College Inventors from UCSD, Johns Hopkins Take Top Prizes

College inventors with a novel delivery therapy for treating cancer and a way to facilitate suturing in abdominal surgery have taken the top prizes at the Collegiate Inventors Competition during Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Inanc Ortac of the University of California, San Diego received the $15,000 graduate first prize for his invention of Nano-Wiffle-Balls for Cancer Therapy, and Leslie Myint, Daniel Peng, Andy Tu, and Stephen Van Kooten of Johns Hopkins University received the $12,500 undergraduate first prize for their work with the FastStitch suturing device.

"The inventions chosen for this year's Collegiate Invention Competition are a testament to our nation's bright, young innovators," said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos. "These students embody a true spirit of entrepreneurship and continue to strengthen our belief in America's future."

Graduate student Brett Walker of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign received second prize for his work, and Tamer Badawy of Wayne State University received third prize. Undergraduate student Eric Ronning of the University of Wisconsin is the second prize winner in his category, and Riley Csernica, Meredith Donaldson, Chelsea Ex-Lubeskie, and Kaitlin Grove of Clemson University received undergraduate third prize. Walker was recognized for his Reactive Silver Inks and received $12,500, and Badawy was recognized for his Autonomous Operation of Internal Combustion Engines on a Multitude of Fuels and received $10,000. In the undergraduate category, Ronning received $10,000 for ReHand, his new approach to a prosthetic hand, and the Clemson team received $7,500 for their Hi-Impact Shoulder Stabilization Device.

Experts from industry, government, and academic research initially judged student entries on the originality of the idea and the potential value and usefulness to society. On November 12th, seven undergraduate finalist teams met with a panel of judges, as did seven graduate finalist teams, presenting their innovative advances in areas such as medical devices, cancer therapies, avionics, and engineering. Both panels included Inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame: Don Bateman (aircraft safety systems), Thomas Fogarty (embolectomy catheter), Marcian Hoff (microprocessor), Alois Langer (implantable defibrillator), Don Keck (optical fiber), Steve Sasson (digital camera), Gary Starkweather (laser printer), and James West (electret microphone). In addition, the panels include representatives from the USPTO, the Kauffman Foundation, and Abbott.

"The Collegiate Inventors Competition recognizes outstanding achievement," said Thom Ruhe, Vice President of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation. "Through recognition and encouragement, this new generation of young scientists and aspiring entrepreneurs will become tomorrow's leaders, generating economic impact as they develop their inventions. We are pleased to be a part of that recognition and to have the Competition itself as a featured event of Global Entrepreneurship Week."
In addition to the Competition being a part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Competition finalists also are being given the opportunity to meet with Dr. John Holdren, Assistant to President Obama for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Todd Park, the United States Chief Technology Officer. The meeting further emphasizes the importance of the innovative and entrepreneurial endeavors undertaken by this group who have the potential to positively influence and advance the future of our society.

First prize graduate winner Ortac's approach offers a versatile therapeutic strategy based on hiding and protecting otherwise immunogenic non-human enzymes from the immune system and their delivery to the target. He does this by fabricating what he calls "nano-wiffle-balls" out of silica and hiding enzymes within, then enclosing the wiffle balls with a second layer, trapping the enzymes, but leaving holes for other compounds to pass through. A non-toxic substance can be delivered systemically through the body, and activated by the enzymes inside the wiffle balls at the treatment site. In this way, therapy can potentially be applied to the majority of cancers including blood cancers, solid tumors, and metastic lesions with application-specific modifications.

The Johns Hopkins first prize undergraduate winners have invented a plier-like device that can drive and transfer a needle across its jaw, intended to provide improved fascia closure during abdominal surgery. With this device, the team hopes that surgeons will be able to close the fibrous tissue layer more easily and safely, allowing for less post-operative complications such as herniation or bowel injury from needle stick. Their company, Archon Medical, hopes to successfully market their product.

Graduate student Walker recognized that silver-based inks are the heart of the printed electronics industry, but that they are also difficult and expensive to manufacture. His reactive silver inks are particle-free, can be patterned through fine nozzles, and are extremely simple to make, resulting in high yields and increased performance for lower cost. Student Badawy's invention enables electronically controlled combustion engines to operate effectively on fuels of different physical and chemical properties. The state of the art technology autonomously readjusts engine systems based on a combustion sensor to achieve goals in power, fuel economy, and reduced emission.

In the Undergraduate category, second prize winner Ronning uses CT scanning and 3-D printing technology to replicate an amputee's lost hand. In addition to using 3-D printing, the hand utilizes a unique differential pulley system to control the force of the hand's grip, as well as providing an opposable thumb. The third prize Clemson team's shoulder brace is a self-applicable, low-profile brace designed for athletes who have experienced an anterior shoulder dislocation. The brace provides compressive support to the glenohumeral joint during activity to aid in prevention of secondary dislocations while still allowing athletes to perform at a high level.

The Collegiate Inventors Competition has awarded more than $1 million to winning students over the last 21 years for their innovative work and scientific achievement through the help of its sponsors. This year's finalists' inventions included a rewritable and non-volatile data-storage device operating in living cells, an augmented altimeter to alert pilots to the danger of wake turbulence, and a new type of omnidirectional electric motorcycle that maneuvers on spheres instead of traditional wheels, among others.

The Competition is sponsored by the Abbott Fund, the non-profit foundation of the global health care company Abbott, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The Competition is also a featured event of Global Entrepreneurship Week 2012, a worldwide celebration of creativity, innovation, and ingenuity, founded by the Kauffman Foundation and designed to inspire entrepreneurial thinking and encourage entrepreneurs to launch new ventures.

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