Design Health Program Impresses on the National Stage

April 26, 2021

Duke’s Design Health teams are finding success, earning top spots in national design competitions and turning innovative prototypes into patents

A Design Health team discusses their project

A Design Health team discusses their project

In Duke University’s Design Health Program, teams of students from engineering, medicine, business and other fields are immersed in real-world health-care settings, where they’re challenged to identify pressing needs and develop innovative, practical solutions for clinicians and patients alike. This year, multiple Design Health teams have taken their prototypes on to win top prizes in major design competitions and even valuable patents.

Design Health students Kevin Rosenthal, Anish Nigade, Pratik Doshi, Len Assakul and Kelly Yang won a $100,000 TMC Innovation Healthcare Investment Prize from the Rice Business Plan Competition for their project, ArchGuard. Their tool is a novel cerebral protection device that shields key vessels during the transcatheter aortic valve replacement cardiology procedure. The team was selected from over 440 teams to compete for startup money, and they received the third highest level of funding.

A second team, Pulmopivot, took first place in the Design of Medical Devices Competition hosted by the University of Minnesota. The team, made up of Anna Matthews, Nicolas Swischuk, Nina Chiu, Brandon Tramontana, Alejandro Pino and Michael Wong, received a $500 cash prize for their project, a new cell collection method that improves diagnostic yield during a thoracentesis procedure.

Three separate teams also excelled at this week’s PDMA Innovate Carolina design competition. The project Helping Hearts, led by Pamela Gallardo-Luna, Jason Liu, Titus Ngeno, Pam Porter, Alesha Pressley, Sravan Putikam, Desmond Smith, Kayana Tyson and Zack Weaver took first place. Shock Value, from the team of Emma Cooper, Aaron Earle-Richardson, Salma Moncayo-Reyes, Navid Nafissi, Maryam Nuru, Vivian Qi, Jess Rames, Rose Roark, Michael Swartwood and Rachel Welscott placed second. Maura Armezzani, Peter Cestrone, Bryant Green, Rini Jayarethinam, Stevan Kriss, Casey Lee, Laryssa Melnyk, Laukik Nagawekar, Alex Thomason took fourth place for their project, Second Wind.

But success wasn’t limited to design competitions––Recently, both the ArchGuard and LumosIV teams filed U.S. patents for their respective prototypes. 

The Design Health team that developed the COVIAGE Isolation Tent also received a notice of allowance from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the intellectual property has been licensed by the first company, iSolace, to be launched from Design Health. This project, developed during 2020 after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, includes a clear tent that can cover a hospital bed. The tent attaches to a negative-pressure HVAC system, which can help contain the SARS-CoV-2 virus by filtering the contaminated air exiting the tent. The tool was developed to make it easier for medical staff to move patients around the hospital without risking contamination and is now being evaluated in an IRB-approved clinical trial at Duke Hospital.

“We’re thrilled our students are excelling in design competitions,” says Eric Richardson, an associate professor of the practice in Duke Biomedical Engineering who leads the Design Health program with Paul Fearis and Jo Knight. “Design Health was developed to give students a world-class education in medical device design, and it’s gratifying to see them earn patents and be recognized in prestigious design competitions.”

“In what has been a difficult year for students at all levels, these team, some spread around the globe, found new and innovative ways to work and prototype together,” says Fearis, a senior lecturing fellow in Duke BME. “The results speak for themselves.”