Biomedical Engineering Students Race The Clock To Design Cheap,
Safe, Secure Needle Disposal System
1, 2000 -- Dr. Charles Sagoe-Moses, a top public
health official in Accra, Ghana, has a problem. Syringes used in
national vaccination campaigns are not being properly disposed of.
The result is that some public health workers are accidentally being
stuck with dirty needles.
his stay last year at the University of Virginia as a fellow in
the International Training and Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases
Program, Sagoe-Moses spoke with Janine Jagger about this problem.
Jagger is the Becton-Dickenson Professor of Healthcare Worker Safety
and director of U.Va.s International Healthcare Worker Safety
Center. The author of a landmark study of needle-stick injuries,
she invented some of the first methods of syringe disposal available
current safety needles and disposal systems now in the American
marketplace are too expensive for many developing countries to adopt
on a large scale. Another approach was needed.
Sagoe-Moses approached William Walker, an associate professor of
biomedical engineering, who agreed to take on the challenge. Since
October 1998, Walker has been working with a team of students --
five undergraduates and five graduate students -- to come up with
a design that can solve this problem faced by Ghana and other developing
students first gathered for a brainstorming session and came up
with about two dozen designs. Then they ranked the designs according
to the criteria established for the project in order of priority:
1) health care worker safety; 2) prevent reuse; 3) ease of use;
4) durability; 5) cost; 6) ease of handling; 7) potential for recycling;
and 8) efficiency in waste management.
were two designs that crushed the others," Walker said.
team proceeded with those two designs, one of which resembles a
peg board, the other a "butterfly" device that folds open
for use and closes for shipping and storage.
students are closing in on success. The two designs developed by
the Syringe Disposal Design Team recently won a $20,000 grant from
the National Collegiate Invention and Inventor Association. The
funds, released today [March 1, 2000] are to finance the refinement
of the designs, a thorough market analysis and construction of prototypes
by Feb. 28, 2001: one year away.
if all goes according to plan, the team will seek corporate partners
interested in licensing the technology and manufacturing the products.
The team expects its main customer to be the World Health Organization,
which in turn would handle distribution of the needle disposal systems
to public health agencies throughout the developing world.
if things dont go according to plan, Walker believes the exercise
will have been a success.
doing this project as a public service," he said. "If
people end up using our design for free, well count that as
more information, call William Walker at (804) 924-9950, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charlotte Crystal, (804) 924-6858