Medical Device Startup Company Wins Georgia Tech Edison Prize

A Georgia Tech startup company being formed to commercialize a new device that could help prevent pressure ulcers in hospital and nursing home patients has won the first Georgia Tech Edison Prize. The $15,000 prize will help launch the new company, which will be known as Multispectral Imagers.

Image showing skin erythema
Click image to enlarge

Image with enhanced contrast from a prototype multispectral imager reveals the invisible erythema (circled on the image taken by a standard camera) in the skin of an African-American man.

Treatment of pressure ulcers costs an estimated $8 billion each year in the United States alone, but the painful skin injury can be prevented if detected early. The device, a hand-held multispectral imaging system that provides data in real-time, could be used by health care professionals to detect signs of pressure ulcers before they can be seen with conventional visual screening techniques -- especially in patients with darker skin.

“We have developed a novel multispectral imager that can be integrated onto a chip,” said Fengtao Wang, a Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering graduate student who explained the company’s plan to a judging panel. “We can deliver a compact, real-time and low-cost multispectral imager to detect erythema at an early stage.”

The device would be marketed to clinics, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, hospitals and other facilities that treat patients whose mobility problems can result in development of pressure ulcers. In addition to the medical applications, Wang said the device may also have military, agricultural, manufacturing and environmental uses.

In addition to Wang, the company team includes Ali Adibi and Fuhan Liu in the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Linghua Kong and Stephen Sprigle of the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA) in the Georgia Tech College of Architecture. Adibi and Sprigle are both professors; Kong is a senior faculty engineer and Liu is research engineer.

The Georgia Tech Edison Prize was established to encourage formation of startup companies based on technology developed at Georgia Tech, and was made possible by a multi-year grant from the Charles A. Edison Fund, named for the inventor’s son. Awarding of the first Georgia Tech Edison Prize was part of the Georgia Tech Graduate Research and Innovation Conference held February 8.

“Thomas Edison often receives credit for inventing the electric light bulb, but his real accomplishment was in making that device -- along with the phonograph and motion picture camera -- commercially successful to create new companies and new industries,” said Stephen Fleming, Georgia Tech’s vice provost for economic development and technology ventures. “Through the Edison Prize, we want to advance this kind of company-producing technology commercialization at Georgia Tech.”

The Georgia Tech Edison Fund, which is managed by Fleming, also provides seed funding to startup companies that have a close association with Georgia Tech.

“The judges for the first Georgia Tech Edison Prize heard a number of excellent presentations,” Fleming explained. “The judges selected Fengtao Wang because he had successfully identified an un-served market for the product and had begun approaching potential partners to commercialize the technology. Innovation is ultimately about turning knowledge into money.”

Approximately 100 entries were received for the prize competition from among the 300 graduate students who submitted posters to the Graduate Research and Innovation Conference. Those entries were evaluated by a committee of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and Georgia Tech faculty to create a list of 11 finalists. Those finalists were each invited to make presentations to a judging committee, which selected the winner announced at a reception on the evening of February 8.

The judging committee included:

• Jamie Bardin, former CEO of EZ-Prints
• Nelson Chu, general partner of Kinetic Ventures
• Merrick Furst, distinguished professor in the Georgia Tech College of Computing
• Gary Lee, former CEO of Flexlight Systems
• Keith McGreggor, manager of technology evaluation in the ATDC
• Nina Sawczuk, assistant director for biosciences in the ATDC
• Jim Stratigos, president of Broadband Strategies

About the Enterprise Innovation Institute:
The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

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Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986)(jtoon@gatech.edu).

Writer: John Toon