Health Care, Higher Education, and Manufacturing

GVSU engineering students, Beaumont Health collaborate

School receives commercial licensing agreement for cough-assist device designed by students and conceptualized by a doctor.

May 18, 2018
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GVSU Students
Participating on the project were GVSU students, from left, Sam Oostendorp, Jake Stephens, Jordan Vanderham and Austin Williams. The idea for the invention came from Dr. Bassel Salman, a Royal Oak pediatrician. Courtesy GVSU

Students of the Grand Valley State University School of Engineering had a successful school project.

Following a collaboration with Beaumont Health, the school received a commercial licensing agreement for a medical device designed in part by students for a class.

The agreement is for a cough-assist device created to help clear the airway of individuals with diseases such as muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis.

The Beaumont Commercialization Center negotiated a license with TechBank Medical, a Shanghai-based medical commercialization organization, to have the patent-pending device commercially manufactured in China.

In the collaboration, four students majoring in product design and manufacturing engineering were tasked with designing and building a prototype of the device during a one-semester class under the guidance of engineering professor John Farris.

Jacob Stephens, one of the four students who worked on the project, said they had 16 weeks to turn a sketch into a prototype.

“Just the opportunity where we were able to work on a real-life project is a really unique opportunity,” he said.

Stephens works for Parasol Medical, a Buffalo Grove, Illinois-based startup that works on medical devices. He is beginning a master’s degree in manufacturing operation engineering in the fall.

The other students who worked on the project are Sam Oostendorp, Austin Williams and Jordan Vanderham.

The idea for the invention came from Bassel Salman, a pediatrician who specializes in critical care at the hospital in Royal Oak. He noticed a need for his patients to have a cough-assist device that is more affordable and portable.

Several cough-assist devices exist, but they are heavy, expensive and require electricity to operate. Some can be as expensive as $15,000, Stephens said.

This new device, about the size of a stack of textbooks, is portable, lightweight and made out of plastic and vinyl. It includes a tube attached to a facemask and two valves to control air pressure and volume. It does not require electricity. It’s hard to say what the cost will be, Stephens said, though he foresees it will be closer to a couple hundred.

“For developing markets, like China and India, the design allows for those previously unable to afford a cough-assist device to finally get relief from their disease, as the technology has a simple and low-cost design,” said Brad Yang, founder and CEO of TechBank Medical.

The university has several similar collaboration agreements with area health care providers to identify needs and build medical devices. Engineering students have worked with Mercy Health and Spectrum Health, among others.

Linda Chamberlain, of GVSU’s technology commercialization office, said more than 50 percent of the school’s intellectual property is licensed. The two organizations, as well as the student inventors, will benefit from any sales that may come in the future.

It’s always exciting for inventors to receive licensing, she said, but the opportunity to work on these types of real-world problems is unique for the classroom.

“I think it’s exciting even from the very beginning to work on a project that can affect the quality of life for people,” Chamberlain said.

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