It all began when Teryn Holeman, a medical student at the University of Utah wanted to make life a bit easier for people who have asthma. The end result was a $25,000 grand prize for her team, uAir, at Tuesday's Bench to Bedside Competition for the development of a smaller, more portable inhaler.
"I, myself, am an asthmatic and have always wanted a smaller inhaler because I'm always forgetting my vapor inhaler," Holeman says. "It doesn't fit anywhere."
Using her experience as inspiration and drawing on the expertise of her three teammates, Holeman and her colleagues from the University of Utah and Brigham Young University created a tinier, more portable inhaler, making it more likely to be carried on a key chain or in a backpack and accessible when needed most.
Led by the Center for Medical Innovation, the Bench to Bedside program challenges students to identify and address opportunities for improvement in the current health care market. Interdisciplinary student teams collaborate with practicing health care professionals and industry experts to find novel solutions to common problems.
This year the annual Bench to Bedside competition was conducted in an entirely online format, from kick-off to competition. More than 20 teams representing the University of Utah, Brigham Young University, Utah State University, Utah Valley University, and Dixie Technical College participated in this year's competition.
"As the world begins to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, the need for bright minds and innovative technology solutions is greater than ever," says Michael L. Good, MD, CEO of University of Utah Health, executive dean of U of U School of Medicine, and senior vice president for Health Sciences. "I commend all of the Bench to Bedside participants for your perseverance and your determination to continue developing your ideas and presenting them at this year's competition."
The competition usually culminates in an in-person event at the Utah State Capitol Building each spring. At the event hundreds of students, university faculty, community leaders and industry partners join for the night to review each team's products, network, and announce the award winners in a celebration of Utah's continued commitment to life sciences innovation.
However, this year's format had to adapt to new challenges posed by the COVID-19. In addition to being online, the competition hosted B2B's first ever Live Pitch night. During this event, teams were able to present ideas and get community feedback before competing. Following the Live Pitch night, online judging began. With scores from compiled from more than 60 judges and community experts, the teams with the top all-around scores participated in a final Q&A with judges to determine our top award winners.
The 2021 winners:
Grand Prize Award Winner ($25,000): uAir
The uAir team developed its device to give asthmatics a smaller, more portable inhaler, making it more likely to be carried on a key chain or in a backpack and accessible when needed most.
Team members: Teryn Holeman, Brian Parker, Nick Wallace, Alex Huhn
Runner-up Award Winner ($15,000): Aether Masks
Team Aeather mask has developed a surgical mask which prevents the wearer's glasses from fogging, a common issue among surgeons when in the OR.
Team members: Mykell Johnson, Michael Adkins, Chance McCutcheon, Spencer Peterson, Brian Truong, Eleonora Maracacci
Legacy Team Award Winner ($20,000): Neurosense
Returning to compete as a Legacy Team in this year's competition, team Neurosense developed a portable Bluetooth device and smartphone app to give primary care physicians and other clinicians a new, modern method to measure peripheral neuropathy.
Team members: Sayed Abdullah Sadat, Stormy Foster-Palmer, Peter Smith, Sarah Waugaman
Best in Medicine Award Winner ($5,000): Neosafe Cradle
With students from the University of Utah's Biomedical Engineering Program, Team NeoSafe developed an improved enclosure for transporting newborn infants, designed to reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury due to loud noises or vibrations which may occur during transport.
Best in Business Award Winner ($5,000): S-Band
Team S-Band developed a secure and affordable method of positioning a patient's arm during high-precision intraosseous procedures.
Best in Engineering Award Winner ($5,000): Aether Elbow
Team Aether Elbow designed a device which integrates with current equipment to ensure proper airflow to patients during endoscopic procedures, reducing the risk of low oxygen flow and improving the likelihood of a successful endoscopy.
Best in Digital Health Award winner ($5,000): OkWellThen
Team OkWellThen is building an online platform to better understand hospital billing codes and provide transparency to patients on the costs of procedures.
Global Health Award Winner ($5,000): LaparoVision
Team LaparoVision has developed a unique method of cleaning a laparoscopic camera lens during surgery, allowing surgeons to continue operating clearly and effectively without needing to remove their tools from the patient.
Eccles & Marriott Libraries Award Winner ($5,000): MagCath
The MagCath device gives physicians better control of catheters and guidewires during neurovascular procedures, commonly used to treat strokes.
Since its inaugural year in 2010, the Bench to Bedside has mentored over 1,250 participants on 267 project teams, resulting in 173 patents filed and the launch of 80 companies. Participating students—who come from multiple disciplines ranging from architecture to the arts, engineering to law, and biology to business—learn the power which diversity of thought can bring to the innovation process.
To learn more about Bench to Bedside, please visit: uofuhealth.utah.edu.