May 17-23, 2002
Back Issues
Speaking on the Lawn
Reserve a 2002 graduation video
Student invents handy ‘Epi-Card’
Finding cultural identity in deafness and teaching
Six students get grad school boost

Collins takes on international human rights

Student first at U.Va. to win Scottish fellowship
Sullivan Award winners honored
Healing, unity student’s passions
Award also goes to faculty member
Graduates have been pillars of U.Va. student self-governance
College is time of spiritual, intellectual growth
Adult degree program graduates first students
Graduation: Did you know?
Nursing student answers
9-11 call
Students will have their day in the sun
Graduate rallies volunteers to bring arts to schools
Fifteen dozen cookies and a law degree
Wise student aspires to career helping students in higher ed
The beauty of Antarctica beckons, but graduate’s passion is teaching
Evan Edwards
Photo by Jenny Gerow
Evan 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

For 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.

According to the National Institutes of Health, up to 200 Americans, mostly children, die each year from allergic reactions to food or insects.

Only 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.

Evan 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.”

“Today 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.”

Edwards’ 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.

The Epi-Card also will contain a spring device to retract the needle after use, a safety precaution no other injection system offers.

Edwards’ 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 Alliance’s (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 the event.

“Just 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.

Edwards received a number of positive comments on his invention at the exhibition. “Many people recognized the device’s potential and mentioned other markets, such as the military, that we could tap into,” he said.

Edwards 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.

“We 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.”

Gorman 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 NCIIA’s annual exhibition in Washington.

A Family Affair

Edwards, 22, has called on friends and family for help realizing his idea. His twin brother, Eric, an undergraduate in Virginia Commonwealth University’s 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.

Edwards 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.

Older brothers Byron, 30, and Jeffrey, 26, who both hold bachelor’s 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 manufacturers.

With 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.

Their 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.

After graduating, Edwards plans to further develop his invention while pursuing a master’s degree in technology and ethics at U.Va.


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