In June in Washington, D.C., Carlos Castro-Gonzales and his colleagues were among the eight teams presenting their projects at the ASME ISHOW (American Society of Manufacturing Engineers Innovation Showcase).
The ISHOW recognizes “individuals and organizations taking physical products to market that will have a social impact,” the show states. Carlos and other presenters were the finalists, selected for their socially conscious hardware designs.
Award winners receive a share of the $500K prize pod, along with ASME support in the form of expert design and engineering review.
“Engineers have always been solving social problems with inventions, but in the last four or five years, these works become bounded by the term ‘social innovation.’ The ISHOW has been around for nearly 10 years, but four years ago, we decided we wanted to explicitly promote social innovation,” said ASME spokesperson Paul Scott. “It came from the recognition that most applicants were working on products or projects that are expected to have a social or environmental impact.”
A non-invasive method to count white blood cell
The entry from Carlos and his team is PointCheck, a portable finger-prick blood test to verify white blood cell level. It was a continuation of Carlos’s work as a post-doctoral fellow at MIT.
In 2015, when the device was still an early concept, it was dubbed “leukometer.” Carlos and his colleagues have since formed a medical startup called Leuko.
As Carlos recalled, the idea for PointCheck came from Carlos’s visits to the oncology department of Hospital Gregorio Marañón, Madrid, and listening to the doctor’s challenges.
“Monitoring the [cancer] patients’ [white blood cell count] with a non-invasive method more frequently can have a social impact on the patients,” Carlos pointed out.
Around the time of the project, Carlo also saw what his roommate went though during his chemotherapy. That provided Carlos with a personal interest to tackle the problem.
According to Med Device Online, “Patients with suppressed immune systems due to chemotherapy, or patients taking immunosuppressant drugs for diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, often need to have their white blood cell counts monitored to make sure that their immune system doesn’t dip to dangerous levels” (“Non-Invasive Device Could Allow At-Home White Blood Cell Monitoring,” October 2015).
The team at Leuko used SolidWorks CAD program to design the device. Their current laboratory prototype contains many 3D-printed parts, made with machines from MakerBot and Formlabs. But in the final design, the team would need to ensure the device is manufactured with materials and methods that meet FDA requirements. (For more, read DE‘s Rapid Ready blog post here.)
“[FormLabs] machines offer a flexible resin that’s important for our prototype,” recalled Carlos. The flexible component allows the device to service patients with a wide range of finger sizes.
“You can see [Carlos and his team] came up with an innovative solution to address a real problem, and their solution is scalable, with opportunity for significant market growth,” said Paul. “They have done significant prototyping and collected customer feedback. Their go-to-market plan is well thought-out.”
ASME, the organization behind the show, has more than 120,000 members, spanning 150 countries.
Carlos’s PointCheck was one of the three winning designs of ISHOW 2018. The other two winning entries are a solar-powered coffee roaster (Solar Hybrid Coffee Roaster by Compadre) and a dual-pressure ventilator to reduce infant mortality (NeoVent by AIM Tech).