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Cleveland Clinic looking for microsensor design via open innovation

Brandon Glenn on July 19, 2011 Source: MedCityNews.com

Embracing the open innovation trend, Cleveland Clinic has issued to the public a $30,000 challenge to design a surgically implantable microsensor to monitor the healing of soft tissue.

The microsensor challenge is the first of what’s slated to be many featured on the Clinic’s new “innovation pavilion,” which is hosted on the website of InnoCentive, a Massachusetts company that specializes in open innovation and crowd sourcing. The pavilion was set up to spur innovative medical research.

Each of the challenges will present a medical problem or situation where a better, yet unknown, solution could be available for patients, according to a statement from InnoCentive.

“Finding new and better ways to advance research is a key mission for us,” said Paul DiCorleto, chairman of Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute. “We look forward to utilizing the advantages that exist with open innovation.”

Open innovation essentially refers to the idea of organizations seeking external insights to help advance technology. The concept is gaining popularity as it has become embraced in recent years by many large companies like Procter & Gamble and General Electric. Henry Chesbrough, a University of California-Berkeley professor, is often credited as being the first major academic backer of the concept.

Employing the open innovation approach looks to be a smart, cost-cutting move by the Clinic. It should help the health system save money on conducting research — and lessen the need to increase staff, buy more equipment and add more square footage.

The Clinic’s first challenge is aimed at eventually developing a device to improve postoperative healing efficiency by helping patients avoid complications associated with re-injury after surgery to repair torn ligaments or tendons.

Such surgeries typically employ sutures to reconnect the soft tissue to the bone. The problem is that doctors can’t be sure the extent to which a patient has healed because people’s bodies typically heal at different rates. That makes it difficult for doctors to know what sort or rehabilitation activities they should recommend to patients.

Developing a sensor that could be implanted in a patient’s body during surgery and remain there over the course of a lifetime could help solve that problem. The sensor would help doctors monitor the critical indicators of the healing process, according to the statement.

The Clinic’s challenge seeks a written proposal that describes the design for a sensor that could report the displacement between a soft tissue and bone. The challenge is open to the public.

InnoCentive helps companies crowd source solutions to their problems by connecting clients to its network of 250,000 registered “solvers” from 200 countries. The company says its reach extends to 12 million solvers through its partners. It has worked with organizations such as NASA and drug developers Eli Lilly and Roche.

InnoCentive, which began in 2001, places its average success rate at 50 percent. More than 1,300 challenges have been posted to its website.

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