Pitt Innovation Challenge 2019

Pitt Innovation Challenge: Challenging creative minds to tackle difficult health issues

PInCh 2019: What is your bold idea to solve a health-related problem?

All PInCh 2019 winners pose for a photo

The Pitt Innovation Challenge (PInCh®) 2019 focused on bold solutions to an important health problems. Teams entered the challenge by submitting a two-minute video explaining their bold idea to solving an important health problem. Advancing teams submitted a three-page project proposal and budget for round two. Proposals were reviewed by a team of experienced reviewers with expertise and background in areas including clinical medicine, basic and clinical research, and innovation. Finalists selected for round three submitted a response to reviewer comments, made revisions, and prepared a pitch.

Six finalists were selected to compete for $100,000 in awards and a chance to pitch to a live judging panel and audience. Eight additional finalists were invited to compete for $25,000 during a poster session at the final event on September 25, 2019. Each of the winning teams received an award for direct costs and project management support from the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) to take the team’s solution one step farther along the path of development.

$100,000 Award Winners

CyteSolutions Lens

CyteSolutions Lens team holding award

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.

Watch the pitch.

Round 1 Application Video

HIV Detective

HIV Detective team holding award

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.    

Watch the pitch.

Round 1 Application Video


OneValve team holding award

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

Description: Self-regenerating heart valve that uses the patient’s natural healing process to replace diseased heart valves, decreasing the risk of blood clots and improving durability over current therapy.

Watch the pitch.

Round 1 Application Video

$25,000 Award Winners


42Days team holding award

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.

Watch the pitch.

Round 1 Application Video

Aphasia Games for Health

Aphasia Games for Health team holding award

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.

Watch the pitch.

Round 1 Application Video


Push-to-Spin team holding award

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. 

Watch the pitch.

Round 1 Application Video

Good Vibrations

Good Vibrations team holding award

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.

Round 1 Application Video


MobileDerm team holding award

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.

Round 1 Application Video


TeenBrainOnline team holding award

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

Description: A novel 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.

Round 1 Application Video

Bonus Award

Does your idea impact health disparities in a rural setting?

Rural Americans are a population that experience significant health disparities. Risk factors may include geographic isolation, demographics, socioeconomics, and higher rates of health risk behaviors.  Studies have also shown that rural residents are older and have more limited access to healthcare providers. PInCh 2019 offered a bonus prize of up to $25,000 to funded teams whose solutions specifically aim to reduce one or more rural health disparities.

Examples of topics include:

  • Novel programs that promote healthier behaviors in a rural setting
  • Tools that provide increased access to healthcare services in a rural setting (e.g., telemedicine)
  • A new technology that helps ensure clean water or limits exposure to specific environmental hazards and exposures common in agricultural or mining settings