Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

With Help from the Community, Washington U Grads Pursue an Entrepreneurial Dream

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

With Help from the Community, Washington U Grads Pursue an Entrepreneurial Dream

Article excerpt

After collecting their degrees from Washington University today, most members of the class of 2013 will head for a job or graduate school. Abigail Cohen and Andrew Brimer will be working for themselves instead.

As recipients of an Arch Grants award, the two will set up an office downtown for their company, Sparo Labs. They're developing a medical device that they think can revolutionize the treatment of respiratory diseases.

Brimer and Cohen started working on the device in 2011 as a project for a student group, Engineers Without Borders/Engineering World Health. The assignment was to tackle a health problem in the developing world, and they focused on asthma.

They learned that although the disease is relatively well managed in the U.S., people in poor countries often aren't diagnosed or treated properly. A basic diagnostic device called a spirometer is too expensive, at $1,000, for Third World clinics. It's also difficult to calibrate and maintain.

The solution was to make the device cheaper and easier to use. The students created a pocket-size prototype that plugs into a smartphone and costs less than $10 to build.

As they showed the device to pulmonologists, Brimer said, "Each person almost seemed more excited than the last." An inexpensive spirometer, they were told, could also find a huge market in the developed world. A take-home device would let patients monitor their lung function daily, spotting problems before they became severe.

Cohen, a Michigan native, says she originally planned to apply to graduate school after getting her bachelor's in biomedical engineering. During her junior year, she began to see how big the potential was for her student project. After seeing the physicians' enthusiasm, she says, "there was no question in my mind that I would be working on Sparo Labs after graduating."

Brimer, a Lindbergh High School graduate and mechanical engineering major, says he's always had an entrepreneurial bent. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.