PInCh Awards $475K to Spur Innovation Around Human Performance

A total of $475,000 in prizes was awarded at the Pitt Innovation Challenge (PInCh®) final event, in which teams competed with projects aimed at improving human performance, which was defined broadly as benefitting physiological or psychological functioning of healthy people or those with chronic disease.

The challenge, which is in its fifth year, was sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI).

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“The PInCh competition is designed to provide teams of researchers, innovators, clinicians and community collaborators with a venue to create novel solutions to important clinical and public health problems,” said CTSI director Steven Reis, M.D., who also is associate vice chancellor for clinical research, health sciences, and a professor of medicine at Pitt.

After two rounds of pre-selection, 14 teams were invited to compete at the final event at the University Club in Oakland. The six $100,000 finalists gave their pitch to a live judging panel and audience. The eight $25,000 finalists competed in a poster session the same evening.

This year, teams addressing respiratory health or sleep could also take home a bonus award sponsored by Philips in the amount of $25,000. 

$100,000 Award Winners


Team Leaders: Christopher Wilmer

Team Members: Jenna Gustafson, Paul Ohodnicki, and Jagannath Devkota

Description: Health-E-Nose is a cancer detection and health assessment platform that employs gas sensors to analyze complex gas mixtures in human breath for the presence of disease biomarkers.


Team Leaders: Maliha Zahid

Team Members: Cecilia Lo, Yijen Wu, Kyle Feldman

Description: A novel method that uses a specific small molecule to target the root cause of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder and improve airway muociliary clearance.

*Recipient of bonus $25,000 award.

ThreadRite IV

Team Leaders: Cameron Dezfulian and William Clark

Team Members: Ehsan Qaium, Dennis Wist, and Nick Krehel

Description: A modified standard IV catheter connected to a lightweight re-usable detection unit, which measures electrical resistance and signals vessel entry instantly with a light, tone, and vibration.

$25,000 Award Winners

Gus Gear Central Line Wrap

Team Leaders: Sarah Palya and Mioara Manole

Team Members: Jeffery Rudolph, Kimberly Ackerman, Dana Tudorascu, Ashton May, and Wendy Mascio

Description: A novel central line wrap that uses a system of locking clips and snap tabs to secure the central catheter and prevent line pulls from damaging the catheter.


Team Leaders: Nitin Sharma

Team Members: Ashwin Iyer, Kang Kim, and Thomas Hinds

Description: A wearable device that detects muscle tremors in real-time using ultrasound sensors, then provides muscle stimulation to alleviate the tremor.


Team Leaders: Eunice Yang

Team Members: Jinal Mistry, Vaidurya Palagudu, Yelena Nelson, and Edwin Kesslak

Description: A personalized alert system to prevent falls related to dizziness consisting of a health monitor, mobile app, and cloud-based predictive analytics software.

Pediatric ICU Quantitative EEG (PIQUE) for Sleep & Sedation*

Team Leaders: Christopher Horvat, Dennis Simon, and Christina Patterson

Team Members: Ira Bergman

Description: An innovative approach pairing quantitative EEG with clinical examination to substantially improving the timeliness and dose selection of sedative analgesic medications for children in the pediatric intensive care unit.


Team Leaders: Jeffrey Gusenoff and Beth Gusenoff

Team Members: MaCalus Hogan, Kentaro Onishi, and William Anderst

Description: A novel insole designed to reduce post-operative pain, maximize healing, and encourage early ambulation and return to function.

Quantitative Ultrasound to Prevent Tendon Injury (QUPTI)

Team Leaders: Richard Debski

Team Members: Kang Kim, Volker Musahl, and Gerald Ferrer

Description: A novel ultrasound technique to instantly assess location-specific tendon damage and weakening, informing instantaneous clinical or sports decisions.