Companies develop pediatric medical devices to compete for $50,000 prize

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | October 24, 2014
Kolaleh Eskandanian
"Often the market drives innovation as opposed to innovation driving the market," Kolaleh Eskandanian, executive director of the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation at Children's National, told DOTmed News. She said that's precisely the problem when it comes to pediatric medical devices.

The pediatric medical device market is relatively small because of the perception in the health care industry that the pediatric population is generally healthy. "To venture capitalists and large companies that focus on numbers, profit, and large markets - investing in small populations is just not justifiable to their shareholders," said Eskandanian.

Today, the institute is hosting their second "Make your Medical Device Pitch for Kids!" competition in Washington, D.C. for pediatric medical device developers. The eight finalists will have five minutes to present their proposals to a judging panel made up of two pediatricians and three members from venture capital, innovation incubator, and accelerator organizations.

The judges will select the two devices that they think have the highest potential to successfully come to market and the winners will receive a $50,000 award. One of the winners of last year's competition developed a pediatric EEG device that already has CE approval in Europe.

Among the devices in this year's competition are a pediatric vision scanner, created by REBIScan, that has the potential to put an end to lazy eye, which is one of the leading causes of preventable vision loss in children. Another device is a prosthetic socket, developed by LIM Innovations Inc., which allows children with amputated limbs to have an active lifestyle.

The competition is part of the institute's Second Annual Pediatric Surgical Innovation Symposium, "Lessons from Drugs to Devices: A Pediatric Perspective". Leaders from the institute, FDA, medical device industry, law firms, pediatric societies and advocacy groups, scientists, engineers, clinicians and policy makers will come together for the one-day forum to discuss the challenges within the pediatric medical device industry and the need for more innovation.

The goal of the institute is to see a paradigm shift in pediatric device development, and Eskandanian thinks that is already starting to happen. "I think that we have formed a community of stakeholders and there is enough interest to push this issue [to] the forefront of legislatures and companies so everyone can think about it," she said.

She also said that the FDA has already shown some interest when it created the Pediatric Medical Device Safety and Improvement Act. But there is still more work to be done.

"There is some interest from the government but not enough, so we can do much better and we can do much more," said Eskandanian.

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