Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Washington University Students Create Medical Innovations

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Washington University Students Create Medical Innovations

Article excerpt

Imagine an implantable device that can dramatically reduce the severity of epileptic seizures, or a smartphone app to help combat veterans ward off a post-traumatic stress episode or stop panic attacks.

Or a device to precisely pinpoint tumors of the small bowels, or disposable scopes equipped with wireless cameras and light sources for looking into nasal passages.

The devices were invented and designed by IDEA Labs, a bioengineering design and entrepreneurship incubator founded by students in collaboration with faculty on the medical campus of Washington University.

The program's goal is to find solutions to real-world problems in health-care delivery and clinical medicine. It puts together doctors, who know the problems, and students and faculty with skills to solve them. Teams then try to get their inventions funded, into production and in use as quickly as possible.

IDEA Labs, which stands for "innovation, design and engineering in action," mainly involves students in Washington University's schools of medicine, engineering and applied science especially its biomedical engineering division.

"You want to be useful in the world," said Avik Som, IDEA Labs president and founder. "It's nice to be able to be useful even as students and to apply the learning we're getting."

Som is a medical student who also is working on a doctorate in biomedical engineering in the Medical Scientist Training Program at the university.

Dr. Evan Kharasch, vice chancellor for research at Washington University, said IDEA Labs helps solve "practical problems with ideas and inventions that hopefully will make a difference to patients and the delivery of health care."

On Friday, IDEA Labs held its first Demo Day. Six teams presented creative ways to help patients with epilepsy, stroke paralysis and anxiety disorders.

IDEA Labs got started because of a powerful experience Som had during physiology class two years ago. The professor introduced an ALS patient who was almost totally paralyzed and used an eye tracker and a computer to communicate.

"I thought, 'What can we do to help that person?'" Som recalls.

He talked to a friend about how they could improve the patient's ability to communicate using technology.

In another class, that friend, medical and biomedical engineering student Ravi Chacko, met a stroke victim whose mind was fully functioning but who also was almost totally paralyzed. The man could use one finger.

Spurred by a desire to help these and other patients, Som, Chacko and other students Tauseef Charanya, Sam Sun, Rohan Jalalizadeh and LeMoyne Habimana-Griffin founded IDEA Labs.

They were assisted by Dr. Felicano "Pele" B. Yu Jr., an associate professor in pediatrics who also is director of the university's pediatric computing facility and chief medical information officer at St. …

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