Smart Shirt
An illustration that demonstrates the possibilities of wearable health monitoring sensors being developed at WSU.

For the first time, Washington is hosting the National Institutes of Health Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Conference. Washington’s thriving health care innovation sector makes this conference a natural fit for Seattle, and great opportunity for the small businesses, entrepreneurs and researchers working to get life-changing innovations into the marketplace.

Recognizing NIH SBIR/STTR’s crucial role in translating promising technologies to the private sector, WSU is proud to be a sponsor of this event. Sustaining health and improving quality of life are key goals of the Grand Challenges, complex societal problems that the University’s research strengths are particularly well suited to help solve.

One of the ways WSU translates that research into solutions is by engaging in public-private partnerships to bring life-saving innovations to consumer markets. Working with the Office of Commercialization, researchers find the support they need to turn a lab discovery into a marketable product, or even a new business. The researchers represented below are presenting at the NIH SBIR/STTR Conference, and are looking for industry partners and funding opportunities to get their innovations closer to the people who need them.

A Small Business Development Center advisor will also be on hand during the conference. SBDC advisors offer no-cost, confidential advising to small businesses seeking to grow with NIH SBIR/STTR funding.

If you have general questions about partnering with WSU on SBIR/STTR funding, please contact commercialization@wsu.edu.

Smart Systems for Better Quality of Life

Helping seniors maintain independence longer
Researcher leads: Diane Cook, Ph.D. and Aaron Crandall, Ph.D.
Spinoff company Behaviometrics
Contact: Dr. Crandall, acrandal@wsu.edu 

By the year 2020, more than 70 million Americans will be at least 60 years old. Almost all of them will prefer to live in their homes, and computer scientist Diane Cook is developing technology that will help them do just that.

Dr. Cook designs computer software that can gather data from off-the-shelf technology that monitors movements in a home, reads light and temperature levels, and both monitors and records the use of appliances. The software then uses artificial intelligence to discern patterns and trends. It unobtrusively tends to residents’ comfort, conserves resources, reminds residents of important tasks, and looks after the residents’ health and safety.

With support from NIH and others, Dr. Cook has been applying artificial intelligence in test homes since 2006. Aaron Crandall has been in Dr. Cook’s lab pretty much since day one. He launched a spinoff company, Behaviometrics, that will make this technology available for purchase. They have been in negotiations with current in-home care providers as beta partners, and the excitement about having new in-home tools to help connect the circle of care, including the older adults, family, and professional caregivers, is very strong. Currently the company is looking for non-dilutive funding opportunities.

Dr. Cook and collaborator, Dr. Larry Holder also formed a company, Adaptelligence, which focuses on developing mobile solutions associated with the smart system technology. Learn more about their research here.

Expanding capabilities of personal glucose meters
Research leads: Yuehe Lin and Annie Dan Du
Graduate students presenting: Yang Song and He Li
Contact: Dr. Lin, yuehe.lin@wsu.edu; Dr. Du, annie.du@wsu.edu

Personal glucose meters are accurate, portable, affordable monitoring devices that have helped diabetic patients keep track of their blood glucose levels for over 30 years. WSU researchers Drs. Annie D. Du and Yuehe Lin developed a technology that could expand the capabilities of these devices to monitor other health factors.

The device allows an antibody paired to a molecule of interest to become the indicator on a standard glucose test strip. Using this method, any molecule that can be attached to an antibody can be tested in the field or office without the use of expensive or complicated laboratory equipment. The WSU group’s method could bring the ease and affordability of glucose monitoring to a nearly infinite number of environmental and health-testing procedures with no modification needed to the test strips or devices. Standard glucose test strips/meters are a commodity product produced by several major medical companies, and this new technology could add new revenue to that market at a low cost.

Wearable sensors for earlier detection of heart disease
Researcher Subhanshu Gupta, Ph.D.
Contact: Dr. Gupta, subhanshu.gupta@wsu.edu

In the era of FitBits and personalized medicine, Dr. Subhanshu Gupta’s technology is paving the way to “smart clothes” that could monitor your vital signs and share the information with your physician. Working with researchers in textiles and materials science, Dr. Gupta is developing small but powerful flexible sensors that can be 3-D printed. Information from the sensors would be sent directly to your physician, allowing for earlier detection of acute and chronic heart disease.

