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Pitt’s Center for Medical Innovation awards three novel biomedical projects with $70,000 in Round-1 2019 Pilot Funding


PITTSBURGH (Sept 1, 2019) … The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Medical Innovation (CMI) awarded grants totaling $70,000 to three research groups through its 2019 Round-1 Pilot Funding Program for Early Stage Medical Technology Research and Development. The latest funding proposals include a new breath-biosensor for detection and diagnosis of disease, a novel intubation tube to reduce patient morbidity in the clinic, and a new miniaturized camera with haptic feedback to improve mobility of blind people.

CMI, a University Center housed in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering (SSOE), supports applied technology projects in the early stages of development with “kickstart” funding toward the goal of transitioning the research to clinical adoption. Proposals are evaluated on the basis of scientific merit, technical and clinical relevance, potential health care impact and significance, experience of the investigators, and potential in obtaining further financial investment to translate the particular solution to healthcare.

“This is our eighth year of pilot funding, and our leadership team could not be more excited with the breadth and depth of this round’s awardees,” said Alan D. Hirschman, PhD, CMI Executive Director. “This early-stage interdisciplinary research helps to develop highly specific biomedical technologies through a proven strategy of linking UPMC’s clinicians and surgeons with the Swanson School’s engineering faculty.”

AWARD 1:  “Health-E-Nose: A universal portable gas sensor for broad-spectrum detection of volatile organic compounds related to health” 

For the development of a new class of MOF-SAW biosensors for gas detection useful in the diagnosis of disease states.

Christopher E. Wilmer, PhD: Assistant Professor, Dept of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering.

David Feingold, MD: Program Director, Graduate School of Public Health 

Overall aims of the project: 

Health-E-Nose is a fundamentally new kind of electronic nose that is (1) rationally designed, and (2) does not require training. The elimination of training means that a much wider range of gases could be detected and at a greater range of environmental conditions. These advantages are critically necessary to analyze the complex gas mixtures found in human breath and body odor. In this particular project, we will use simulations to design a variant of the Health-E-Nose that is able to detect trace amounts of ammonia in the breaths of patients with acute liver failure.

AWARD 2: “ET3: an endotracheal tube that prevents and monitors migration”

For the development of a novel endotracheal tube that reduces risk from associated clinical complications.

Garrett Coyan, MD, MS: Resident, Dept of Cardiothoracic Surgery, UPMC

Carl Snyderman, MD, MBA: Professor, Dept of Otolaryngology

Jeffrey Vipperman, PhD: Professor, Dept of Mechanical Engineering & Material Science

Overall Aims of the Project:

The overall aim of the ET3 project is to develop a novel endotracheal (ET) tube design that reduces luminal migration, monitors for unsafe movement, and limits aspiration/ventilator associated pneumonia (VAP). An aim of the project is to conduct a prospective clinical study to document migration rates and complications of ICU intubation at UPMC.  

AWARD 3: “Fingersight: Computer Vision and Haptic Technology to Assist the Visually Impaired”

For the development of a device and app which converts solid state video camera output into haptic feedback to aid the visually impaired in navigating through the environment.

George Stetten, MD, PhD: Professor, Department of Bioengineering

William Smith, OD: Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology

Roberta Klatzky, PhD: Professor Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University

Overall aims of the project:

FingerSight is worn unobtrusively on the finger as a ring, it is continually and instantly available. Its camera may be intuitively and accurately aimed, and its multiple vibrators provide directional cues in the user’s frame of reference without usurping its audio channel.  Along with the hardware, a smartphone application programming interface (API) will also be constructed for other software developers to use in evolving a commercial product.


About the University of Pittsburgh Center for Medical Innovation

The Center for Medical Innovation is a collaboration among the Swanson School of Engineering, the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the Innovation Institute, and the Coulter Translational Research Partnership II (CTRP). CMI was established in 2011 to promote the application and development of innovative biomedical technologies to clinical problems; to educate the next generation of innovators in cooperation with the schools of Engineering, Health Sciences, Business, and Law; and to facilitate the translation of innovative biomedical technologies into marketable products and services. Over 60 early-stage projects have been supported by CMI with a total investment of over $1.3 million since inception. Nine companies have been formed to commercialize these early stage University of Pittsburgh technologies.

Author: Alan Hirschman, PhD, Executive Director, CMI