by Jenny Gerow
Edwards wants to arm allergy sufferers who might need epinephrine
immediately with a more convenient injection device
the card in his hand.
Student invents handy Epi-Card
By Joanna Gluckman
most people, a bee sting ends with a sharp biting sensation. But
for millions of Americans who suffer from severe allergies, a
bee sting can kill.
to the National Institutes of Health, up to 200 Americans, mostly
children, die each year from allergic reactions to food or insects.
an immediate dose of epinephrine, a synthetic form of adrenaline,
can prevent the deadly effects of allergy-induced anaphylactic
shock. Those with food and insect allergies must keep a dose of
epinephrine with them at all times in case of emergency.
Edwards, graduating in mechanical
engineering, is all too familiar with the burdens of toting
around epinephrine. He has suffered from allergies to seafood
and nuts since birth and always carries Epi-Pen, a syringe filled
with epinephrine, in his pocket. While Epi-Pen has made his life
easier, he believes he can improve on the product design with
his own invention, the Epi-Card.
epinephrine injection devices come in the form of a pen-like apparatus,
Edwards said. Although these devices are efficient and easy
to use, many people leave them at home because of their concern
with self-image and the devices awkward size.
Epi-Card will inject a dose of epinephrine through an easy-to-use,
credit-card-sized device that is small enough to fit in a purse,
wallet or pocket. He hopes his smaller design will alleviate the
dangerous tendency seen in many people especially teen-agers
concerned about fitting in who forget Epi-Pen
at home or leave it out of reach in a vehicle.
Epi-Card also will contain a spring device to retract the needle
after use, a safety precaution no other injection system offers.
invention was featured at the Smithsonian Museum of American History
in Washington, D.C., as part of March Madness of the Mind,
the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliances
(NCIIA) fifth annual exhibition of student inventions. Nineteen
teams of student scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs from
around the country were invited to showcase their inventions at
as the best college basketball players gather at the Final Four
in March, the best college inventors gather at the Smithsonian,
said Phil Weilerstein, NCIIA program manager.
received a number of positive comments on his invention at the
exhibition. Many people recognized the devices potential
and mentioned other markets, such as the military, that we could
tap into, he said.
first brainstormed the Epi-Card idea in the spring of 2000, in
a Technology, Culture and Communications course on invention and
design at U.Va.s School of Engineering and Applied Science.
The course, for which he served as a teaching assistant, encourages
students to pursue invention and design activities and teaches
them about the patent process.
created the course 10 years ago to help students with great ideas
get them off the ground and to help other students, who might
not be interested in becoming inventors themselves but who might
have to manage them later on, understand the process, said
Michael Gorman, TCC chair and a founder of the course. Evan
came to the course on fire with this idea, and Larry Richards
guided him through the process. The class really helps students
who have been obsessing over an idea to crystallize it.
said that half a dozen U.Va. engineering undergraduates, who developed
ideas through the TCC class, have been invited to display their
inventions at the NCIIAs annual exhibition in Washington.
22, has called on friends and family for help realizing his idea.
His twin brother, Eric, an undergraduate in Virginia Commonwealth
Universitys honors guaranteed-admission medical program
in Richmond, helped develop the design for the device. In June
2000, they received a $13,000 grant from the NCIIA to conduct
a patent search and file a provisional, one-year patent.
then formed an E-Team to pursue the project. His TCC
professor, Larry Richards, professor of mechanical engineering,
guided the Edwards brothers through the patent and design process.
Other mentors, including a family physician, a pharmacist and
a patent agent, offered their expertise.
brothers Byron, 30, and Jeffrey, 26, who both hold bachelors
degrees in business and marketing from Longwood College, helped
Evan and Eric come up with a business strategy. And their father,
Gary, is serving as the president of the newly formed company,
Intelliject Inc., created to shop the technology around to different
a one-year provisional patent in hand, Edwards team is seeking
a utility patent for a credit-card-sized drug delivery device
that could supply not only epinephrine but also commonly used
drugs, such as insulin.
next step is to apply for a Small Business Innovation Research
grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.
If we get the grant money, we will be able to make a working
prototype, seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration,
and decide whether we really want to license the idea to another
company or would rather start our own business, he said.
graduating, Edwards plans to further develop his invention while
pursuing a masters degree in technology and ethics at U.Va.