Five inventions from Children’s Hospital’s first Innovators Showcase

Rutvi Vyas demonstrates her project, a device which checks blood flow to babies' heads without an MRI.
Rutvi Vyas demonstrates her project, a device which checks blood flow to babies' heads without an MRI.

A less-invasive brain diagnostic test, a surface so slippery bacteria can’t stick to it, and a low-cost mylar wrap to help warm babies’ heads after surgery were three of the projects on display at Boston Children’s Hospital’s first-ever Innovators Showcase Friday.

The event is part of a larger push by Chief Innovation Officer Naomi Fried’s office to seek out innovators across the organization, support them with advice and sometimes money, and help guide them towards commercialization.

“These innovations run the gamut in terms of value they bring back to the organization,” Fried said. “Some help with clinical efficiency, some are new devices or procedures, and some are about improving the patient experience.”

Several of the projects have already attracted corporate partners, and Fried said that while the intellectual property belongs to the hospital, the revenue is shared by the innovators, their departments, and the hospital as whole.

Here are five of the standouts.

Brain diagnostic test for babies
Typically babies with brain injuries are subjected to MRIs, which can cost about $3,000. But a new portable brain scan device, now close to commercialization, costs one tenth the price and is safe enough to use every day. Two instruments used together measure cerebral blood flow and cerebral blood volume, which can signal the level of oxygen metabolism in the brain. The Children’s team is negotiating a deal to combine the two instruments into a commercial product, which will combine the two instruments into a single device. The test has already been used on 500 babies, with a new study to launch shortly.

Karen Sakakeeny headwrap

Karen Sakakeeny’s project turned some everyday marathon technology into a new way to help warm up babies when they need it most.

Warming headwrap for babies
An operating room nurse at Children’s figured out that the mylar wraps marathoners use to warm up after races could be incorporated into a type of hat to help warm up babies who had been cooled down intentionally for surgery. Karen Sakakeeny’s headwrap idea won a $15,000 grant from the hospital’s innovation office in 2010, the first year the grants were offered. Now the headwraps have been licensed to an undisclosed military agency.

Near infrared drug delivery
Developed by the anesthesiology department, this small disk, when placed under the skin, could dispense different levels of medicine dictated by the use of a laser pointer. Possible uses include local anesthesia, chemotherapy drugs, and pain medications. The team already has a partnership with French drug maker Sanofi, which is paying for some of the research and development.

A slippery medical surface to help prevent hospital-acquired infections
Some of the most common hospital-acquired infections are associated with central venous catheters. These catheters are commonly used to deliver nutrition or medicine, and can become a prime breeding ground for bacteria. But this slippery surface, when applied to the outside of the catheter, prevents the bacteria from attaching. The project has so far attracted $21.6 million in grants from DARPA.

A robotic device to treat babies born without an esophagus
The current procedure involves looping sutures from a pouch at the end of their throats to a stub at the top of heir stomachs, and apply traction forces manually to induce growth. Babies, often as young as three months, must stay in the hospital for three months, at a cost of $500,000. The robotic device would apply computerized pressure to help grow the esophagus, reducing the price to $170,000 and the time in the hospital to under one month. The team is seeking $500,000 to $1 million in grants to start a trial in pigs in the next few months.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to correct the amount of funding awarded to the head wrap grant, and to reflect that the deal for the infant diagnostic test is still being negotiated.