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Two BME student teams receive O’Connor Entrepreneurship Funding

December 19, 2017
A group of students stand together for a picture.

FastForward U—the student entrepreneurship initiative within Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures—recently selected five student startups to receive funding this year through the Ralph S. O’Connor Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Fund.

Founded by Johns Hopkins alum Ralph O’Connor and his wife, Becky, the O’Connor Fund program awards each team a $5,000 grant with the opportunity to earn $5,000 more by reaching certain milestones.

Among the list of startups are two teams with students from the Johns Hopkins Department of Biomedical Engineering: Treyetech and OtoGlobal Health.

Treyetech was formed by a group of undergraduate students in the Design Teams course offered through the Center for Bioengineering Innovation & Design. The concept is a business-to-business venture that strives to improve the standard of care for patients with impaired vision by enhancing the workflow for corneal transplant procedures.

The team has designed a device to help transport and implant tissue grafts during partial corneal transplants, a procedure that replaces a thin sheet of tissue in the innermost layer of the front of the eye.

During surgery, corneal grafts tend to roll up, making it extremely difficult for surgeons to implant the delicate tissue without damaging it. Treyetech’s method uses a proprietary device and a unique folding configuration to package corneal tissue so that it naturally pops open and into place once implanted into a patient’s eye.

“We are truly excited to have received the O’Connor grant this year,” says team leader Stephanie Cai. “The funding will help us push forward with commercialization in 2018.”

OtoGlobal Health is a team of students who have developed an affordable, smartphone-based device designed to increase the accessibility of pediatric hearing screenings in developing countries.

The team found that approximately 750,000 infants are born with congenital early-onset hearing loss each year, yet only ten percent receive early screening. Without proper diagnosis and early intervention, children with hearing loss often experience additional complications, including delayed language development and learning difficulties.

To test hearing ability in infants, the team invented an otoacoustic emission device, known as OtoScreen, which consists of a bone transducer and a microphone. A cue from a mobile phone activates the bone transducer, causing it to vibrate at a given frequency and generate a signal inside the infant’s ear. In most cases, this signal can be detected by the microphone, indicating a functional ear; failure to detect a signal indicates some form of hearing loss that may require medical intervention.

Three young men stand together for a photo.
Team OtoGlobal Health (from left to right): Gianluca Croso, Aseem Jain, Sanjay Elangovan

“We’re ready to begin trying our device on adults, but until now, we’ve lacked the funding to complete clinical trials,” says team leader Aseem Jain. “The O’Connor Fund will help us obtain better hardware for our technology, and will enable us to validate our idea.”

Teams selected to receive O’Connor funding will also receive mentorship from investors and serial entrepreneurs, as well as additional resources from FastForward U and Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures.

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