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Medical Device Design Class Team Wins $30k Grant

October 15, 2020
by Matt O'Rourke

A team in the Medical Device Design class taught by Yale Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation faculty has won a $30,000 grant for a design developed in the class.

The team, Kyle Almquist YC ’20, Shelby Meckstroth, SPH ’20, Trevor Chan YC ’20, Nicholas Szabo YC ‘20, and Stephanie Blas-Lizarazo YC ’20, won the prize from the CT Innovations Biopipeline Fund, an organization that provides seed funding to potential startups from Connecticut-based universities. The students were focused on designing an adjustable angle retractor, which is used to address traumatic foot fractures.

The fractures represent nearly 40 percent of all lower extremity injuries, so the team was addressing a clinical need that had been presented by surgeons and others from Yale New Haven Hospital, said Steven Tommasini, who co-teaches the Medical Device Design class along with Assistant Professor Daniel Wiznia, MD.

“It is of paramount importance to distract and retract the bone fragments such that they remain completely collinear, with the exposed faces parallel to each other,” the team wrote in their design abstract. “In distraction, this provides the surgeon sufficient access to remove all of the damaged cartilage; in retraction, this ensures a complete, healthy fusing of the bones. Unfortunately, providing such linear movements is near-impossible with the current instruments commonly found in operating rooms.”

The funding allows the team to take their design to the next level. The team is in the process of building prototypes to test functionality and performance using cadaver tissue, Tommasini said. They are also looking to outsource the regulatory process to a larger corporation responsible for manufacturing the device and, along with Yale Office of Cooperative Research, looking to license the intellectual property to larger orthopedic device companies, as well.

“We were already impressed with how quickly they learned to use CAD and finite element software to design their device,” Tommasini said. “The award is just validation of their hard work and clever design.”

The team has also won $1,000 in funding from the Rothberg Catalyzer Prototype Fund sponsored by the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (Tsai CITY) in collaboration with the Yale Center for Biomedical Innovation and Technology (CBIT).

Submitted by Matt O'Rourke on October 15, 2020