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Brookline native wins 1st prize for medical device

| Saturday, June 22, 2013, 9:11 p.m.
Devin Coon, 30, and is at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. Photo for a story on a Pittsburgh surgeon who won the top bioengineering prize.

A Pittsburgh surgeon doing his medical residency at Johns Hopkins University is part of a team that won top prize in a national biomedical engineering contest.

Dr. Devin Coon, son of the late Allegheny County Sheriff Gene Coon, said the winning device his team of fellow graduate students designed is a “simple system” that lets medical personnel monitor a patient's vascular health following surgery.

“Imagine a case in which a person has a kidney transplant,” said Coon, 30, who grew up in Brookline. “It's only going to work if there is good blood flow. But that's not always the case.

“Our system involves surgically implanting a marker under the blood vessel so we can monitor its condition and restore the surgery before it's too late.”

The EchoSure system netted a $10,000 cash prize in the 15th annual Biomedical Engineering Innovations, Design, and Entrepreneurship Award contest sponsored by the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance.

Coon attended Seton-La Salle High School in Mt. Lebanon and the University of Pittsburgh for undergraduate studies and medical school, where he specialized in plastic surgery. He obtained his master's degree in biomedical engineering at The Johns Hopkins University in May.

Coon's parents are deceased, but he has family members living in the Pittsburgh area.

The $5,000 second place award went to a team from Stanford University, and the $2,500 third place prize went to another Johns Hopkins team.

Phil Weilerstein, executive director of the sponsoring alliance, said the contest helps bolster medical innovations.

Coon said he and team members Adam Lightman, 26, of Memphis and David Narrow, 22, of Baltimore were “pretty stunned” when they learned about winning from among 40 entries.

“We knew going in that there were a ton of great teams with some really cool projects,” Coon said. “From a clinical standpoint, I knew we had a good project. But this was an engineering award judged by the country's top engineers. It's especially gratifying to be recognized by the best in the business.”

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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