Cincinnati Children’s international collaborative to fund three pediatric medical device projects

A recently launched partnership between Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Ben-Gurion University in Israel is funding the research and development of three pediatric-specific medical devices.

The collaboration, which pairs the medical expertise of CCHMC physicians with the technical and engineering capabilities of BGU, started with nearly 80 unaddressed problems facing surgeons and physicians. After reviewing these ideas and proposed solutions, 10 projects underwent rigorous application cycles, thorough market analyses and review by internal and external stakeholders.

The initial three projects that will be funded—a smart sensing catheter, a surfactant-delivery device, and an image-guided needle insertion device—have potential to not only improve patient care and outcomes, but also reduce costs to the healthcare system.

“The pediatric market, especially with regard to medical devices, has historically been neglected primarily due to prohibitive development costs,” said Niki Robinson, assistant vice president of CCHMC’s Center for Technology Commercialization. “This initiative presents an unprecedented opportunity for early stage ideas to receive funding and move through a development plan backed by world-class physicians and engineers.”

The smart sensing catheter concept was developed by Richard Azizkhan, MD, surgeon-in-chief at CCHMC and the Lester W. Martin Chair of Pediatric Surgery, and Ibrahim Abdulhalim, professor of electro-optical engineering at BGU. The device provides immediate and continuous assessment of the metabolic and physiological profile of critically ill infants and small children. “Secondarily, this technology will reduce the need for repeated tests, thus reducing costs for the health system and society,” said Azizkhan.

The surfactant delivery device concept was developed by Jeffrey Whitsett, MD, co-director, Perinatal Institute and chief, section of neonatology, perinatal and pulmonary biology at CCHMC, and Joseph Kost, dean of the faculty of engineering sciences and professor of biomedical engineering at BGU. It consists of a delivery system for prolonged administration of surfactants to the lungs of premature babies using nanoparticles. Current procedures do not allow for the sustained release of proteins or other complex particles in the alveoli of infants or adults.

Daniel von Allmen, MD, director, Division of General and Thoracic Surgery at CCHMC, and Hugo Guterman, professor of electrical and computer engineering at BGU are collaborating on the image guided needle insertion device concept. It combines sophisticated new imaging techniques with the precision of robotics to improve the accuracy of many procedures.

Each project will receive up to $100,000 in the first round, with all funding contingent upon achieving project-specific developmental milestones.

Speaking to the value of early stage investment in research, von Allmen said, “One of the enormous struggles for physicians, many of whom are very experienced in their fields and knowledgeable about challenges to care, is the ability to get an idea from the back of a napkin in the cafeteria to a coordinated development effort. Cincinnati Children’s has put a lot of resources into creating the infrastructure to make the translation of good ideas to products a reality.”

Cincinnati-based seed-stage investor CincyTech and Israel-based Ridgeback Business Development helped evaluate the projects.

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