Pitt Innovation Challenge awards $550,000 for health care solutions

A total of $550,000 was awarded to eight teams for the 2021 Pitt Innovation Challenge (PInCh)

The challenge, which is in its ninth cycle, is sponsored by Pitt’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Six teams proposed creative solutions to address important health problems. Two other teams received awards for 90-second pitches describing the problem and their solution.

“This year’s participants put forth a wide range of bold solutions to daunting problems,” said Steven E. Reis, director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute and associate senior vice chancellor for Clinical and Translational Research. “The winning ideas ranged from a novel program to assist Black parenting to creating a new endotracheal tube that will prevent pneumonia in patients on ventilators to improving dental health among children — all are creative approaches that will improve the health and well-being of millions of individuals.”

After two rounds of pre-selection, six project teams moved on to the final round where they pitched their ideas to a panel of judges to win up to $100,000. All of the finalists were guaranteed a minimum of $35,000.

All finalist qualified for and received an additional $15,000 bonus award for addressing health disparities, determined by a separate review panel.

$100,000 awards:

Healthy Teeth Healthy Me Family Activity Box: A family-oriented engaging activity box to prevent tooth decay in vulnerable children. Jacqueline Burgette, assistant professor, School of Dental Medicine, and Peggy Liu, associate professor of marketing, Katz Graduate School of Business

NextGenET: A simplified endotracheal tube that prevents ventilator-associated pneumonia. Garrett Coyan, Cardiovascular Engineering, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and Carl Snyderman, professor of otolaryngology and neurological surgery, School of Medicine

Parenting While Black: A program that provides Black parents with tools to promote positive racial socialization, mental health and academic achievement for their adolescents. James Huguley, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion and associate professor, School of Social Work

$35,000 awards:

DouLAS-AC: A doula model to provide dignity, legacy, advocacy and support for individuals with advanced cancer in the Pittsburgh Black community. Margaret Rosenzweig, professor, School of Nursing

The O2 Cube: A solar powered, supplemental oxygen system that can rapidly bring medical oxygen to rural health centers that lack grid electricity. Kilichan Gurleyik, assistant professor of bioengineering, School of Engineering

TRIBUTE for Bereavement in Communities of Color: A training program for paraprofessionals in communities of color to provide Interpersonal Psychotherapy to reduce bereavement-related depression. Laura Dietz, associate professor, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

Elevator Pitch Competition

Five teams were invited to give 90-second pitches describing the problem and their solution. More than 90 judges with expertise in medicine, basic and clinical research, business, and health science innovation voted, and the top two vote recipients were awarded $25,000 and project management support from CTSI.

LiDIA ($5,000 bonus): A low-cost hearing screening plus amplifier device to improve clinical communications. Catherine Palmer, director and professor of audiology, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

Platelet-Be-Gone-Stent: A novel vascular stent coating process to prevent thrombosis. John Pacella, associate professor of cardiology, School of Medicine