Award-Winning Student Biomedical Innovations Mark 2nd Annual BioENGINE Symposium

Past Tides
July 10, 2017 By Wendy Wolfson

At the 2nd Annual Bioengineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship (BioENGINE) Symposium on June 8, over 200 people met at the Cove to celebrate the seniors graduating from the biomedical engineering device design course. Students presented their posters and projects to industry representatives and received feedback.

BioENGINE connects UCI faculty, physicians, postdoctoral fellows, students, and industry to foster medical device and digital health technology innovations. Participating UCI departments include the School of Medicine, the Samueli School of Engineering, the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, the Beckman Laser Institute, UCI Athletics, and Applied Innovation. This program is an important part of the Bridging Innovation Gaps (BIG) initiative at UCI Applied Innovation, linking promising UCI research to opportunities for commercialization, with the goal of spurring regional economic development.

Dr. Michelle Khine, director of BioENGINE and professor in the biomedical engineering department; Dr. Richard Sudek, executive director of Applied Innovation; and Dr. Ron King, chief scientific and investment officer at BioAccel, welcomed the students to a fast pitch competition.   

The two grand prize winning teams won $15,000 each, as well as a summer fellowship to the Wayfinder Incubator to continue working on forming a company.

  • Voxel – developing 3D representations of the brain of a patient to aid in surgical planning to treat epilepsy
  • yCrutch – an ergonomic crutch adjustable for different body types

Three runner-ups were each awarded $1000:

  • Sensenium Medical – a device for detecting an intracranial hemorrhage for the use in an acute primary care situation
  • Salux Diagnostics – a low-cost and handheld version of an optical imaging platform to quantitatively assess burn wounds
  • Neurogami – a microfluidic platform that provides a controlled environment for nerve tissue cultures and electrophysiological examination of neuronal interactions

Dr. William Tang, biomedical engineering professor at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering, moderated a panel, titled “Future Trends in Healthcare.” Panelists included Dr. Randal Schulhauser, senior manager of Technology and Business Development at Medtronic; Dr. Shiva Sharareh, senior innovation leader at Halyard Health; Jason Liauw, M.D., neurosurgeon at MemorialCare Health System; and Dr. Richard Creager, partner and angel investor at IOI Partners/NaviDx, Tech Coast Angels.

Liaw advocated that more young researchers with clinical experience should seek internships in government agencies such as the FDA. “We need innovators,” Liauw said. “We need experts.” He explained that much of the FDA’s restrictiveness was driven by “a culture of fear” that hampers innovation. “You can have a high impact in this field,” Liauw said. He advised focusing on agencies that have a systemwide influence on health policy.

According to Sharareh, innovations in healthcare, such as biomarkers and artificial intelligence, are increasingly being used by healthcare systems, but it would be more desirable if they were used together in platforms. “Companies have a challenge to come up with a manufacturing solution that is very accurate and that provides solutions,” Sharareh said.

“There is an opportunity for a whole new round of innovation in medical technology,” Schulhauser said. “Medtronic used to make money by post-operative billing in the OR. But now there are new and different customers, and different ways of managing disease. We now talk about wellness.” According to Schulhauser, successful companies have a basic structure of three essential strands including founders, technical experts and engineers, plus other essential experts such a health care experts. A third component is a business expert. “If I take any companies that Medtronic acquired, those three essential strands were there,” Schulhauser said.

“Classically, medicine has evolved slowly,” Creager said. “Traditionally, doctors are conservative.” But an aging population, with increased healthcare needs, is driving a shift. Other trends include the rising cost of healthcare and an acceleration in biomedical research into new areas such as genomics, proteomics and metabolomics. “There is a shift in near term from high-cost environments to low-cost environments,” Creager said. “Now we’re seeing it as people get their medical care at Walgreens.” According to Creager, cost of care will continue to be an issue in disease areas such cardiovascular, oncology, neurodegenerative diseases, and eldercare. Therefore, Creager claims that to develop a new device, you have to meet an unmet medical need and reduce costs. “Spend a lot of time thinking of who that customer is,” Creager advised. “At the end of the day it is always the person who is going to pay. Really understand that you can segment your customer and market. To be successful you have to think of what segment in which you can compete. The most successful companies have been conscious of where the customer is underserved.”

Ron King and William Tang, professors of biomedical engineering, gave out awards and provided closing remarks. To learn more about the BioENGINE program at UCI, visit the website at http://innovation.uci.edu/programs/bioengine/