This time the judges didn’t just like them, they really, really liked them. EpiForAll took home the $15,000 grand prize at the Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge hosted by the Foster School’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship. The HIC featured 20 student teams who advanced to the semifinals from submissions across the Northwest. The goal is to address problems in health, wellness, and healthcare through innovation. “Healthcare spending in the U.S. is growing much faster than the rate of growth in the economy as a whole,” said Dan Turner, associate dean at the Foster School, in his opening remarks. “The development opportunity this event affords not only benefits our students, but brings practical value to our society as well, and we couldn’t be more proud.”
The pricing controversy over EpiPens may have dominated headlines in 2016, but the issue has been around for years. That makes the win for EpiForAll even more significant. The team of mechanical engineering, business, and pharmacy students has worked hard to improve its affordable emergency epinephrine auto injector that uses inexpensive, easily-replaced ampules. Last year, their initial prototype earned them a Judges Also Really Liked award.
“We put in a lot of work and made a lot of progress since last year, even since last month,” said mechanical engineering student Ha Seung Chung. “It was always a hope that we would win something, but I never envisioned this.”
The $10,000 Herbert B. Jones Foundation second place prize went to BWB Anesthesia for their electricity-free portable anesthetic device that aims to improve access to inhaled anesthesia in low-resource settings. The team features students from bioengineering and the Foster School.
The judges awarded PlayGait the $5,000 Fenwick & West third place prize. The team of mechanical engineering and business students developed an adjustable, affordable, non-electric exoskeleton to support in-home walking practice for kids with neuromuscular disorders.
“Competition is human nature, so we may as well put that competitive streak we all have to good use,” said Connie Bourassa-Shaw, director of the Buerk Center. “It wasn’t easy for these students to put together a prototype, practice their pitch, write a one-page business summary, and answer questions for two straight hours, but I can tell you it’s worth it.”
This was the second year of the Health Innovation Challenge and the first under the Hollomon name. Timmie Hollomon, her son Stephen, and their family contributed an 8-year, $1 million dollar gift in support of student creativity and innovation, focused on health and healthcare. “It’s fun to see the collaboration between different colleges and schools and to witness the intellectual capital of these young adults,” said Stephen.
Two $1,000 JARL awards were handed out to ACBI, who developed an automated continuous bladder irrigation process for urology patients post-surgery, and Quinton PHSH, who developed a belt that is able to provide stoma protection and abdominal wall support against herniation.
The Buerk Center will host two other innovation competitions in the coming weeks. The Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge is coming up Thursday, March 30. The UW Business Plan Competition holds its Investment Round on Wednesday, April 26, followed by the Sweet 16 and Final Round on Thursday, May 25.