A Novel Way to Test for Sore Throats

Published Feb-09-11

A student team picks up a $150,000 award for its innovative diagnostic tool that could lead to swifter and more accurate diagnosis by doctors of acute pharyngitis.

Mark R. Hartman (Cornell University), United States

The Story:

A Novel Way to Test for Sore Throats Typically, an open innovation contest awards a fixed amount of money to the best solution or solutions. The seeker has its problem solved in good time and the provider not only receives financial reward but valuable exposure as well.

In this respect the annual open innovation competition held by the Center for Integration of Medicine & Innovative Technology (CIMIT) is similar to all others, but there is one key difference – it challenges engineers early in their careers to think of the healthcare industry as a viable career option and a place where they can direct their skills, talents and creativity.

Prestigious Open Innovation Competition

CIMIT is making a big splash in the open innovation community with its US-nationwide competition, and 2010 was its second year. It aims to attract and inspire the brightest and most creative engineering students to come up with novel technological solutions that could enhance the delivery of care to patients. By doing so it also hopes that an open innovation approach can help it to improve the quality of care that patients receive.

The competition attracts a wide variety of ideas and every year awards a total of $400,000 in prize money.

Novel Diagnostic Tool

The 2010 top prize of $150,000 was awarded to a Cornell University-based, student-led team headed by Mark R. Hartman for their project, "Rapid Multiplexed Detection of Pathogens with DNA Nanobarcodes". The novel technology is a DNA-based fluorescence nanobarcodes assay that can test for a variety of pathogens that are potential causes of acute pharyngitis. This type of throat or pharynx inflammation can be caused by virus infections, bacterial infections, fungal infections or irritants such as pollutants in the atmosphere. Determining the exact cause can lead to prompter, more powerful and better directed treatments.

"We are delighted with the passion this Prize competition has elicited amongst engineering students,” said Ronald Newbower, CTO and Co-Founder of CIMIT whilst announcing the winners of the 2010 CIMIT Prize for Primary Healthcare. “They are clearly eager to develop innovative technologies to address our national challenges in primary care.”

The runners up, who picked up a check for $100,000, also came from Cornell University and their innovation is a wearable device that uses continuous ultrasound therapy for more efficient help in managing chronic pain, particularly in patients with chronic conditions such as sciatica and osteoarthritis.

Win-Win Situation

The CIMIT competition demonstrated once again how an open innovation approach can be a win-win situation for all concerned. The prize winners grabbed nationwide and industry attention, and a not inconsiderable sum of money. And the solution seeker – CIMIT - was able to increase its capacity to innovate by tapping into a vast network of intelligent minds that transcends any one organization’s boundaries.

With the growing trend for companies to outsource part or all of their R&D operations open innovation contests have established themselves as sound R&D problem solving practices.

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