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The Pitt Innovation Challenge (PInCh®) awarded a total of $485,000 to nine projects that propose creative solutions to address health problems including diagnostics, treatments, and interventions. Four of the winning projects include McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty members on their teams.  The challenge, which is in its seventh year, was sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI).

Nine project teams progressed to the final round where they pitched their ideas to a panel of judges to win up to $100,000. All finalists were guaranteed a minimum of $25,000 and one year of project management support.

This year, the CTSI incentivized solutions to address aspects of an epidemic or pandemic by offering an additional bonus award up to $25,000. Additional non-pandemic bonus awards were granted based on input from the judges.

The McGowan Institute faculty teams include:

$100,000 winners:

Acoustic Waveform Respiratory Evaluation (AWARE)

A smartphone app that enables at-home lung function monitoring for people with lung disorders such as asthma, COPD, and COVID-19.  [Pandemic bonus awardee. Receives additional $25,000 for a total of $125,000.]

  • Erick Forno, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
  • Wei Chen, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Biostatistics, and Human Genetics, University of Pittsburgh
  • Wei Gao, PhD, Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering

REPLICA: 3D-Sculpted Cartilage Implants

A custom-made cartilage ear implant that decreases complexity and operative time of facial surgeries, creating a state-of-the-art, high-precision cartilage milling process.

  • Jesse Goldstein, MD, Craniofacial Plastic Surgeon, Associate Program Director of the Plastic Surgery Residency at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
  • Burak Ozdoganlar, PhD, Ver-Planck Endowed Chair and Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Associate Director of the Engineering Research Accelerator at Carnegie Mellon University
  • Liliana Camison, MD, Senior Plastic Surgery Resident, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
  • Lucas Dvoracek, MD, Senior Plastic Surgery Resident, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
  • Phil Campbell, PhD, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Institute for Complex Engineered Systems, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Toygun Cetinkaya, PhD, Student at Carnegie Mellon University

$25,000 winners:


A novel EEG lead clip designed for people with coarse and curly hair, bringing innovative human-centered design to provide a 15x improvement in measurement accuracy for epilepsy, neurological disorder, stroke, and brain injuries in the Black population.

  • Christina Patterson, MD, PI, Director of Epilepsy Services and the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, UPMC Children’s Hospital
  • Arnelle Etienne, BS, Co-PI, Director of Accessibility, Precision Neuro; Sevo electrodes lead inventor
  • Pulkit Grover, PhD, Co-PI, Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Neuroscience Institute, Carnegie Mellon University; CTO, Precision Neuro
  • Shawn Kelly, PhD, CEO, Precision Neuro; Senior Systems Scientist, Engineering Research Accelerator, Electrical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Ashwati Krishnan, PhD, Hardware Lead, Precision Neuro, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Amber (Momi) Afelin, BA, Lead Electrode Designer, Precision Neuro, majored in Neuroscience and Behavior, Wesleyan University
  • Jasmine Kwasa, PhD student, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

Transplants for Kids

A software decision support solution that matches specific pediatric organ donor and recipient characteristics in real-time, saving time and reducing the deaths of children waiting for an organ transplant.

  • George Mazariegos, MD, Professor of Surgery and Critical Care Medicine, University of Pittsburgh; Chief of Pediatric Transplantation, UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
  • Eric Pahl is the founder of OmniLife, a software development and analytics company serving the organ procurement and transplantation industry with mobile and real-time clinical communication and decision support tools
  • Jim Squires, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh
  • Kyle Soltys, MD, Associate Professor of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh
  • CJ Confair will coordinate Starzl Network project activities specific to Transplant for Kids and coordinate network dissemination
  • Alex Kepler is the Research Coordinator at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and will handle all regulatory documents related to the project

Congratulations, all!

Illustration:  University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

Read more…

UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences News Release

PInCh 2020 Awards Announcement