Innovation

Hackers Tackle Unmet Health Care Needs For TMC Biodesign


See All Photos By Christine Hall | April 03, 2017

Richard Tomasheski holds what looks like a caulking gun outfitted with a syringe. He gently sticks the needle into a container filled with red liquid to simulate blood. When the needle enters a plastic bag filled with yellow liquid inside the “blood,” the syringe begins filling with just the yellow liquid, but not the “blood.”

“See? No blood,” said Tomasheski, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at Baylor College of Medicine. “That’s what we want to happen.”

He and four others make up Peritect, and that device for safely entering the pericardium, a fluid sac around the heart, was the winning solution at the second annual TMC Biodesign Hackathon that took place over the weekend.

About 75 people, a combination of TMC Biodesign fellow candidates and local community members who like to hack, formed eight teams to tackle four unmet health care needs.

They included:

  1. Improving efficiency and throughput of patient transportation services within the hospital setting;
  2. Reimagining the patient journey through the emergency department;
  3. Novel methods to access the pericardial space; and
  4. Inducing hypothermia to lessen the catastrophic impact of cardiac/neurological events.

For their solution, Peritect won $2,000. Second place winner of $1,000 was EMPatient, which created a digital health idea for improving the ER waiting room experience. Courier was third, winning $500, with its transportation solution for getting patients to and from various areas of the hospital during their visit.

“You could tell they put a lot of time into their presentations,” said Eric Greathouse, a systems software engineer at HP who attended the event.

The hackathon is a “final audition” of sorts for the Biodesign candidates. The one-year program brings together eight fellows to work together in two groups, medical device and digital health, with the ultimate goal of forming a viable company.

Of the more than 400 applications, 160 candidates were interviewed, and 32 were invited to participate in the hackathon. The final eight fellows will be chosen this month.

Vanessa Mahoney, Ph.D., a senior consultant and data scientist at IBM, was one of the applicants invited to participate. Her team, Path, created a platform for tracking patients as they are transported through the hospital.

She had participated in hackathons before, but not one that focused on medical solutions, which has become her passion.

“This was an amazing opportunity,” she said of the hackathon experience. “Everyone had such a positive attitude and wanted to help us learn, even at 2 a.m.”

Two companies were created following last year’s hackathon, and four provisional patent applications were filed, according to Erik Halvorsen, Ph.D., director of the TMC Innovation Institute.




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