International Collaborative Funds Three Early-Stage Pediatric Medical Device Concepts

Friday, December 21, 2012

A recently launched collaborative led by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) is funding the research and development of three pediatric-specific medical devices.

The collaboration, which pairs the medical expertise of Cincinnati Children’s physicians with the technical and engineering capabilities of BGU, started with nearly 80 unaddressed problems facing surgeons and physicians. After reviewing these ideas and proposed solutions, 10 projects went through rigorous application cycles, thorough market analyses and review by internal and external stakeholders.

The initial three projects that will be funded have potential to not only improve patient care and outcomes, but also reduce costs to the healthcare system.

“The pediatric market, especially with regard to medical devices, has historically been neglected primarily due to prohibitive development costs,” said Niki Robinson, assistant vice president of Cincinnati Children’s Center for Technology Commercialization. “This initiative presents an unprecedented opportunity for early stage ideas to receive funding and move through a development plan backed by world-class physicians and engineers.”

The three approved projects include a smart sensing catheter, a surfactant-delivery device and an image-guided needle insertion device. Each project is being led by a Cincinnati Children’s clinician or surgeon and a BGU engineer.

The smart sensing catheter concept was developed by Richard Azizkhan, MD, surgeon-in-chief at Cincinnati Children’s and the Lester W. Martin Chair of Pediatric Surgery, and Ibrahim Abdulhalim, professor of electro-optical engineering at BGU. The device provides immediate and continuous assessment of the metabolic and physiological profile of critically ill infants and small children. “Secondarily, this technology will reduce the need for repeated tests, thus reducing costs for the health system and society,” said Azizkhan. Because catheter utilization is so widespread, this technology has the potential for broader application in the adult market.

The surfactant delivery device concept was developed by Jeffrey Whitsett, MD, co-director, Perinatal Institute and chief, Section of Neonatology, Perinatal and Pulmonary Biology at Cincinnati Children’s, and Joseph Kost, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering Sciences and professor of biomedical engineering at BGU. It consists of a delivery system for prolonged administration of surfactants to the lungs of premature babies using nanoparticles. Current procedures do not allow for the sustained release of proteins or other complex particles in the alveoli of infants or adults. This technology would do that with the potential to deliver numerous therapies to the lower airway through a non-inflammatory delivery system.

Daniel von Allmen, MD, director, Division of General and Thoracic Surgery at Cincinnati Children’s and Hugo Guterman, professor of electrical and computer engineering at BGU are collaborating on the image guided needle insertion device concept. It combines sophisticated new imaging techniques with the precision of robotics to improve the accuracy of many procedures currently done in medicine. “The device substantially improves the accuracy for a number of invasive procedures while decreasing the level of necessary expertise and therefore costs associated with current practice,” von Allmen said. While initially targeting the pediatric market, this technology represents potential for the adult market as well.

Each project will receive up to $100,000 in the first round, with all funding contingent upon achieving project-specific developmental milestones.

Speaking to the value of early stage investment in research, von Allmen said, “One of the enormous struggles for physicians, many of whom are very experienced in their fields and knowledgeable about challenges to care, is the ability to get an idea from the back of a napkin in the cafeteria to a coordinated development effort. Cincinnati Children’s has put a lot of resources into creating the infrastructure to make the translation of good ideas to products a reality.”

The Cincinnati Children’s-BGU collaborative will seek new ideas and solutions for pediatric-specific medical devices from experts at both institutions for its next round of funding starting in January 2013.

The initiative is managed by Cincinnati Children’s Center for Technology Commercialization and BGU’s technology commercialization company, BGN Technologies, Ltd. This collaboration is one of several that Cincinnati Children’s has in Israel through its Israel Exchange Program. Cincinnati-based seed-stage investor CincyTech and Israel-based Ridgeback Business Development, Ltd. helped evaluate the projects.

About Cincinnati Children’s

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center ranks third in the nation among all Honor Roll hospitals in U.S. News and World Report’s 2012 Best Children’s Hospitals ranking. It is ranked #1 for neonatology and in the top 10 for all pediatric specialties. Cincinnati Children’s is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health, and a research and teaching affiliate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. The medical center is internationally recognized for improving child health and transforming delivery of care through fully integrated, globally recognized research, education and innovation. Additional information can be found at

About Ben-Gurion University

Ben-Gurion University is the third largest, fastest growing university in Israel. BGU’s growth has tripled over the past 15 years, and presently numbers 20,000 students. Thirty-two percent of the engineering researchers of Israeli universities are located at BGU, which has 850 senior researchers engaged in basic and applied research in multi-disciplinary areas of excellence that include relevant areas such as advanced materials, nanotech, sensors, electronics, optics, drug delivery and biotechnology. Additional information can be found at

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Michael Pistone