Every year the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Whiting School of Engineering’s Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID) has 25 graduate engineering students actively working on solutions to medical challenges that involve potentially commercially marketable devices and concepts. Most of the time the students graduate from the program and the invention projects languish due to students’ need for gainful employment. Occasionally some teams have formed to seek outside funding to pursue the concepts further, but the process is very slow. The Baltimore Healthcare Innovator Retention Program was designed to harness and retain within JHU and Baltimore the talents of some of the top biomedical engineering graduates in the country. The program enables student teams to advance promising medical inventions after they graduate and to quickly proceed to early-stage or angel funding to support development of a business or nonprofit venture.
In April 2016 and March 2017, the Abell Foundation made two $100,000 awards to support four fellowships to enable students to continue working on promising medical inventions and devices after graduation. CBID provides extensive mentor support from four faculty/staff members and access to the design studio, labs, and office space. It also helps teams develop products; clear regulatory hurdles; identify customers; and secure additional funding, at an estimated in-kind value of $25,000 for each team.
Last year, the two first-year teams remained in the program for a second year and two new projects were awarded. To date, each of the teams has incorporated, and, collectively, they have secured more than $500,000 in follow-on funding and have created seven full-time equivalent jobs.
The teams include the following companies:
- Intelehealth is a software platform for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), hospitals, and governments to expand the range of services through a mobile app. Intelehealth is currently operating a pilot project in West Bengal, establishing two telemedicine clinics to improve health for 44 villages.
- uCure, inventors of a urethra flow device, has successfully completed an assessment of human clinical risks through studies in animals and cadavers.
- The AssistENT team designed and fabricated a prototype device that is inserted in the nose and improves airflow by 75 percent, compared with unaided breathing. The device can potentially address snoring, sleep apnea, and temporary conditions of nasal congestion from colds and flu.
- SpineAlign invented a device that provides spine surgeons with real-time 3D assessments of spinal alignment with minimal added radiation. It has gathered feedback from over 110 spine surgeons within more than 90 institutions, confirming interest in the product.
The goals of the Baltimore Healthcare Innovator Retention Program are to help biomedical engineering student graduates translate their research into commercially viable products; to seek follow-on funding and generate new companies; to grow the entrepreneurial economy in Baltimore City; and to improve patient treatment and outcomes through new medical technology and services.
Information published in July 2018.