for critical patients, even though early detection could help treat conditions like congestive heart failure.

This E-Team is developing a small handheld device, called cVein, that provides a noninvasive and accurate method of measuring CVP. Using an ultrasound machine to visualize the internal jugular (IJ) vein, the operator applies pressure to the vein with cVein. The device records the pressure required to collapse the IJ and displays the reading to the operator. This quick and noninvasive measurement method could be used in emergency or primary care settings, allowing for earlier diagnosis of problems.

Community Assessment of Renewable Energy and Sustainability

University of California, Berkeley, 2007 - $16,000

This E-Team hopes to bring together consumers, communities, academics and solutions providers to assess problems and find solutions to reduce their environmental impact. CARES will be an assessment tool for complicated sustainability problems based on the most up-to-date models.

The team will create a proof of concept, create a developer community, get support from key NGOs and make contacts with the sustainable energy technology community. They envision providing users with the data and tools necessary to quantify the sustainability of their lives and assess their environmental impacts.

Ryan Shelby's blog

(co-founder CARES)

Porous Concrete Water Filtration: New Technology for Developing Countries

University of Alabama, 2007 - $19,400

It is well known that over 1.1 billion people in the world lack access to safe drinking water. Point-of-use (POU) drinking water treatment technologies have the potential to provide clean drinking water for those without, but are limited in their use in developing nations by their cost, durability, microbiological effectiveness, maintenance, and general usability. One promising technology is porous ceramic filtration, which provides an effective barrier against microbial pathogens in water and has recorded significant health gains in users versus non-users. The filter is, however, susceptible to breakage over time (2% per month in a daily household), is expensive to make where fuel to fire the kilns is scarce, and isn't feasible where clay isn't locally available.

This E-Team aims to build on the success of ceramic filtration by substituting the porous ceramic filter body with porous concrete, a more durable, more widely available, and less energy-intensive product.

Buzby Networks

Pennsylvania State University, 2007 - $18,000

The Buzby Networks team is creating a wireless network solution for the healthcare industry, particularly nursing homes. The team's system will allow for the wireless tracking of patients, equipment, and personnel.

The need for Buzby's network comes primarily from the tendency of some nursing home patients to wander off, escape, and put themselves and others in danger. Buzby Networks believes its wireless technology will provide peace of mind to families and staff.

Enhanced Bio-morphic Helmet

Michigan Technological University, 2007 - $15,500

Today's standard football helmet design includes a hard outer shell, a protective foam layer, and a comfort foam layer resting on the head. An impact occurring directly to the hard shell is distributed over the padding, which deforms in compression. This works well for direct impacts, protecting against concussion, but doesn't perform as well for indirect or rotational impacts, since the padding is relatively stiff with respect to shear forces.

This E-Team is developing the Enhanced Bio-morphic Helmet (EBM), an improved helmet better able to withstand indirect impacts. The design of the EBM imitates the protection system of the human brain, scalp, skull and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The skull is simulated with a composite sandwich shell, the scalp by silicone gel sandwiched between the outer and inner wall of the shell, and the CSF by a soft padding system underneath the inner wall.

A Novel, Robust Device to Prevent Fetal Death During Labor & Delivery

Stanford University, 2007 - $20,000

It is standard practice in the US to monitor a mother and fetus during the labor and delivery process. However, the reliability and user-friendliness of current monitoring devices is questionable: the two sensors (fetal heart rate and contraction) must be strapped tightly to the woman's abdomen, require continual adjustment by nursing staff, limit mobility, and interfere with fetal monitoring during placement of an epidural.

This E-Team is developing a new approach to fetal monitoring. The team's solution consists of disposable adhesive patches placed on the mother's abdomen. The heart rate and contraction sensors are miniaturized and incorporated into the patches themselves. Once the patches are placed, they will not need adjustment by nurses, will not interfere with epidural placement, will allow the mother to move around more freely, and will provide more reliable data.

