Collegiate inventors honored by leading U.S. organizations for pioneering science and technology advances

Invent Now, a nonprofit organization that recognizes and encourages invention, announced the first prize winners of the annual Collegiate Inventors Competition. Kyle Allison of Boston University was honored in the Graduate Category for his new therapy to eliminate bacterial persisters, and a team from Yale University, Elizabeth Asai, Nickolas Demas and Elliot Swart, was honored in the Undergraduate Category for a handheld imaging system that helps to detect potentially cancerous skin lesions.

University of California, Los Angeles graduate students Julio D’Arcy and Albert Mach, received second and third prizes respectively for their work. D’Arcy, a chemistry student under the advisement of Professor Richard Kaner, created a universal coating solution to thin-film deposition. Mach, a bioengineering student under the advisement of Professor Dino Di Carlo, invented a process for isolation of rare cancer cells from liquid blood biopsies – which he calls the “centrifuge chip.”

Showing their support for scientific and technological innovation and entrepreneurship, the 2011 Collegiate Inventors Competition is sponsored by the Abbott Fund, the non-profit foundation of the global health care company Abbott, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), who announced the winners with Invent Now during an event at the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C. The competition is a featured event of Global Entrepreneurship Week 2011, a worldwide celebration of creativity, innovation and ingenuity, founded by the Kauffman Foundation and designed to inspire entrepreneurial thinking and encourage entrepreneurs to launch new ventures.

Inspiration Behind Collegiate Invention
Finalists and winners this year trend strongly towards medical advances, highlighting the growing focus of innovative students on using their discoveries and research to benefit the world. While Collegiate Inventors Competition finalists typically span the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, all of the inventions have in common the potential for societal impact and commercial success.

David Kappos, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, commented, “Every year the inventions chosen for the Collegiate Invention Competition are astounding in their scope of possibilities. This year’s students are further testament to the mounting inclination of inventors at the collegiate level to get engaged in projects that benefit humanity through scientific breakthrough and have potential to translate into real world success.”

Also in the Undergraduate category, Patrick Cassidy, Sean Heyrman, Alex Johnson and Anthony Sprangers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison won second place for creating BarrierASAP, a special, thermoreversible barrier used to protect healthy tissue while nearby cancer tissue is being removed. Third place undergraduate winners James Lee, Colin Mitchell, Lauren Riesenberg and Meghan Moore of the University of Cincinnati developed BLINX, a device that applies topical electrical stimulation to the muscle around the eyes to induce normal blinking in comatose patients in intensive care.

“The Collegiate Inventors Competition gives the STEM leaders of tomorrow support from the top governmental agencies, non-profit organizations and industry professionals of today,” said Thom Ruhe, Director of Entrepreneurship for the Kauffman Foundation. “These students have the academic support and technical skills to propel their inventions to the next level. We are rewarding them for achievements and entrepreneurial potential in their respective fields by recognizing them on a national scale. We are proud to have this competition as a featured event of Global Entrepreneurship Week.”

Showcasing Collegiate Innovative Potential
Collegiate Inventors Competition finalist inventions include a device for optimal illumination of a surgical cavity; a handheld, portable and safe cranial drilling device; and a specially designed, biodegradable stem cell graft to improve heart repair, among others.

On November 14, both undergraduate and graduate finalists presented to a panel of judges comprised of Inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame and representatives from the three Presenting Sponsors. The students represent some of the most inventive and entrepreneurial young minds in the country and showcase the ingenuity of a new generation of scientists and innovators.

“The Collegiate Inventors Competition champions are the pioneers and role models of their generation in science, engineering and technology,” said Jeff Pan, associate director, Advanced Technology, Global Pharmaceutical Discovery, Abbott. “By highlighting the accomplishments of these young inventors, we hope to foster a better understanding of the importance of science and innovation in our lives.”

The Collegiate Inventors Competition has awarded more than $1 million to winning students over the last 21 years for their innovative work and scientific achievement through the help of its sponsors.

About the Collegiate Inventors Competition
Invent Now looks for new and creative ways to spread the inventive spirit, developing a range of creative products, programs, and innovative partnerships that emphasize the importance of invention in society. It created the Collegiate Inventors Competition to promote innovation by recognizing inventors and scientists early in their careers and rewarding students’ often pioneering ideas as they address the problems of today’s world. Past finalists and winners have gone on to start their own companies based on their inventions, win prestigious fellowships and grants and receive national attention for their work. Introduced in 1990, this is the 21st year of the program. For more information on the Competition and past winners, visit www.invent.org/collegiate.

Main Image: UCLA Bioengineering graduate student Albert Mach with Senator Barbara Boxer.