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Allen Cheng wins the Third-Place Award in the CIMIT Primary Care Prize Competition!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

$300,000 in Prizes Awarded to Engineering Students for Innovations in Primary Healthcare

BOSTON–The MGH Ambulatory Practice of the Future (APF) in collaboration with CIMIT, has announced the three top winners of this year’s competition for technology innovations in primary healthcare. This is the fifth year of this unique Prize program. The objective of these awards is to encourage engineering students to apply their skills toward developing novel approaches at the very frontlines of healthcare, supporting the essential work of primary caregivers. Their efforts have real potential to improve patients’ outcomes while reducing the overall costs of care.

This year’s top prize of $150,000 goes to a student team co-led by undergraduate students Andrew Brimer and Abigail Cohen, Washington University in St. Louis, for their innovative low-cost spirometer.  It offers unique personalized capabilities for asthma patients to use in proactively managing their respiratory challenges.  The sensor offers this superior performance in a rugged, compact format with no moving parts. Associated software converts the acquired data into formats of direct real-time help to the patient as well as with longer-term value for their primary-care team’s decision processes.

The second prize of $100,000 goes to Sylvia Natividad, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley for a unique and promising new approach for cell sorting of blood samples.  The most immediate application is for HIV patients managing their medications in limited-resource settings.  Her technology requires no electrical power and utilizes very low-cost disposables to easily establish CD4+ cell counts from small samples.

Allen Cheng, a graduate student at MIT, leads the team winning third prize, receiving $50,000, for their sophisticated and clever design for an automated medication dispenser for patient use at home.  Their system employs novel human-factors engineering, directed at the formidable challenges patients face if they require multiple medications with varying daily time schedules.  Clever mechanical design deals with dispensing a variety of pills with high reliability according to the prescribed protocols.

In announcing the winners of this national Prize for Primary Healthcare, Ronald Newbower, PhD, Co-Founder of CIMIT, Strategic Advisor of the APF, and Director of this competition, stated, "We are delighted with the quality of the entries this Prize competition has elicited each year amongst engineering students. They are clearly eager to develop innovative technologies to address our national challenges in primary care and to use their creativity to improve the overall efficiency and efficacy of care. The winners of these major awards are headed toward truly significant careers and may well serve as role models for others in their field. We are proud to be able to support their efforts."

Dr. David Judge, Director of the MGH APF, added “In our commitment to improve the paradigm of care for patients, we seek new tools, enabled by novel technologies, that can improve our ability to make rapid and more accurate medical decisions, whether patients are in the office, at home or at work. We believe that with such tools, the primary-care teams of the future will play an even more effective role in streamlining diagnosis and treatment, thereby reducing the cost and inconvenience that results from inefficiency and delay in appropriate care.”

Ten Finalists and Collaborators

This year’s competition began in February 2013, with ten finalists chosen from a broad national portfolio of 75 preliminary entries. Each finalist team received $10,000 in February to assist in the preparation of their full entry due in June. The three top winners announced here were chosen from those student teams of Finalists.  The ten are listed here in alphabetic order:

Alexander Abraham and Brian Cummins (co-leaders), Texas A&M University: “An Innovative Implantable Biosensor for Continuous Blood-Glucose Monitoring”