Real-Time, High-Accuracy 3D Imaging System

Catholic University of America, 2007 - $14,500

This E-Team is working to improve on current 3D medical imaging techniques by increasing their accuracy, field of view, speed and complexity, while at the same time lowering cost. Using advanced algorithms, the team has achieved preliminary results; this grant will help further develop their technique and build a prototype.

The 3D imaging market includes image construction of human body parts and organs, vision systems for tracking, and many other applications in the camera and entertainment industries as well as the military. The team's workplan includes improvement and optimization of techniques, prototyping, and assessment and final improvements.

Therapeutic Systems

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2007 - $16,500

Deep Pressure Touch Stimulation (DPTS) is a method of treating people with mental illness that involves applying firm pressure to the chest, much like the feeling of a hug. DPTS is most often applied passively, using simple weighted vests and toys. This E-Team is developing a DPTS system with more user control: the inflatable system can be inserted into any off-the-shelf vest and can safely apply a range of pressure, helping people cope with their anxiety. The team is also looking into developing a weighted blanket for people with chronic sleep problems.

For the vest, the team is targeting the parents and caregivers of children with autism and ADHD. They have partnered with Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Massachusetts and a local preschool for kids with mental illness, developed an alpha prototype, conducted market research, secured a provisional patent, and written a business plan. With this grant the team will develop and test a beta prototype and continue business development.

Updates:

Boston Herald feature series:

 

Digital Maze Games

Northeastern University, 2007 - $15,900

The Digital Maze (DM) is a software game that challenges students with multiple choice questions in order to discover the maze exit. DM can be used in class or for homework and can be applied to disciplines as diverse as medicine, law and science. The team sees the game as a textbook supplement targeted to college professors, textbook authors and academic publishers.

The team believes that current games rely too heavily on repetition and memorization, while DM relies on a more cognitive learning process, creating a more intense gaming environment.

Removing Arsenic from Contaminated Drinking Water in Rural Bangladesh

University of California, Berkeley, 2007 - $20,000

In Bangladesh, naturally occurring arsenic poisons shallow drinking wells, exposing 30-70 million Bangladeshis to dangerously high levels of the toxin. Most of the people affected by arsenic are among the world’s poorest. To combat the problem, this team from UC Berkeley is developing ARUBA (Arsenic Removal Using Bottom Ash), a simple technology that effectively and affordably removes arsenic from drinking water. The team is partnered with the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), the largest NGO in Bangladesh.

The top three objectives of this grant are: (1) Technical: scale up the production of ARUBA to greater than 500g/day, transfer the knowledge required to manufacture ARUBA to collaborators in Bangladesh, and construct a bench-top, proof-of-concept prototype than can be tested in Bangladesh in summer 2008; (2) Socioeconomic: completion of a village economic assessment through creation of a survey which will be administered in Bangladesh in summer 2008; (3) Business: quantify market size and opportunities for profitability, and continue to work towards ARUBA technology licensing.

Pico-Hydropower Franchising: A Test Bed in Rural Honduras

Baylor University, 2007

Many poor villages in developing countries are located in isolated mountainous areas without access to grid-based electric power. Without access to electricity, villagers burn a variety of fuels for energy, which can lead to respiratory disease and environmental degradation. At the same time, a number of these villages have nearby streams that represent a considerable untapped natural resource for energy creation. This project seeks to take advantage of those streams, creating village-level pico-hydro systems that harness the small mountain streams to produce enough energy to serve the villages.

The team has developed and installed several pico-hydro systems in remote villages in Honduras. The team has replicated the process and made the pico-hydro systems sustainable by building them into community-owned businesses. Specifically, the grant allowed for the development of business plans for two types of companies: franchised power-producing operations in rural villages (villagers running the pico-hydro systems), and system design companies located in nearby urban centers.

