Amputations from wound infections might become obsolete because of four Penn students. The four students won $20,000 in Wharton's 2009 Business Plan Competition last Wednesday with their device that monitors the wound-healing process. The team of students, called NIR Diagnostics, comprised MBA students Pitamber Devgon, Xiaoming Fang and Bosun Hau and School of Medicine Ph.D. student Armen Karamanian. Their device, called InfraVue, won them the Michelson grand prize. InfraVue is a wound assessment monitor that uses infrared light to predict how wounds are healing, explained Devgon. "These complex wounds we are looking at can take more than two months to heal." Last fall, the team backed the device, which was created in a bioengineering lab at Drexel University by Biomedical Engineering professor Elisabeth Papazoglou and Surgery professor Michael Weingarten. Complex wounds often get infections and reopen while healing, which can lead to amputations, Devgon explained. But he attributed this type of situation to inaccurate wound assessment. Complex wounds are like icebergs, Karamanian said, and physicians today can only see the tip of the iceberg. Karamanian said doctors use rulers to measure wound healing, but the healing begins underneath the skin's surface. "We focused on diabetic foot ulcers" for the wound assessment, said Hau. The device is able to detect wound healing in half the time of a ruler, which can take up to eight weeks to detect a healing wound. As a result, physicians will be able to change therapy methods earlier in the healing process if the treatment is not working. The team's hypothesis is that the wound-healing process is basically the same for all complex wounds. The Drexel team has completed testing on animals, said Karamanian, and are now testing its product on humans. The team is following 20 patients at Drexel University's Hahnemann Hospital. The group has compelling data that shows success with humans and animals. Hau said the group is not tracking if the patients are getting better but are tracking how well patients' wounds are improving over time. "Prior to the Business Plan Competition, the Culture Foundation gave funds to the Drexel University team to finish their prototype," Fang said. In addition to the $20,000 grand prize, the group walked away with the $3,000 people's choice award. The $10,000 second prize in Wharton's competition went to CuddleBots, who create programmable robot toys, and the $5,000 third prize went to Realistic Eye, which patented a more realistic-looking artificial eye. This year, StealthRowing was the highest-ranking Wharton undergraduate team. It won the Gloeckner Undergraduate Award, valued at $5,000, for its rowing machine used in swimming pools.
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