With all the biotech and drug companies in the Route 1 corridor, it’s possible to overlook another important sector of the healthcare industry: medical devices. The ever increasing power of computers has allowed a slew of wearable, or implantable, machines to monitor or treat health conditions, and the future promises even more advances in the field.
The New Jersey Technology Council will host an event on the future of medical devices at Princeton University on Tuesday, June 13, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Friend Center. Tickets start at $20. For more information, visit www.njtc.org, call 732-456-5700, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The event will feature a panel discussion with representatives of medical device businesses as well as Princeton University’s office of licensing, and presentations by students and companies conducting research in the field.
Companies giving presentations include:
Circuport, a company based in Livingston that makes an implantable port for dialysis.
Jotteq, a New York-based company that makes a pump that deliver eye drops in small, precise amounts.
Maxogen, based in Florida, which makes the Bite Helper, a device that neutralizes itching from bug bites.
OptoVibronex, a Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, company that builds and tests medical devices.
Proception Medical, based in West Caldwell, which makes a bunion correction device and has a platform for bone fusions and fractures. The device, implanted in the bone, automatically adapts to its environment.
ZSX Medical, a Haddon Heights company that is making the “Zip-Stitch,” a surgical closure system to rival conventional stitches.
The event will provide a glimpse into the future of medical devices, into the labs of researchers who are still looking for a company to make their technologies into reality. The panel will include Laurie Tzodikov, assistant director of Princeton University’s office of technology licensing. Her organization connects academic types with the business world, helping researchers license their inventions to companies that can make use of them.
On its website, the licensing office lists hundreds of available technologies, including 44 in the medical device/diagnostics category. Visit www.princeton.edu/patents/available-technologies.
Some examples include a surface treatment that inhibits bacterial infection on medical devices. A group of five inventors at the university believes its coating could be used on medical devices, catheter tubes, IV lines, and other places, to stop the deadly P. Aeruginosa bacteria from creating hospital-borne infections.
Another pair of Princeton professors have invented a very different way to combat hospital-borne infections. Eldar Shafir and Donald Redelmeir, noting that doctors often fail to adequately wash their hands between patient visits, have invented a simple, technological solution to the problem. They have invented a type of hand soap that leaves a mark on washed hands, which disappears over a short period of time. “Use of the soap will immediately distinguish hands that have recently been washed, and thereby serve as a visible affirmation to healthcare workers, patients, and others,” they write.
Another professor, Timothy Buschman, is seeking to license an “adaptive cognitive prosthetic,” which is nothing less than a prosthetic replacement for damaged brain tissue. The device being developed will bypass the damaged brain region, allowing patients to restore functioning after stroke, brain injury, or disease like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
“To bypass a damaged region in the brain, the prosthetic will mimic the lost functionality by recording the neural activity from other brain regions, transforming this activity according to the lost cognitive function, and then stimulating unaffected brain regions to convey the result,” Buschman writes.
Another technology on the market is a non-invasive blood glucose sensor. If the device, invented by a group of three researchers led by Claire Gmachl, makes it to the marketplace, it could allow diabetics to test their blood sugar without the need for a painful blood draw. The device uses quantum cascade laser spectroscopy not to measure blood glucose directly, but to measure the glucose levels of dermal interstitial fluid, which can be found close to the surface of the skin.
Another medical device on the market is technically not for humans, but for rats. Researchers at the department of molecular biology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute have invented a device to solve a problem that only neuroscientists knew existed: that rats get stressed out when you hold their heads in place.
Because neuroscientists often study rat brains, they have to hold the animals’ heads still with clamps while they take images of the rats’ neural activity. But because the rats don’t like being held down, this means that neuroscientists only have brain images of stressed-out rodents. The “Voluntary head restraint and automated in vivo imaging system” uses a “switch-triggered pneumatic clamp” that trains the rats to operate their own mechanical head restraint systems so they are not as stressed out when getting an MRI.