 

 

 

 

 

Intelligent Mobility: Re-Cycling to Build Wheelchairs

California Institute of Technology, 2007 - $19,000

There are approximately twenty million people in the developing world who require a wheelchair to be mobile, but only one percent of those people actually have their own chairs. Even these chairs are second-hand most of the time and aren't suited to the rugged, off-road terrain often found in developing countries. As a result, many disabled people rely on their family members for support or resort to begging in order to live.To combat the problem, this team has founded a non-profit, Intelligent Mobility, to produce and distribute safe, durable, and affordable wheelchairs made primarily from old bicycles. The pedal axles on the bike are converted to rear-wheel axles on the chair, the pedals themselves are used for both the footrests and front caster assembly, the x-brace is cut from the metal on the back end of the bike frame, and the handle bars are used as push handles. The team believes this design makes for a less expensive, more durable, and more appropriate wheelchair for the developing world. It also takes less time to make than a standard wheelchair--about one-sixth of the current production time.

2007 Olympus Innovation Award Winners

 

NCIIA recognizes the 2007 winners in the Olympus Innovation Award Program: Dr. Deborah Streeter, Cornell University; Burt Swersey, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI); and William Grant, University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).  The program recognizes individuals who have fostered and demonstrated innovative thinking in higher education.  The winners received their awards from George Steares, vice president emeritus, Olympus America, in Tampa, Fla., at the NCIIA 11th Annual Meeting.

“Congratulations to the 2007 winners of the Olympus Innovation Award Program,” said Steares.  “I was most impressed with their innovative teaching methods and the profound impact they have had on so many students to become successful inventors and entrepreneurs.  Fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, a key element of Olympus’ management philosophy, is essential for companies to succeed in the U.S. and even more so internationally.”

Phil Weilerstein, NCIIA executive director, added, “The 2007 winners once again illustrate the essential role that higher education can play in grooming this country’s next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs. We are pleased about the visibility and the high quality of applications the Olympus Innovation Award Program is enjoying and look forward to continuing our partnership with Olympus to make the program even more successful.”

Deb Streeter, the Bruce F. Failing, senior associate professor of personal enterprise in Cornell University’s Department of Applied Economics and Management, won the Olympus Innovation Award in recognition for her contributions to Cornell and, more broadly, for being a pioneer in innovation and entrepreneurship education.  The judges were particularly impressed with Streeter’s “e-Clips” initiative, a collection of more than 6,000 digital video clips on entrepreneurship, the world’s largest such online collection.

Created from in-depth interviews or presentations by entrepreneurs; venture capitalists, bankers and other start-up capital providers; as well as employees of start-up companies, e-Clips provides rich media curricular material (video, audio) to easily help educators share rich information on entrepreneurship with their students.  To date, the database has attracted users from 70 countries and nearly 800 different universities.  As part of her award, Streeter will receive $10,000.

Burt Swersey, lecturer in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering at RPI, won the Olympus Lifetime of Educational Innovation Award for his dedication to innovative thinking and his commitment to his students and their learning.  Prior to joining RPI, Swersey was a successful innovator in the medical field.  He developed a number of important inventions, including an extremely accurate scale to weigh patients, including bed and instrumentation, revolutionizing the treatment of water losses in patients with severe burns.  For the past 18 years, Swersey has taught the ideals and methods of innovation and has served as a role model to students.  Many of these students have made significant impacts, either as entrepreneurs or as product designers for well-established companies, accumulating patents and business plan competition awards.  Swersey’s award includes a $2,500 prize.

William Grant, program manager of the Technology Management Program at UCSB’s College of Engineering, received the Olympus Emerging Educational Leader Award for his work at UCSB in creating and managing extracurricular activities that enable students to network and share knowledge and experience with successful scientists, entrepreneurs and other business experts.  Grant facilitates this dialogue through intimate working luncheons, small seminars, lectures and his “On the Edge” radio program on KCSB91.9FM.  Created and hosted by Grant and UCSB students, the weekly show features successful entrepreneurs and innovators and discusses how ideas become inventions.  In recognition of his work, Grant will receive $1,000.

