CoMotion announces new Director’s Award for UW innovations that address a pressing societal need

Written by François Baneyx / June 8, 2020

Inaugural award goes to UW researchers assessing the persistence of potentially infectious aerosols in medical facilities

Igor Novosselov, Research Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering

James Hecker, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine and Neuroanesthesia

Edmund Seto, Associate Professor of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences

Martin Cohen, Principal Lecturer in Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences

When James Hecker, an anesthesiologist at Harborview Medical Center, intubates a COVID-19-positive patient, he can’t help but wonder how many virus particles will be aerosolized and for how long they will float around. You see, what used to be a routine procedure now has potential for putting the whole medical team at risk and James’s concerns extend to colleagues working in the intensive care units, emergency departments, and even transporters and those in environmental services. For frontline medical workers, the mechanism of SARS-CoV-2 transmission is more than an academic exercise. It is a matter of life and death. This is also exactly the kind of problem where creative innovators can make an extraordinary impact.

Today, I am pleased to announce a new CoMotion award that will support the development of University of Washington (UW) innovations that have potential for transformational impact in areas of pressing societal need. The CoMotion Director’s Award is a rapid response program that provides $25,000 to develop or reposition an innovation in order to make a timely difference for the greater good. There are a few simple rules. First, innovations are always better when diverse minds blend together, so the teams must be interdisciplinary and include investigators from a minimum of three UW schools, colleges or departments. Second, the principal investigator (PI) must be a UW faculty member and at least one of the team members must have filed a relevant Record of Innovation with CoMotion. Finally, all funds are restricted to research activities. We anticipate that two awards will be made annually

The first recipient of CoMotion’s Director award is a multi-disciplinary team led by Igor Novosselov, a Research Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering. Igor has partnered with James Hecker, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine and Neuroanesthesia, Edmund Seto, Associate Professor of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences, and Martin Cohen, Principal Lecturer in Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences to tackle the problem of aerosol fate and persistence in medical environments. The team intends to deploy low-cost sensor networks in operating rooms to map out the spatial and temporal distribution of long-lived aerosols that may contain SARS-CoV-2 or other infectious agents in real time. “This information will help medical professionals develop effective mitigation and decontamination measures and save lives,” Igor says. The team is already thinking about how their technology might be deployed to facilitate the return to the workplace in post-COVID-19 times.

If you are interested in learning more about ways to support our mission of guiding UW innovations from idea to impact, please contact Anson Fatland at, ansonf2@uw.edu