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Two bottles of egg yolk are in a freezer.

How students are redesigning the future of health care

Stanford students share solutions they've developed to challenging health care problems through Stanford Health Technology showcase.

At the annual Health Technology Showcase, students from the Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign get to share the solutions they are developing to challenging health care problems with other members of the Stanford community.

While this year's showcase event was virtual, the technologies the students are developing have real potential to reach patients and improve care. 

"These solutions are early stage, but very compelling," said Lyn Denend, Biodesign's director of academic programs and a lecturer at the Stanford University School of Medicine. "And the fact that the teams made so much progress working from home during the pandemic underscores their commitment and determination."

Some of the most exciting projects this year spanned biotechnology, medical devices and digital health. Below are descriptions of three projects included in this year's showcase.

An affordable way to prevent COVID-19: Team CoVer

A person holds a test tube with egg yolk at the bottom.
Scientists collect egg yolk in a test tube as they prepare the antibodies.

This team of undergraduates from the Stanford Student Biodesign Club was recruited by Stanford SPARK to work on an inexpensive nasal drop that can prevent COVID-19. The treatment they developed is made from an antibody derived from chicken egg yolks that binds to receptors in the nasal passage. This is designed to block viral particles and prevent them from causing infection.

The students were tasked with developing a way to purify the antibodies in the egg yolk into a usable form without sophisticated lab equipment so that the drops can be produced in low-resource environments.

With coaching from Stanford Biodesign undergraduate co-instructor Ravi Pamnani, the team used basic materials, like salt and vinegar, to acidify the egg yolk enough to extract the antibodies. They also developed a 3D-printed attachment that turns a food processor into a makeshift centrifuge.

"Our goal is to make an open-source kit that makes it easy to produce this therapy anywhere in the world," said team member Allison Jia. 

Improved treatment for bladder pain syndrome: Team PCR

Primarily experienced by women, bladder pain syndrome is a debilitating disorder that causes long-lasting, severe pain in the bladder and lower urinary tract, along with frequent urination.  

There is no cure, but one of the therapies that can offer relief is a transvaginal injection of medication into the base of the bladder. However, because the bladder sits at the top of the vaginal canal, the needle needs to be positioned at a shallow upwards angle to go through the front vaginal wall, which is difficult to achieve.  

To make this solution more accessible to patients, a team of students in the Bioengineering Senior Capstone Design course developed a needle delivery tool that guides the injection angle. It's ergonomic, easy-to-use, and would allow practitioners to achieve the correct injection angle with minimal training. The team has advanced to cadaver testing working with their adviser, Stanford assistant professor of urology, Amy Dobberfuhl, MD.

Support for parents of kids with autism: Team Beaming Health

Raising a child with autism takes a tremendous toll on families, especially parents. To help alleviate their emotional and physical stress, a team from the Biodesign for Digital Health course worked with Biodesign instructor Pablo Pantaleoni and assistant professor of psychiatry Lawrence Fung, MD, PhD, to develop a website that provides parents with comprehensive support.

Called Beaming Health, the site is designed to help parents find, secure and pay for the services and support their child needs to stay healthy and happy. This includes helping families obtain a prompt medical diagnosis, resolve insurance issues, access school resources and find qualified care providers. Through a combination of self-service and one-on-one access to expert consultants, including autism specialists, insurance advocate, school advocates and financial planners, Beaming Health will be an invaluable resource for parents of children with autism. The team hopes to launch the site in the fall.

Eight projects were featured at the 2021 showcase by students who are all part of Biodesign NEXT, a grant program that provides motivated teams with funding and mentoring so they can keep working on their projects after the classes in which they originated end.

Photos by Team CoVer

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