Streeter, Swersey and Grant were among numerous qualified professionals nominated by colleagues at NCIIA member institutions, including many top colleges and research institutions in the United States.  

2007 BMEidea Winners: What are they up to?

The 2007 BMEidea Winners: 1.5 years later

The third round of BMEidea competition winners featured technologies with the potential to revolutionize how we deliver vaccines, how we treat Parkinson's disease and how we repair peripheral nerve injuries. We caught up with the teams a year and a half after the competition to see what they were up to, how their projects were going, and how participating in the BMEidea competition influenced their careers.
 

First prize: Rotavirus Vaccination via Oral Thin Film Delivery, Johns Hopkins University 

A big part of innovation is thinking about problems in a different way. Changing your point of reference can lead to creativity, and creativity can lead to originality.

An example is the Rotavirus Vaccination team from Johns Hopkins University, winner of the 2007 BMEidea competition. Rotavirus, a disease that causes severe diarrhea and vomiting in children, kills 600,000 people in the developing world each year. While there is a vaccine for the disease, few children in the developing world end up getting it due to problems with cold chain storage: the vaccine has to be kept refrigerated, often an impossibility in rural areas where refrigeration is scarce. 

The innovative solution? Change the vaccine itself. While the liquid form of rotavirus vaccine requires refrigeration, the Johns Hopkins team is developing a dry form derived from thin film technology, similar to Listerine's quick-dissolving breath strips. The team's dissolvable strip is seeded with the vaccine, then coated with a special material to protect it in the child's stomach. That same coating disintegrates in the small intestine, releasing the vaccine, triggering an immune response and preventing future infection. All on a little strip that requires no refrigeration and is light and easy to ship.

The Rotavirus project began at Aridis Pharmaceuticals, a San Jose firm that invented a rotavirus vaccine stable at room temperatures. Aridis approached Johns Hopkins professor Hai-Quan Mao about coming up with a drug delivery vehicle for its novel vaccine. Mao brought the challenge to one of his undergraduate lab assistants, Chris Yu, who became co-leader of the team that tackled the project.

They faced several obstacles right out of the chute. For one, they couldn't copy the manufacturing process that Listerine uses to make breath strips, since the harsh solvents and high temperatures it requires ended up destroying the live vaccine. They also had to devise a protective coating that would remain intact when exposed to stomach acid but dissolve in the small intestine. Said Yu, "Our technology is geared toward delivering a live attenuated virus for a vaccine, not just freshening breath. We quickly found out that in order to get it to work, we'd need to take a different approach--use more advanced technology.

They got through the challenges with hard work and research. They developed a room-temperature production and drying process to fabricate the strips and identified an FDA-approved biocompatible polymer coating that would protect the vaccine in the stomach and release it in the small intestine.

Much more work remains before the vaccine is a finished product, however. Since winning BMEidea funding the team has continued research. And while most of the team has graduated and moved on, Yu is remaining on the project while pursuing his masters at Johns Hopkins. "Aridis is still very interested in the product, of course," said Yu. "They're very happy with our progress, and have hired a post-doc to work with me in the lab."

"The foundation of the system has already been laid: how we're going to deliver the vaccine to the small intestine, what kind of release profile it will have. Now we need to optimize the system. We need to optimize the film formulation, and ultimately add as many components as possible to make it easy to ship and make sure it's easy to use for inexperienced healthcare providers."

Yu is honest about the biggest benefit of winning the BMEidea competition: the money helps. "NCIIA has given us a lot of the financial backing for what we're doing. A lot of the components that are needed to formulate and test our design are actually quite expensive. We wouldn't be as far along as we are without the funding."

