Stunned student faces grew wide with smiles as prizes were announced at the 8th annual Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge (HIC) hosted by the UW Foster School’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship. For some students a realization takes place in that moment—an internal shift from innovator to entrepreneur. Their idea receives validation, and the impact they hope it could have beyond the bench starts to come into focus. The $15,000 WRF Capital Grand Prize winning team Endozene perfectly illustrates this.
The team of bioengineering, biology, and philosophy students from the University of Washington is developing a non-invasive, low-cost diagnostic kit to accurately predict if a patient is suffering from endometriosis.
The painful and traumatic condition impacts tens of millions worldwide and usually involves expensive and invasive surgery to detect. Endozene’s solution involves the innovative use of lateral flow assays to detect microRNA in menstrual blood, similar to how pregnancy tests or rapid COVID-19 tests work.
Many of the 22 teams who showcased at this year’s Final Round shared a focus on easing patient suffering.
Judges awarded the $10,000 Herbert B. Jones Foundation Second Place Prize to AMOR (Advanced Multi-Organ Regeneration). The UW team of mechanical engineering (ME) students is developing a liver-support system that removes toxins more efficiently and offers patients more time to recover or receive a transplant. Their prototype machine is also designed to be used easily by anyone currently trained to use a dialysis machine. AMOR also represents a unique cross-disciplinary approach from within a single department. The team features undergrad, master’s level, and PhD students all studying ME.
The $5,000 Fenwick & West Third Place Prize went to OneCourt. The team features UW business, design, and electrical and computer engineering students as well as technology innovation students from the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX) program in Bellevue. OneCourt is creating a handheld device that users can grip comfortably to make live sports accessible to blind and/or visually impaired fans. The device uses a “haptic” language they developed to track what’s happening in real-time. OneCourt previously won the third-place prize in the 2022 Dempsey Startup Competition.
A total of $40,000 in prizes went to student teams who pitched and created trade show styled booths for more than 100 judges representing the health, biotech, investor, and entrepreneurial communities across the Pacific Northwest.
Judges selected LegUp Prosthetics for the $2,500 Jim & Timmie Hollomon Best Idea for Addressing Health Access & Disparities Prize. The UW team of bioengineering, informatics, and mechanical engineering students is developing a modular, adjustable, below-knee prosthetic for children in low-resource communities. The prize they received recognizes a student innovation or intervention that seeks to close the gap in health disparities for low-income and disadvantaged groups by increasing access to point-of-care healthcare services and/or addressing systemic biases within the current healthcare system.
Team GenePedia from UW took home the $2,500 Kent & Lisa Sacia Best Idea in Digital Health Prize which recognizes an innovative digital health application that has a high likelihood of being implemented in practical healthcare situations. The pharmacy, communication, marketing, and MBA students created an AI-powered assistant for genetic counselors designed to help alleviate workload and provide support throughout genetic care.
The 2023 Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge featured a brand-new addition to the list of $2,500 Best Idea Prizes that focused on patient safety and was supported by the Patient Safety Technology Challenge. Judges awarded the UW mechanical engineering students on team SmarTrach the prize for its device that wirelessly monitors a tracheostomy tube and provides alerts when airflow is obstructed.
The $2,500 IntuitiveX Best Idea for a Medical Device Prize went to Fight for 98. The team of electrical and computer engineering, biology, and technology innovation students from UW and GIX are developing a low-cost breast cancer screening device. It works by combining an innovative hardware design with machine learning algorithms to increase accuracy and availability globally. Fight for 98 also won a $1,000 Connie Bourassa-Shaw Spark Award, which recognizes teams that, in the eyes of the judges, just missed out on one of the top three awards.
The Spark Award is named for an iconic former Buerk Center director. A second $1,000 Connie Bourassa-Shaw Spark Award was awarded to team piezopulse representing UW bioengineering. The team is looking to extend the battery life of even the most advanced pacemakers through the innovative use of materials that can harvest energy from the natural pressure differences in the heart.
While eight different teams did take home awards at the event, no one left empty-handed. All teams who participated in the HIC (including those in the Screening Round) received detailed feedback from judges on how to move their innovations forward. Many will continue on by competing in the upcoming Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge (March 30) and the multi-stage Dempsey Startup Competition (April/May) student competitions, or by applying again for the HIC next year.