PInCh Awards $460K to Stimulate Innovation

A total of $460,000 in prizes was awarded at the Pitt Innovation Challenge (PInCh®) final event where teams presented their bold solutions to important health problems.

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

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“Each year the PInCh competition pulls together bold ideas to improve health,” 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. “This year’s finalists provided outstanding solutions to critical problems that affect the lives of many individuals.”

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 pitches to a live judging panel and audience. The eight $25,000 finalists competed in a poster session the same evening.

This year, teams with projects impacting rural health disparities were eligible for a bonus award of up to $25,000.

Each of the winning teams received an award for direct costs and project management support to help execute a 12-month project to take the team’s solution one step farther along the path of development. 

$100,000 Award Winners

CyteSolutions Lens

Team Members: Alexis Nolfi; Vishal Jhanji, MDMangesh Kulkarni, PhDBryan Brown, PhD

Description: A silicone-hydrogel-based contact lens that has been coated with natural biopolymers containing an immune modifying drug for the treatment of dry eye disease.

HIV Detective

Team Members: Sarah Wheeler, PhDAlex Star, PhDMichael Shurin MD, PhD

Description: Rapid, accurate HIV testing is lacking to achieve HIV eradication.  HIV Detective is a point-of-care HIV test that aims to give results in one minute. 


Team Members: Garrett Coyan, MD; Antonio D'Amore, PhDWilliam Wagner, PhD

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


Recipient of $5,000 bonus award focused on rural health disparities

Team Members: Tamar Krishnamurti, PhD; Hyagriv Simhan, MD, MS; Sonya Borreo, MD, MS; Alex Davis, PhD

Description: A mobile health platform to identify maternal mortality risk at a time when women need it most, providing real-time intervention delivery and connection to care. 

Aphasia Games for Health

Team Members: William Evans, PhD, CCC-SLP; Rob Cavanaugh, MS, CCC-SLP; Jessica Hammer, PhD

Description: Bringing together translational researchers, industry partners, and patient stakeholders to co-develop an aphasia treatment game that can improve language outcomes and fight social isolation.

Good Vibrations

Team Members: Brianna Perry; Kevin Quinn; Goeran Fiedler, PhD; Mary-Ann Miknevich, MD; David Brienza, PhD

Description: A novel vibration therapy device for treating residual/phantom limb pain and muscle atrophy in amputees.


Recipient of $5,000 bonus award focused on rural health disparities

Team Members: Alaina James, MD, PhD; Joseph English, MD; Jonhan Ho, MD, MS

Description: A pop-up clinic providing dermatologic care to rural and vulnerable communities by traveling to their areas and sustaining partnerships with eDermatology and teledermatology.


Team Members: Jeffrey Gusenoff, MD; Beth Gusenoff, DPM;  Lauren Kokai, PhD; David Aliberti; Jason Morton

Description: A novel device to make surgical fat grafting procedures more efficient. This device allows aspiration of fat, centrifugation, and reinjection of fat back into a patient in a single device without contamination. 


Team Members: Caroline Oppenheimer, PhD; Sophia Choukas-Bradley, PhD; Helmet Karim, PhD; Mary Phillips, MD; Jamie Hanson, PhD; Jennifer Silk, PhD

Description: A neuroimaging task to measure teen brain response to social media. This tool will address a need to study the impact of social media on rising teen depression and suicide rates.