Beyond that, Yu says that participating in BMEidea gave him a better grasp of the business issues surrounding rotavirus. "Even though the rotavirus vaccine is abundant in the US, virtually none of it is making it to developing countries that need it," he said. "Science aside, the business end of this project--getting the vaccine into the hands of people who need it--is extremely important and will need to be addressed as soon as our prototype is ready to go."
 

Second prize: enLight: Enabling Life with Light, Stanford University

Parkinson's disease is a degenerative central nervous system disorder that causes a breakdown in muscle function and speech. The disease affects 1.5 million patients in the US alone-a number that will likely rise as the population ages-yet there remains no definitive treatment for PD. Current therapies run the gamut from drugs to surgery all the way to qigong, a traditional Chinese breathing exercise.

One of the most promising new approaches to treating PD is deep brain stimulation (DBS). Since a main factor involved in causing Parkinson's is the insufficient formation and action of dopamine, DBS involves placing an electrode deep within the brain to stimulate the parts of the brain responsible for dopamine production. DBS has been shown to alleviate some of the motor tremors in Parkinson's patients and can lead to an improvement in quality of life. 

The drawback? DBS is only effective in a very small percentage of PD patients (~5%) because electrode-based stimulation is highly nonspecific. During DBS, many more brain cells other than those responsible for PD pathology are stimulated, which can lead to a number of severe side effects including apathy, hallucinations, compulsive gambling, hypersexuality, cognitive dysfunction and depression. Clearly there is a need for a better device-one that can specifically target only the neurons involved in PD, lessening the side effects.

This Stanford University team, winner of second place in the 2007 BMEidea competition, believes it's found the solution. The team is developing enLight, a remarkably forward-thinking, novel treatment for PD that enables the effective and reliable control of neural activity using light.

Here's how it works: instead of implanting an electrode, the team implants a thin optic fiber in the brain. Then, using gene therapy techniques, they introduce a genetically coded protein that makes the neurons specifically involved in Parkinson's sensitive to light. The optic fiber shines light into the right region of the brain, and voila, only the neurons associated with Parkinson's are activated. The ability to directly and specifically control neurons represents a major step forward that has the potential to revolutionize the field.

It all started with algae-or, more specifically, the algae-related lab work of Feng Zhang, a graduate student at Stanford. "When I first joined the lab in January 2005," says Zhang, "I started working on technology that would allow you to take protein from green algae and transfer it to neurons to make them light sensitive. Algae have light-sensitive neurons that they use to find sunlight for photosynthesis; by transferring this algal protein into animal neurons we figured we would be able to very precisely control neural firing."

Zhang was right. After establishing the validity of the technology, his team started developing genetic techniques that would allow them introduce the protein into specific neurons. They do this through lentiviruses-a genus of viruses that can deliver a significant amount of genetic information into the DNA of a host cell. Thus the biological basis of the technology was formed.

Soon enough they began to think about ways to use the technology for therapeutic purposes, and hit upon Parkinson's as the most likely first target. "We looked into diseases that could be treated using our approach, and, largely because of the body of research that has already been formed on Parkinson's and deep brain stimulation, we chose Parkinson's.

The team has made solid progress since winning BMEidea funding, filing several patents and moving toward pre-clinical animal testing. According to Zhang, the next steps are getting the biological reagent produced and ramping up to clinical trials. On the device side, refinements need to be made to the optical fiber "to make sure we're bringing in enough light-but not too much light. It's a tough technical challenge."

Other challenges involve finding the right animal model to use for testing, and making sure their virus doesn't cause damage to the brain-that it infects the right neurons. But despite all the obstacles to overcome, Zhang sees this product hitting the market in five to eight years-and making a big impact.

As far as the impact of winning BMEidea is concerned, Zhang strikes a familiar chord: winning gave his project credibility. "First of all it gave us validation-maybe our idea isn't so crazy after all!" he said. "Plus the events that we've attended as a result of winning BMEidea have been very helpful. I've been able to network with people who work in the medical device industry and gotten insight on basic things, like how to think about medical devices, how to manufacture a device, etc. They were very helpful."
 

