Blue KC Awards Annual Healthcare Innovation Prize

Last year, Blue KC partnered with the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Henry W. Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC) to launch the first-ever Healthcare Innovation Prize, a competition designed to encourage the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs to share how they believe we can drive the healthcare industry forward, providing ‘real-world’ opportunities to healthcare students. The contest seeks ventures that can improve the patient or member experience through care delivery innovation, digital health capabilities, tools, devices, apps, or other advancements that positively impact the value proposition.

This year’s competition received eight innovative entries, from which we chose two winning teams – DeepLens and Bionic Bowel.

First Place Winner: DeepLens

First place was awarded to DeepLens, a headset with a built-in camera, microphone and speaker to support individuals with vision impairments and loss perform daily activities. DeepLens, developed by Gharib Gharibi, Mohamed Gharibi and Saria Goudarzvand, helps people with vision impairments become more independent by connecting their devices to the surrounding environment. Individuals can interact with the smart device through voice commands, such as “read text,” which will allow the device to narrate signs and text in front of the individual. For instance, the device will read a restaurant menu using the camera and speaker features. The team received a $20,000 prize, which it plans to secure intellectual propert for their design, continue research and launch an official startup.

“DeepLens is going to do a lot for blind people. It’s set up to work for the totally blind, meaning it can read documents such as restaurant menus, classroom handouts and medicine bottles,” said Norm Yale, an adviser to the DeepLens team.  “Soon, we’ll be able to figure out things like facial expressions.”

Second Place Winner: Bionic Bowel

Vanessa Mahan and Catie Pollman earned second place for their entry Bionic Bowel, a medication that fills a much-needed gap in the treatment of Crohn’s Disease, which impacts 780,000 Americans. The pill developed by Mahan and Pollman will treat the causes and symptoms of Crohn’s Disease by normalizing a person’s pH levels in their intestinal tract and neutralizing acids. The team plans to use the $10,000 prize to file a patent application as they continue to run patient trials this summer and hopes to seek FDA approval in the near future.

 “There’s no current treatment out there for people with Crohn’s Disease and inflammatory bowel disorders,” said Mahan. “This disease takes over [Crohn’s Disease patients’] lives – they miss out on daily life and activities because of their disease. Bionic Bowel helps people return to their normal, daily lives and lets people do anything they want to do.”

Update on 2018 First Place Winner

Last year, first place was awarded to Bodyguard ID, a temporary cosmetic ink that could be applied to a patient’s forearm or hand in place of a medical bracelet. This provides a more reliable and secure form of patient ID than current bracelets and is also environmentally friendly – saving more than 715 million bracelet IDs from being printed annually. The BodyGuard ID team used the prize money to secure their patent and continue making improvements to their product.

Blue KC looks forward to continued collaboration with UMKC’s Block School of Management in awarding projects that demonstrate value proposition, market feasibility, financial feasibility, and most importantly a positive impact to patients and consumers.


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