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UW Medicine and CoMotion celebrate innovators in biomedical research

Written by Debra Bouchegnies / November 1, 2018

Each year, UW School of Medicine recognizes UW researchers whose innovations have had a major, positive effect on both healthcare and our local economy. This year, Dr. Thomas Lendvay, associate professor in the Department of Urology and co-director of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Robotic Surgery Center, was awarded this honor for his work on CoMotion supported spinout C-SATS, at the School of Medicine’s Inventor of The Year Award on October 16, 2018. C-SATS is an online service for surgical skills improvement via inter-operative video review. The digital performance management system helps surgeons improve their skills using a crowdsourced approach by sending recordings of surgeries to experts and other pre-qualified reviewers who return feedback and recommendations for performance improvement.

“C-SATS actually started after a matchmaking that Ryan Buckmaster from CoMotion provided us, introducing me to an Entrepreneur-in-Residence Derek Streat,” Dr. Lenday says. “From that match, we turned into a company that sold country wide, and has since been acquired by Johnson and Johnson.”

In addition to celebrating the Inventor of the Year, the event also included the CoMotion Innovator Showcase, featuring eight up-and-coming biotech innovations by UW researchers. “They’re the next generation of innovators sharing just some of the exciting biomedical research currently underway here at the University of Washington,” said Fiona Wills, Assistant VP, CoMotion Innovation Development. After researchers pitched their ideas, crowd members voted on their favorite solution based on how well they communicated their innovation, its potential to become a relevant product, therapy, or service in the marketplace, and the ultimate impact it could have for customers or patients.

First place went to Karla-Luise Herpoldt who works with Neil King from the Department of Biochemistry for their work on MucosaVax, a vaccination to stop fatal intestinal disease among infants in developing countries. The innovation is a modular, protein-based vaccine platform which aims to replace less effective oral vaccinations. MucosaVax is injectable and causes a targeted immune response in the gut that is effective in patients with compromised intestinal health.

CoMotion Innovator Showcase Teams

Tour: CoMotion Innovator Showcase Teams - uwc-tabs-1

Vaccinating against intestinal disease in developing countries

Cholera, typhoid and salmonella are leading contributors to infant mortality around the world — and traditional oral vaccines aren’t as effective in kids with malnutrition, vitamin A deficiency and other common health issues in developing countries. UW biochemists Karla-Luise Herpoldt and Neil King paired up with a team of Harvard Medical School students create MucosaVax, an injectable, targeted vaccine that inoculates children against intestinal disease even if their immune systems are compromised. – Department of Biochemistry, presented by Karla-Luise Herpoldt

Improving Immunotherapy

CAR-T cell therapies, immune cells engineered to attack cancer, can be a highly effective treatment — but sometimes these cells malfunction by attacking healthy cells or losing their ability to kill cancer cells. UW biochemists Bobby Langan, Scott Boyken, Marc Lajoie, and David Baker are trying to fix this with LOCKR, a switch that can turn these cells on and off. For example, LOCKR would switch the cells on to attack cancer but switch them off when they come into contact with healthy cells. – Department of Biochemistry, presented by Bobby Langan

Making Surgery Faster and Cheaper

Patients with oral cancer often need mandibular reconstructive surgery, a procedure where doctors remove part of the lower jaw and replace it with the fibula bone from the patient’s leg. Researchers from mechanical engineering, otolaryngology and pediatric otolaryngology teamed up to create a novel surgical system that allows surgeons to do the surgery in about an hour less and save over $3,500 per surgery. Researchers on this team include Benjamin Dobin, Malakumaran Gopalarethinam, Tina Li, Hrishikesh Pathak, Conner Stevens, Dr. Jeffrey Houlton, and Dr. Randall Bly. – Departments of Mechanical Engineering, Otolaryngology and Pediatric Otolaryngology, presented by Tina Li

Making Imaging Procedures More Comfortable

When patients need internal imaging procedures, physicians often insert scopes in a patient’s mouth. Doctors use bite blocks to protect the imaging probe from patients’ teeth, but the current options on the market are uncomfortable for patients and often dislodge during the imaging procedure. Researchers from mechanical engineering, chemical engineering and anesthesiology teamed up to create Bite Block, a technology that’s much more comfortable for patients and less likely to dislodge during procedures. This team included Sai Krishna Madhavaram, Zamir Mohiddin, Dione Moyano, Zhidong He, Belinda Garana and clinical guides Dr. Srdjan Jelacic and Dr. Andrew Bowdle. – Departments of Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering and School of Medicine – Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine, presented by Sai Krishna Madhavaram

Using Ultrasound Technology To Target Kidney Tumors

Kidney cancer is common, especially in older patients who are at high risk for complications of surgery. Through a collaboration between the Applied Physics Lab, UW Department of Urology and the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, researchers designed this technology that can precisely target tumors without an incision. This team included Michael Bailey, Adam Maxwell, Akshay Randad, Mohamed Ghanem and George Schade. – Departments of Applied Physics Lab, Urology, Aeronautics and Astronautics, presented by Akshay Randad

Making Data Sequencing More Efficient and Affordable

RNA sequencing gives scientists an unprecedented ability to understand huge sets of data. Alex Rosenberg, Charlie Roco and George Seelig used their expertise in computer science and electrical engineering to take that a step further, creating a technology that can profile hundreds of thousands of individual cells at the same time. This technology requires no complex instruments, making it much more affordable than existing technologies. – Departments of Electrical & Computer Engineering and The Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, presented by Alex Rosenberg

Developing Software to Improve Hospital Safety and Efficiency

Engineers, physicians and administrators from UW’s anesthesiology department worked together to create ORBIS, a software that gives physicians real-time data about quality, safety and efficiency in the hospitals they work in. This replaces manual data preparation, makes staffing and scheduling easier, and simplifies communication between physicians. This team included Rajeev Saxena, M.D., M.B.A., Stuart Solomon, M.D, Christine Fong, M.S., John Lang M.D., and Bala Nair, Ph.D. – Department of Anesthesiology, presented by Rajeev Saxena

Helping Patients Manage IBD From Their Pockets

NiMBAL is a dietary therapy that can help patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Dr. David Suskind and John Zoshak of Human Centered Design & Engineering have developed an app that enables patients to manage their disease from their pocket. The app offers lessons that explain NiMBAL therapy, health coaching, and recipes to meet each patient’s unique needs. – Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering