Undergraduate research

Johns Hopkins undergraduate team named finalist in Collegiate Inventors Competition

Team improved upon cryotherapy device designed to treat breast cancer in rural Africa

An undergraduate team from Johns Hopkins University has been named a finalist in the 2016 Collegiate Inventors Competition, which will take place in Washington, D.C., in November.

The team, all students in JHU's Department of Biomedical Engineering, improved on a cryotherapy device developed by Johns Hopkins students for use in rural Africa, where women who are diagnosed with breast cancer often have limited access to treatment. The device features a reusable probe that delivers liquid nitrogen or gas to breast cancer cells, freezing them.

Team leader Bailey Surtees worked alongside Team Kubanda, which developed the initial proof-of-concept design last year. Surtees, a senior, is joined this year by senior Clarisse Hu, junior Serena Thomas, and sophomore Sarah Lee (who was also a member of Team Kbanda).

"Since [last year], the team has refined their design and manufacturing process. They can now fabricate needles that are cooling to -50 degrees Celsius," says the team's adviser, Nicholas Durr, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. "This is important because they need to freeze and destroy large tissue volumes to be relevant for the treatment of breast cancer."

The Collegiate Inventors Competition, in its 26th year, recognizes and rewards innovations, discoveries, and research by college and university students and their faculty advisers. Since 1990, the competition has awarded more than $1 million in cash prizes. The competition also features an expo component hosted at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where student teams meet and mingle with patent examiners, corporate sponsors, and leaders in the field of intellectual property.

Teams representing Johns Hopkins have earned top placements in the competition in recent three years:

  • In 2014, an undergraduate team won second place for AccuSpine, a device for detecting the accurate placement of surgical screws in spinal fusion.
  • In 2013, an undergraduate team took home first place for the invention of the PrestoPatch, a system used in treatment of cardiac arrhythmia.
  • Also in 2013, graduate student Isaac Kinde won third place for developing technology for the detection of ovarian and endometrial cancers.
  • In 2012, an undergraduate team claimed first place for the invention of FastStitch, a device to improve stitches in abdominal surgery.

The expo and final judging will take place Nov. 4, and winners will be announced during an award ceremony following the expo.

The Department of Biomedical Engineering is shared by the university's Whiting School of Engineering and its School of Medicine.