While constantly gathering health information helps physicians more accurately diagnose and treat patients, processing and analyzing all of that data can be a challenge. For that reason, Dr. Gupta and his team are also developing local processing that would select which data to send to physicians, reducing resources needed at the doctor’s office for effective use.

In addition to improving cardiac health, Dr. Gupta is working with a professor in nursing to use similar sensors to monitor premature infant pain. His work in small devices can make a big difference in the world of health.

A SmartSock that improves detection and monitoring of major disease symptoms
Researcher Ramin Fallahzadeh, Ph.D.
Contact: Dr. Fallahzadeh, ramin.fallahzadeh@wsu.edu  

Ankle edema is a very common symptom of diseases that impact the cardiovascular, renal, and hepatic systems. Early detection and monitoring of ankle edema would allow physicians to intervene with more targeted treatments earlier in the diagnosis process. WSU researcher Ramin Fallahzadeh has developed a technology to do just that called SmartSock, a wearable device for continuous, real-time, and in-home monitoring of ankle edema and physical activity. The invention uses stretch sensors and accelerometers embedded in the clothing to measure edema, body posture, and physical activity level. Data is then transmitted wirelessly over the Internet straight to clinicians who can observe how edema level changes over time and intervene accordingly (e.g., change their medication dosage, recommend physical activity regimens, send the patient to visit his/her primary care physician).

Moving forward, SmartSock is expected to provide valuable data for disease management and for prediction of adverse events using advanced machine learning algorithms.

Dr. Fallahzadeh is currently looking for industrial partners for commercialization of the technology.

Exploring new material option for wearable health monitoring devices
Researcher Feng Zhao
Contact: Dr. Zhao, feng.zhao@wsu.edu

WSU researcher Feng Zhao has explored the use of silicon carbide to advance technology related to wearable health monitoring devices. Advanced polymers developed in Feng Zhao’s lab take advantage of the electronic characteristics of the silicon carbide to make micro electrochemical and mechanical systems that can be incorporated as wearable sensors. Due to the high durability and conductivity of the polymers, this is an ideal technology for wearable sensors that can be used in clothing.

This technology would be ideal for discrete and effective wearable health monitoring devices that can help in early stage diagnosis and prevention of health problems.

Treatments that Improve Health

Developing a new smoking cessation option
Researchers Philip Lazarus, Ph.D. and Travis Denton, Ph.D.
Contact: Dr. Lazarus, phil.lazarus@wsu.edu  

People who stop smoking greatly reduce their risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and many others diseases. According to a 2010 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 7 out of 10 U.S. adult cigarette smokers reported that they wanted to quit, but many are unsuccessful in their attempts. WSU researchers Philip Lazarus and Travis Denton would like to give those smokers a cessation option that reduces the desire for nicotine, while also encouraging behavior modifications.

Drs. Lazarus and Denton have developed agents that have the potential to specifically inhibit the enzyme that metabolizes nicotine, thus reducing a smoker’s craving. Research has shown that the behavior of smoking – taking puffs of a cigarette several times a day – is also a significant barrier to quitting. If Drs. Lazarus’ and Denton’s agents can reduce a smoker’s desire from, for example, two packs of cigarettes in a day, to one cigarette, it will also decrease the smoking behavior, and possibly lead the smoker to quit completely.

Drs. Lazarus and Denton are currently looking to partner with industry and/or potentially develop their own company, and seek government funding to further this exciting tobacco cessation research.

Improving hearing, and preventing hearing loss
Researchers Allison Coffin, Ph.D. and Phillip Uribe
Contact: Dr. Coffin, allison.coffin@wsu.edu
Dr. Uribe, phillip.uribe@wsu.edu

360 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss, a number Allison Coffin’s research aims to minimize. Dr. Coffin’s research, which receives funding from NIH, is focused on gaining a better understanding of hearing at the cellular level is leading to possibilities to find possibilities for protective treatments.

Looking to improve the process of getting drug candidates to the market, Dr. Coffin has developed a device and methodology that could improve the assessment of drug candidates for preventing sensory cell death that results in hearing loss. Currently there are no approved preventive therapies, and this technology could help speed up the approval process.

Dr. Coffin’s dedication to finding health solutions will lead to healthier, happier communities.