Third prize: Bioactive Nanopatterned Grafts for Nerve Regeneration, University of California, Berkeley

Peripheral nerves are the extensive network of nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. Like static on a telephone line, peripheral nerve injuries distort or interrupt the messages between the brain and the rest of the body, affecting a person's ability to move or feel normal sensations. This is a common problem affecting about 800,000 Americans each year.

The gold standard approach to fixing it is the nerve autograft-removing a segment of nerve from one part of the body and suturing it in place at the site of injury. While this is effective in some cases, the approach comes with a number of risks and drawbacks: the donor nerves tend to be small, usually requiring the doctor to stack a bunch of them together to make an implantable graft; two invasive surgeries are required, one for harvesting the donor nerves and one for implanting them; sometimes the graft simply doesn't work; some patients don't have any nerves suitable for donation; and the donor site can react badly, causing more pain than the nerve injury itself.

A different approach to the problem gaining in popularity is the world of synthetic grafts. Made of various polymers wrapped into a sturdy tube shape, a handful of grafts are currently on the market. But the current designs come with limitations as well: none can outperform the nerve autograft in clinical trials, they don't provide cues for regeneration the way a normal nerve would, and they can't bridge gaps longer than four centimeters. There is a clinical need for a synthetic graft that better mimics the nerve autograft and has the ability to regenerate damaged nerves of all sizes-and this UC Berkeley team is looking to provide it.

The team, winner of third place in the 2007 BMEidea competition and now incorporated as NanoNerve, is developing a novel synthetic graft that enhances and guides nerve regeneration across a range of peripheral nerve injuries. The tubular graft is composed entirely of nanoscale polymer fibers loaded with bioactive molecules that provide growth cues for regenerating. The technology is also capable of spanning large gaps.

Altogether, this makes a product that is "simply better than what's out there," according to team leader Shyam Patel. "We can heal longer nerve injuries, we can provide growth cues, and we'll be proving that through human trials taking place next year."

The key to the technology has to do with how the grafts are fabricated. The most common method of fabricating polymer nanofibers is to use an electrical field to "spin" very thin fibers. This technique, called electrospinning, can be used to make nanofiber scaffolds in various shapes. The key innovation allows the team to fabricate grafts composed entirely of nanofibers aligned along the length of the tubes, allowing for customization of the length, diameter and thickness of the grafts. Combine that innovation with a way to make the nanofibers bioactive by attaching chemicals directly to the surface, and you've got a technology that mimics the nerve autograft by providing both physical and biochemical cues to direct nerve growth.

Armed with a potential breakthrough technology, things are moving quickly for NanoNerve. After graduating from Berkeley, Patel and a handful of others licensed the technology from the university and formed the company around it. They're currently in the development phase of the product, but according to Patel they're "actually very far along in the process. We hope to file for FDA 510k clearance by the end of the year, which will allow us to start marketing the product in 2009."

Assuming all goes well in human clinical trials, Patel sees NanoNerve taking off. "We'll be able to sell the product as something that is functionally better than what's currently available, something that will serve as an effective alternative to the autograft. Our technology takes full advantage of the fact that the shortest distance between damaged nerve endings is a straight line. It directs straightforward nerve growth and never lets them stray from the fast lane."

NanoNerve may very well be in the fast lane itself. And according to Patel, participating in the BMEidea competition has helped put it there. "The press and publicity as a result of winning third in BMEidea was very helpful in terms of getting the word out about what we're doing," he said. "It's helped the company since it shows that the project has scientific merit-shows that is has value to the medical community. It's helped us impress the people we've been talking to about it and has definitely validated what we're trying to do."

