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Pitt contest awards $100K prizes for projects targeting asthma, diabetes, ACL injuries

| Friday, Nov. 14, 2014, 12:26 a.m.

Three University of Pittsburgh projects addressing individualized approaches to health care each won $100,000 Wednesday in the second Pitt Innovation Challenge.

The contest's grand prize winners included: Nebukin, software that helps children take asthma medication; Nanoketo, a sensor that helps users measure a common problem in diabetes; and ACL Interaction, a way for doctors to tailor treatment for knee injuries. The theme for the challenge was “From cell to community: How can we individualize solutions for better health care?”

About 60 teams entered, and 10 finalists presented their projects during the Wednesday showcase at the University Club in Oakland. Tim Corcoran, associate professor of medicine and bioengineering, submitted Nebokin, an interactive app that children can use to properly take nebulized drugs. Corcoran said in his team's entry video that children have trouble with prolonged breathing therapies for asthma and related diseases.

“If it's not done correctly, all the drug can end up in the mouth and throat,” he said.

James Ellis, a bioengineering graduate student at Pitt, submitted Nanoketo, which helps monitor through the breath a condition called ketosis. Excess ketones are a marker for mismanaged diabetes and poor nutrition.

Dr. Michael McClincy in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery submitted ACL Interaction, which provides a real-time treatment analysis for people with anterior cruciate ligament injuries.

The Office of the Provost and the Pitt Clinical and Translational Science Institute financed the contest. Previous winners tackled smoking cessation, home-based therapy for diabetic ulcers and Parkinson's disease.

Megha Satyanarayana is a Trib Total Media staff writer. She can be reached at 412-320-7991 or megha@tribweb.com.

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