UW students create innovative devices to solve vexing medical problems

Students at the University of Washington are using engineering skills to design new types of medical devices, often at far less cost than what’s on the market.

Last year, there was a national outcry after the price skyrocketed for a medical-injection device that counteracts the life-threatening symptoms of a severe allergic reaction.

But for a team of students at the University of Washington, the price jumps for the EpiPen signaled an opportunity — a chance to invent a cheaper device that could do the same thing, only better.

The team’s idea, which is still under development, is part of a university program that brings students together with doctors and other clinicians to create devices meant to solve vexing medical problems.

The students in the program have invented a device that makes it easier for patients — particularly the elderly, whose hands can shake — to get eyedrops in the eye; a mouth guard that fits athletes who wear braces; a pediatric exoskeleton that helps children with cerebral palsy and other gait disorders learn to walk; and a device that automatically keeps the bladder clear and free of blood clots in the hours after prostate or bladder surgery.

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“There’s so many great ones,” said Jonathan Posner, an associate professor in mechanical engineering at the University of Washington.

Posner helped create the program, Engineering in Health, which puts surgeons, doctors and other clinicians together with UW students, many of them in engineering fields.

The program has not yet produced a federally approved device, but several students have formed companies, and a few have attracted angel investor funding, or seed funding from the university.

Others have applied for grants through the National Institutes of Health, and filed for patents. And some of the devices are being used on patients in clinical evaluations.

“You have to have many…

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