Johns Hopkins graduate student startups shine in Heartland Challenge

Hopkins was the only university with three teams in the semifinals of the competition, which simulates the process of raising venture capital for new technologies

MiraHeart, a Johns Hopkins student startup dedicated to preventing the progression of pediatric heart failure through a novel home-monitoring device, took third place at the 2023 Heartland Challenge, held in mid-April at the University of Arkansas. The event has awarded more than $350,000 since the global student competition with a cash prize pool of $100,000 began in a virtual format in spring 2020.

Hopkins students pose with their Heartland Challenge trophy

Image caption: From left to right, Khalil Merali, Carter Gaulke, Sam Dasari, Shri Prabha Shivram, Anders Sideris, and Braden Barlean

MiraHeart uses noninvasive monitoring technology to assess central venous pressure, or CVP, in children with heart defects that put them at risk of developing congestive heart failure. The device monitors the child's CVP and transmits data directly to their care team, allowing adjustments of medication and treatments and reducing visits to the doctor or clinic.

MiraHeart members Bhavya Gopinath, Sam Dasari, Carter Gaulke, and Sunny Patel—all students in the Johns Hopkins University Center for Bioengineering and Design graduate program—took home the $10,000 third-place prize.

Fellow CBID students Shri Prabha Shivram, Phoebe Dijour, Mitchell Turley, and Anders Sideris, competing as SomnOSA, won first place in Heartland's elevator-pitch competition, as well as in one of three Investor Roundtable events—honors totaling $6,000.

SomnOSA is an affordable, minimally invasive neurostimulation device that prevents people from experiencing a form of severe obstructive sleep apnea that doubles the risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.

"The patient deploys a removable device that activates during sleep. Neurostimulation is timed to patient inspiration, opening the airway, and restoring normal breathing, to maximize its effect," said Sideris.

A third Hopkins student startup, ARISE, which seeks to expand global access to education about minimally invasive surgery, also earned a spot in the semifinals, but MiraHeart alone advanced to the final round.

Hopkins was the only university with three teams competing in the semifinals.

"The success of the Miraheart team is a testament to their hard work and the mentorship of their clinical sponsor, Dr. Danielle Gottlieb Sen, a leading pediatric heart surgeon here," said Youseph Yazdi, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and director of CBID. "Johns Hopkins Biomedical Engineering and CBID have a long track record of engineers and physicians working together to create innovative solutions to medical challenges."