BMEidea 2013: Johns Hopkins Students Win Two Top Awards

June 20, 2013

Johns Hopkins student-built devices—a blood clot detection system and a concealable, hands-free breast pump—have won two of the top three awards in a national contest that recognizes innovative biomedical engineering designs that have high commercial potential and social impact.

The honors were announced June 19 in Philadelphia by the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA), as it concluded its annual Biomedical Engineering Innovations, Design, and Entrepreneurship Awards (BMEidea) competition. Johns Hopkins student teams previously earned first-place in this competition in 2012, 2010 and 2007.

EchoSure teamThis year’s first-place winner, awarded $10,000, was EchoSure, developed by five Johns Hopkins graduate students. The device emerged during a year-long master’s degree program that required student teams to identify an urgent healthcare problem and then design and test a solution. The team, pictured at right, included (from left) Ting-Yu Lai, Adam Lightman, Devin O’Brien-Coon, David Narrow and Kaitlyn Harfmann.

The EchoSure team focused on a setback that can occur during free flap reconstruction. In this treatment, healthy tissue is transplanted from one part of a patient’s body to help repair another region that has been damaged by cancer or an injury. The procedure, performed on 50,000 patients annually in the United States alone, requires doctors to connect blood vessels from the transplanted tissue to veins and arteries in the target location. However, non-preventable blood clots form in up to 15 percent of these cases after surgery, and if they are not found and removed promptly, the reconstruction will fail.

To help prevent this, the students devised an internal marker and ultrasound software system to monitor blood flow in the transplant area and give doctors an early warning when a clot begins to form.

The $2,500 third-place prize went to a device invented by Adriana Blazeski and Susan Thompson as Johns Hopkins biomedical engineering doctoral students. (Thompson recently completed her doctoral studies and received her diploma in May.) The two were recognized for developing the Gala Pump, a hands-free, concealable and quiet breast pump designed to allow nursing mothers to discreetly pump in the presence of others. The inventors said their device eliminates the need for bulky vacuum pumps, so that milk collection can be contained in a compact system that fits comfortably and securely into an undergarment.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Bioengineering Innovation & Design