Innovators Answering an Urgent Medical Need

March 30, 2020
Andrew DiMeo

CanvasGT was founded on the premise that real-time multi-site collaboration of diverse stakeholders is vital to the innovation pipeline.  We are now seeing that unfold during this healthcare system crisis.

Last week I started a personal list of the incredible activities of innovators going on around the country.  After sharing it with a few close connections, what started off as notes to self turned into a resource worth sharing.  Over the weekend, I posted the following to social media:

If you need PPE, know anyone who needs PPE, can 3D Print or Sew, know where to collect PPE, know someone who needs or knows any of this, please share this resource: Link to COVID19 Innovation Quick Links

In the 1960’s the field of biomedical research was formalized into academic labs around the country.  Over the decades, departments of Biomedical Engineering (BME and also known as Bioengineering) started to emerge at universities around the world.  In the US, there’s about 150 BME programs.

Around 2005 something unique began to emerge.  Programs such as Stanford Biodesign explicitly brought together multidisciplinary teams of engineers, caregivers, and business majors.  The Wallace H. Coulter Foundation began awarding research grants to collaborations between BME faculty and caregivers. A group of design faculty formalized the BME Innovation, Design, and Entrepreneurship Alliance (BME IDEA).

These early forces were a catalyst for what has become an ecosystem of hospital and academic based medical innovation programs.  Today, programs that emerged from and/or formed in the likeness of Biodesign, Coulter, and BME-IDEA can be found on college campuses and in hospitals all around the world.  They are in the form of undergraduate design courses, graduate professional degrees, fellowships, maker spaces, incubators, design-a-thons, workshops, training, and all sorts of embodiments.

Bringing together those with a mindset to solve problems and those with a mindset to provide care is a magical union.  I did my best to capture this sentiment in a commencement address to the UNC Chapel Hill and NC State University BME Graduation in 2018: The Biomedical Engineer Awakens

In the past two weeks, I’ve witnessed this magical union turn into an urgent response.  These programs began assembling faculty, students, and professional collaborators to answer immediate needs for PPE.  Innovative and rapid responses to design and build new protective measures, clean existing products, and real-time assess safety and efficacy of novel, cleaned, and donated PPE.  Projects for new ventilators and oxygen concentrators were popping up. A call for help was ringing louder and louder from overwhelmed hospitals, such as Mount Sinai in New York City.  Validated 3D print designs and build plans were showing up and so were the army of people and programs with the printers.

There are simply too many programs to give them all praise.  That said, a few of the programs that come top of mind for me as I consider the history of academic and hospital based biomedical innovation are the following:

VentureWell list of BME-IDEA Programs

The BMES Coulter College

The NIH C3i Program

Stanford’s Extended Biodesign Network Resources

My experience with all of these programs was realized over the past year at industrial design firm Trig where we developed DHF Ready Ideation.  This is a free resource that includes a guidebook for implementing design controls while doing iterative development for capturing design history, articulating traceability, and assessing risk.

While we are working to take this methodology to the next level here at CanvasGT, the thought process is sound and can be implemented today.

Most of all, in this hour, if you need PPE, know anyone who needs PPE, can 3D Print or Sew, know where to collect PPE, know someone who needs or knows any of this, please share this resource:  Link to COVID19 Innovation Quick Links

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