Visualization in Design and Entrepreneurial Endeavors

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 2008 - $6,500.00

This project builds upon a well established, entrepreneurial-focused engineering program at RPI. Specifically, the grant supports the creation of teaching modules will take students' visualization skills to a professional level, enhancing their ability to communicate complex ideas. These advanced visualization skills are critical to innovation because they (1) increase creativity in problem solving by allowing students to visualize various solutions, and (2) improve communication of design ideas, especially to external sponsors.

While RPI has a solid reputation of harvesting students with strong vision and technical skills, the students' visual skills are generally less sophisticated compared to professionals. The teaching modules will bring students' visualization skills in line with their aptitude for creative thinking, engineering, social analysis, and entrepreneurial planning. With professional-level visualization skills, RPI students will be able to compete with the best, allowing them to communicate their innovations to a wider audience.

Development of a Prosthetic Vein Valve

Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

Over seven million Americans suffer from Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI), a painful and debilitating disease that affects veins in the lower extremities. Veins in the legs have one-way valves that usually function to prevent blood from pooling at the feet, but malfunctioning valves can cause leg swelling, ulcerations, varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal. Current treatments for CVI include anti-coagulant drugs, bed-rest and compressive legwear, but these target the symptoms of the disease rather than the cause. The standard surgical treatment is valve transplantation, but it’s difficult to find suitable donor valves, and the surgery is highly invasive.

This E-Team has fabricated a prosthetic vein valve that can be implanted in a lower-risk, minimally invasive procedure. The valve is flexible, biocompatible, does not form blood clots, and can be manufactured cheaply. The team has shown that the valve is operationally functional; they are now looking for funding to perform pre-clinical tests on sheep in preparation for FDA approval. A team of MBA students will write a business plan as well

Intelligent Ground and Structural Monitoring System

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2007 - $14,600

The best way to monitor the condition of load-bearing structures (bridges, tunnels, earthen dams, and levees) is to install sensors to measure things like movement, vibration, and water saturation. A typical instrumentation set-up uses a number of individual sensors to monitor each different parameter at each different location. This can become costly and inefficient, however, if many parameters need to be measured at once.

This team, now incorporated as Condition Engineering, is developing a solution with the Intelligent Ground Condition Monitoring System (IGCMS), sensor technology that can assess multiple parameters simultaneously. The IGCMS provides detailed information regarding structural stability while reducing the number overall number of sensors. The device consists of a sensor driver attached to a sensor rope. The rope is flexible like a garden hose and takes measurements all along its length. Sold by the foot, the rope could be used as a stand-alone device or in groups of tens, hundreds or thousands to provide a widespread monitoring system.

SolarShade (SmarterShade)

University of Notre Dame, 2007 - $14,700

This E-Team is developing SolarShade, a solar-powered aftermarket window treatment solution designed to selectably tint a window at the push of a button. Using a remote control, the customer can adjust the level of tinting from clear to opaque. SolarShade itself is a lightweight, semi-rigid sheet of plastic made from offset planes of polarized material. The sheet can be manufactured to fit into any existing window track or frame, right over the window itself.

Updates:

Solar-Charged, Battery-Powered LED Lanterns to Replace Kerosene Lamps in the Developing World

University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign, 2007 - $16,800

This E-Team is developing a solar-charged, battery-powered LED lantern that is healthier, more economical, less dangerous, and less polluting then petroleum lanterns. The team consists of an established network of engineers, industry leaders, aid organizations, academic professionals, and government contacts and is set to enter the market in India.

Updates: In 2009, just two years after it received an E-Team grant, Greenlight Planet, Inc. is selling its solar-charged, battery-powered LED lantern in India and China. Along the way, the company, which spun out of an E-Team from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, has raised more than $500,000 from investors.

Greenlight Planet's market proposition is simple: to sell ultra-affordable solar LED lights for the 1.6 billion people who still don't have electricity. There are important social and environmental benefits: Greenlight Planet's lantern is cleaner, more economical, less dangerous, and less polluting then petroleum lanterns.

Read more at Greenlight Planet.com.

  • December 2009: Wall Street Journal video feature

 

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